Digitization, Industry 4.0 and the future of manufacturing

Digital transformation is changing not only businesses but also consumers, in this context the collaboration between SMEs and customers will be fundamental

Digital transformation does not only affect businesses, from small to large. It is a phenomenon that also changes consumer attitudes and, more generally, the habits of an entire society. Digital transformation changes consumer behavior and user interaction.

For SMEs, these changes are opportunities to grow and expand their market. But if approached in the wrong way, they can be a double-edged sword. A company that fails to communicate well online can suffer enormous damage to its image and could lose even its most loyal customers. It must be said, in fact, that with the advent of social and new technologies, consumers have become more demanding of companies, also because they have more channels to communicate with companies and to leave feedback that can then influence the choices of other consumers.

Mass individualization

For this reason, companies will have to achieve "mass individualization" in order to grow. This is a technique of customizing products based on customer needs. By leveraging Big Data, SMBs will be able to listen to the demands of a precise target audience in order to make consumer goods that suit different demands. What is the biggest challenge for a business in such a changing environment? Making highly customized products at the same price and delivery time as mass-produced ones. Smart machinery alone is not enough to make this shift in manufacturing effective. The real difference for SMBs will come from 3D printers. For a company, all it needs to do is create a production chain with a series of interconnected smart 3D printers to mass-produce products that are customized by individual target audience, or even by individual customer. In some industries, especially manufacturing, the difference in Industry 4.0 will come from the collaboration between consumer and business. The closer SMEs get to their customers, the more growth margins they will have.