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To increase margins and customer loyalty, you’re probably aware that your manufacturing business needs to focus on customer outcomes by offering your product-as-a-service. It’s not just an industry buzzword: it’s imperative for staying competitive and creating a sustainable future.

Making this transition means enabling new business models and fundamentally rethinking the entire manufacturing value chain. Technology such as cloud computing, AI, IoT, mixed reality, and digital twins can help you do just that. Here are five key digital transformation scenarios that can help you advance your journey to product-as-a-service.

Connected field service

An ideal first step in moving toward product-as-a-service is proactively engaging with your customer throughout your product’s lifecycle.

With connected field service solutions, you can remotely monitor the smart product you’ve sold to your customer. That way, you can get the insights you need to do predictive maintenance—and minimize your customer’s downtime.

For both predicted and unexpected maintenance issues, you can speed up repair time by getting alerts and dispatching technicians using skills-based assignments—and by empowering service technicians with complete customer insight, real-time guidance, and cross-team collaboration.

And you can equip technicians with data-driven recommendations based on a customer’s usage and needs so that techs can effectively cross-sell and upsell.

Learn more about connected field service by checking out this eBook, blog, and solution page.

Connected sales and service

Delivering your product-as-a-service also means you need to take a new, collaborative approach to the sales process to help sellers navigate your increasingly complex portfolio of products and services, and to build long-term relationships and ongoing customer loyalty.

With connected sales and service solutions, you can empower your sellers to see the full spectrum of a customer’s needs. Sellers can analyze previous product usage and performance, and then predict potential needs using intelligent tools.

Sellers can also collaborate with customers to customize product purchases and efficiently execute contracts using configure-price-quote, quote-to-cash, and contract lifecycle management tools. These tools can shorten the buying cycle and help the customer get precisely what’s needed.

As I’ve written before, you can also empower your sellers and customers to virtually configure their products and send the configuration directly to your manufacturing business using mixed reality technologies such as Microsoft HoloLens.

Learn more about transforming sales and service with Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Factory of the future

To customize your products and services for your customers—and innovate at the speed that product-as-a-service requires—you need an agile, responsive production process. You need solutions that can help you enable a “factory of the future.” By that, I mean a complex ecosystem of self-regulating machines and sites that customize output, optimally allocate resources and offer a seamless interface between the physical and virtual world.

The journey to factory of the future starts with connecting factory assets—adding sensors to machines and equipment to collect data, then monitoring and adjusting operations accordingly.

Ultimately, you’ll want to connect and monitor factory performance across the globe, using data from smart assets to apply operational insights and further optimize your production processes.

Earlier this year at Hannover Messe 2018, we demonstrated how industrial automation partners and manufacturers are putting their trust in the Industrial IoT platform from Microsoft to help them advance to truly connected factories.

Learn more about the factory of the future in this blog and e-book.

Intelligent supply chain solutions

As you’re making more product variants—and delivering customized connected services along with them—your supply chain becomes ever more complex and multifaceted. You can use intelligent supply chain solutions to help you manage that complexity.

These solutions can help you: 1) deliver the right products, parts, resources, and service where and when they’re needed, 2) achieve a balance between desired customer service level and budget requirements, and 3) enable tighter upstream and downstream collaboration across complex value chains.

For an inspirational view of the role of the supply chain in digital transformation, read my interview with Sanjiv Sidhu, a pioneer of intelligent supply chains and co-founder of o9 Solutions.

You can learn more about intelligent supply chains in this blog.

Connected product innovation

Last but not least, you can use all this data coming in from IoT sensors, field service, sales, factories, and the supply chain to speed innovation.

With connected product innovation solutions, you can get real-time insight into which products and features customers are using without waiting for customer survey results. And with big computing capacity available on demand, you can iterate the next version of your product much more rapidly using digital twins, as well as simulation and analysis tools.

You can also get more accurate, timely data on which parts failed and what the best problem resolutions were so you can improve product and service performance.

Those are just a few ways you can analyze data to realize a faster speed-to-market and improve the quality of your products and services.

Learn how you can make connected product innovation a reality by reading this whitepaper.

Take your next step

Depending on where you are on your product-as-a-service journey, you can take advantage of solutions from our partners to help you digitally transform in any (or all) of the five ways I’ve described. Check out the links above or visit our manufacturing page to get more detail and explore solutions that can help you move forward one step at a time.