Social media tools boosting the bottom line
Australian manufacturers are turning to social media to boost productivity and compete in an industry that continues to face economic challenges.
The past decade's pressures on Australia's manufacturers have resulted in iconic manufacturers such as Rosella closing their doors and a decrease of 0.8 per cent in manufacturers' contribution to GDP.
Now, firms such as packaging maker Pact Group are, among other IT-based endeavours, embracing social media in the form of business-tailored tools to improve their fortunes.
"We own and operate over 70 sites throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia," said Pact customer systems manager Brendan Cocks. "What we found is that there was a breakdown in communication between those sites. What we wanted is a platform that is easily accessible to everyone in Pact Group."
The company has deployed Salesforce's Chatter - a Facebook-like tool - for more than 600 of its 3500 employees with plans to extend to 1000 by June.
Mr Cocks said the social platform had helped improve productivity by allowing employees to more quickly share large files, pose questions to help solve problems quickly and access knowledge from all its sites.
"It has cut down those silos and brought the group together as a business," he said.
Pact is also trialling Chatter's project group functionality to allow external parties - including customers - to contribute to the conversation. The next step for the manufacturer is to deploy tablets to sales teams for access on the move.
Fellow packaging manufacturer Amcor is another organisation that is turning to social tools.
"Like most industries today, the manufacturing industry needs to be nimble and responsive to deal with a global economy and changing market conditions," said Amcor's vice-president of corporate communications Prue Deniz.
"Adopting social business tools helps support the flow of information and knowledge transfer on a peer-to-peer basis. Amcor has a number of business groups, or communities, already using social collaboration tools."
She said sales and marketing staff used social media internally to share insights and remove the boundaries between business groups and geographies.
Amcor is also piloting an enterprise-wide social collaboration tool for its 33,000 workers in 42 countries. It declined to name the product while in testing.
"Our aim is to ultimately enhance the way we support our customers and drive competitive advantage," Ms Deniz said. "The tool enables users to interact, share files and create communities to collaborate in an online environment."
IT research firm IDC said the manufacturing sector represented 10 per cent of Australian IT spending - or $4.7 billion - in 2012.
In addition to the social business movement, other technologies manufacturers should consider include mobility, analytics and cloud, according to PwC.
"There will always be an ever-changing chest of digital tools that automate content and analytics management," said PwC partner and national digital change leader John Riccio.
"However, the tools are less important than the business model and culture change organisations need to embrace if they are going to remain relevant in the industry."
Mr Riccio said setting clear objectives and measuring efficacy were critical and potentially "the key to surviving in the digital age".