Speed to market is top of mind for the C-suites of Industrial Enterprises (IEs). Companies today compete on their ability to sense and respond to change faster than others—and those that can increase their speed to market can gain a competitive advantage.
New Accenture research, based on a survey of more than a 1,000 companies, shows that some IEs are clearly outperforming their peers when it comes to increasing their speed to market. The question is, how are they doing this?
The research looked at how well companies performed in accelerating three speed-to-market processes in the last five years:
Idea to Product
Includes all steps from idea generation, concept planning and prototyping, testing, design validation and requirement development to prepare for the start of production.
Plan to Produce
Includes production planning, production scheduling and production execution (i.e., manufacturing operations).
Demand to Deliver
Includes all steps from demand and sales planning, to order intake and scheduling, to final distribution and installation and commissioning at the client.
Based on that performance, researchers categorized the companies into three “speed levels.” The top performers—those with the largest time and cost reductions—were labeled “Speedsters”, followed by “Accelerators” and “Starters.”
In terms of speed to market, the difference between top performers and low performers is dramatic—and Speedsters are outperforming Starters in terms of revenue growth and profitability.
What’s the key to Speedsters’ success? The research indicates they made far more extensive use of technology, compared to Accelerators and Starters—and that 81% of the time reductions they achieved was due to their use of technology, such as engineering in the cloud, digital twins, data analytics, machine learning and automation.
Degree of technology leverage (in%) to achieve time reductions between 2016 and 2021.
In essence, the more effectively an IE has leveraged technology, the more successful it has been in compressing time to market and improving financial performance.
Assessing performance in the three key processes
1. Idea to Product
Over the past five years, Speedsters reduced "idea to product" time by 9.5% annually, compared to 6.6% for Accelerators and 4.5% for Starters.
To accelerate this process, IEs have focused primarily on:
Machine learning and analytics, which enhances the ability to analyze large amounts of data stored in the cloud to identify patterns, and helps accelerate the analysis of simulations and testing results.
Agile and iterative engineering, which lets organizations respond rapidly to new customer requirements and changing market environments. Speedsters are generally quite advanced in their use of these methods; Accelerators and Starters, however, have a lot of work to do to catch up.
Engineering in the cloud, uses global product lifecycle management (PLM) platforms for collaborative engineering, which enables everyone involved in product development to work together using the same data. Over the past five years, Speedsters used these tools to reduce time by 5.1% (three times more than Starters) and costs by 4.6% (8.3 times more than Starters).
In the coming five years, Speedsters plan to leverage digital twins of products for rapid prototyping and testing; integrated systems that help eliminate data and organizational silos; and high-performance computing, which can speed up machine learning and enable more-robust simulations using digital-twins product prototypes.
Speedsters have reduced time over the past five years by 10.4% annually, compared to 7.5% for Accelerators and 4.9% for Starters.
Here, IEs pointed to two key technologies they’ve leveraged over the past five years:
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), which deliver components and materials to workstations and bring increased efficiency and intelligence to internal logistics. Speedsters used AGVs to reduce time by 4.9% (four times more than Starters) and costs by 3.1% (27 times more than Starters).
Connected machinery and equipment, which lets companies gather operational data to support predictive and prescriptive maintenance and real-time monitoring of production for better optimization. Speedsters used the technology to reduce time by 4.6% and costs by 2%, while Starters reduced time by 1.3% but did not reduce costs.
Over the next five years, IEs expect to cut more time out of production using digital twins of manufacturing processes. They also expect to focus on centralized real-time monitoring of equipment and manufacturing processes, which is crucial to both effective automation and workers being able to understand the status of equipment and workflows.
3. Demand to Deliver
Speedsters have reduced their Demand to Deliver time by about 10.9% annually.
Speedsters have reduced their Demand to Deliver time more than twice as much as Starters—and they plan to reduce it by another 9.1% in the next five years. If that holds true, Speedsters are likely to be performing the Demand to Deliver process 72% faster than Starters—a significant competitive advantage.
The key technologies that IEs have been using to reduce their Demand to Deliver time include:
Automated packaging and commissioning. Many companies are automating as many steps as possible in the warehousing processes, which is key to making processes faster and more efficient.
Augmented reality/virtual reality tools for warehouses: For processes that can’t be automated, these tools enable humans to work faster while helping to reduce errors in their work.
Looking ahead, Speedsters are especially interested in digital twins; they were the only group that cited them among their top-priority technologies over the last five years and the next five years. Many IEs also expect artificial intelligence-enabled controls and inspections to be a priority in the next five years. All three groups ranked warehouse augmented reality/virtual reality tools among their top three technologies over the last five years, but only Speedsters plan to maintain that focus going forward.
This research clearly highlights the critical role that technology can play in helping IEs reduce the time it takes to move from product idea to manufacturing to delivery. And it provides insight into how specific technologies can be brought to bear to target key areas of the three time-to-market processes.
As powerful as the technology is, IEs will need to approach it in synch with process improvements to help ensure that systems are reducing errors and increasing speed. They will also need to address people-related factors—training, tools, agile methods and a culture of innovation and speed—to make the most of the technology and processes. Overall, people, processes and technologies should be approached in an integrated manner to create new operating models that will enable ongoing time and cost reductions.
The experience of the Speedsters in this research can help IEs determine where to focus their efforts as they pursue these initiatives—and help them chart a course to achieving a faster time to market.