Fast-evolving digital assistants are getting more attention from manufacturers

Paul Vallejo, Solution Manager - Advanced Technologies, Industry Strategy Group

Manufacturers are facing a number of challenges as they adapt to the post-pandemic business environment. These include:

  • Finding new ways to engage customers who have rising expectations
  • Adapting the workforce to remote-work environments and dealing with new safety rules at facilities
  • Enhancing business planning to improve agility and resilience

As they work to overcome these obstacles, manufacturers can use a number of technological solutions. These include digital assistants, or AI-powered chatbots.

Most manufacturers can implement digital assistants quickly to help automate processes and boost productivity. Digital assistants have evolved from the simpler chatbots of days past to highly capable and flexible tools. Customers and employees in both B2B and B2C contexts can significantly increase their productivity and engagement with the help of digital assistants integrated with backend applications such as those for human capital management (HCM), customer experience (CX), and supply chain management (SCM).

Several digital assistant capabilities let manufacturers further automate a wide range of business processes across departments, from HR to procurement. The latest digital assistants can support:

  • Rich inputs and outputs (including images, signatures, lists, barcodes, and charts)
  • Domain-specific vocabulary, allowing for complex industry-related conversations
  • Bot-initiated actions and alerts to help teams stay on top of tasks
  • Additional advanced features including knowledge base search and answer, live agent handoff, complex policy automation, and process execution such as transactions and scheduling

Leveraging Digital Assistants for Enhanced Customer Experience

Digital assistants can help automate a wide range of marketing, sales, and customer support processes including lead scoring, push campaigns, personalized marketing, configure/price/quote, and other customer relationship management tasks. In customer support, for example, digital assistants can help companies handle a quick increase in customer inquiries and improve customer satisfaction without overwhelming service and technical reps, allowing them to focus on more impactful projects.

One such example is Bajaj Electricals, a consumer electrical equipment manufacturer. They use Oracle’s digital assistant technology to allow customers to easily report a problem with an appliance, request a demo, or schedule an appointment with a technician for installation. This led to a reduction in call center volume, reduced costs, and improved customer experience. The automation and conversational nature of digital assistants allows Bajaj to engage customers in a way that feels highly personal while consuming less employee time.

Leveraging Digital Assistants for Human Resources

The shift to remote work created an opportunity for digital assistants to assist companies in managing and informing employees. For employees working remotely, digital assistants can help with tasks like onboarding, training, accessing the IT helpdesk, procurement, expenses, project management, and payroll. Digital assistants can create a more self-sufficient workforce, whether on the factory floor, at a client site, or at a desk. For example, they can help employees work through step-by-step instructions to execute complex tasks, provide live status updates on machinery, query data from backend systems, or find technical answers as they resolve maintenance issues.

For example, Honeywell, a US-based multinational conglomerate with over 100,000 employees, has used digital assistants to support their workforce with capabilities including employee and manager self-service. Integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and other third-party tools, these digital assistants help reduce operating costs in employee enablement and training. For those essential employees entering a more restrictive workplace due to COVID-19 protocols, digital assistants can ensure that everyone is up to date on safety regulations and address any questions or concerns.

Leveraging Digital Assistants for Business Planning

Digital assistants are also useful to improve business planning. They can quickly access financial or operational data, retrieve results from planning simulations done by machine learning in a backend application, assign planning tasks to team members, and report on the status and results of completed tasks.

For example, SRF Limited, a chemical manufacturing conglomerate with 6,500 employees and 15 manufacturing plants, uses digital assistants that interface with their ERP system and several other backend applications to deliver real-time business insights and reports to their executives. The self-service nature of digital assistants helped SRF management quickly get important data in the right hands to make more timely decisions.

In conclusion, many digital assistants offer a strong return on investment for manufacturers due to their speed of implementation, scalability, and versatility across business functions. Manufacturers can reduce operational costs as digital assistants automate a wide variety of tasks, freeing up employees across departments such as sales, support, finance, and HR. This can also increase employee engagement as teams focus on more strategic initiatives while the digital assistant handles repetitive tasks. For more information about leveraging the power of digital assistants in your company, visit