Sponsored: Three Reasons to Use Technology During Uncertain Times

Written by Laura Miller

Despite ongoing volatility, the steel industry has been experiencing growth. Recently, there’s been an air of caution as industry leaders look ahead to greater uncertainty. Price volatility and supply chain disruptions continue, but the steel industry is different.

Steel has proven resilient and can stand the test of time. And now the US is looking to the steel industry to help navigate through the economic storms gathering — and to lead the way with clarity and confidence.

But how? 

In this article, Crowe LLP, a global accounting, consulting, and technology firm, shares three critical strategies combined with the latest technology trends to help steel leaders thrive in times of uncertainty.

Step Into the Future With Metals 4.0

Industry 4.0 is shaping the steel industry as companies use technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), among other innovations, to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and increase profitability. Crowe calls this digital transformation in the steel industry Metals 4.0.

But while reducing costs and increasing profitability are good reasons to invest in digital technologies, in turbulent times, there are greater reasons (and opportunities) for the steel industry: 

  1. Bring people to the center of digital transformation

In the recent Crowe technology in metals survey, leaders in the industry indicated that technology investment continues to be a priority. In all, 86% of all metals companies who responded to the survey plan to maintain or increase their technology investments — with nearly a quarter indicating heavy investments.

Technology can help metals companies gain a competitive edge. Still, it’s easy to overlook an added benefit: technology investment has become a driver for attracting and keeping the best talent in an extremely tight labor market. Why? Because the best employees need technology to do their jobs and solve problems. Besides, a changing demographic is looking for companies that innovate with technology.

But it’s not as simple as throwing money into technology in the hopes it can provide a competitive advantage and attract the best people. Adoption uncertainty is a real concern for metals companies, and the people component of change management has become critical.

Bringing people to the center of digital transformation is essential for successful adoption and getting the most out of technology investment. It starts with getting buy-in at the top and then including key stakeholders in the early stages of the process to help to determine what is needed.

With the right people brought in and the brightest people owning the digital transformation process, it can be easier to manage adoption uncertainty — and get the most out of technology investment.  

  1. Give customers what they want

Customers’ expectations continue to increase as they expect a seamless and efficient customer experience across multiple channels. In nearly every area of their consumer life, they experience self-service options, access to quick answers, and proactive communication. Their expectations are no different when they interact with metals companies.

Even though customer expectations continue to grow, Crowe’s technology in metals survey showed that nearly 45% of metals companies had no plan to invest in e-commerce in the next year. While traditional sales interactions and approaches will continue to be critical to growth, ignoring e-commerce channels will frustrate customers.  

When the supply chain gets disrupted and potential customers can’t get a product quickly enough, e-commerce and enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology can offer an enhanced customer experience. For example, with a searchable website and visibility across departments, a metals company can provide accurate real-time quotes with faster, more predictable delivery times.

Crowe’s survey showed a year-over-year increase of more than 30% of customers requesting or requiring an online portal. Unfortunately, metals companies that fail to offer customers what they want could lose market share — but that doesn’t have to be the case for all metals companies. In times of uncertainty, companies can use technology to meet customers where they are and give them what they want. 

  1. Lead the way with evolving technology

ERP and customer relationship management (CRM) have become staples for metals companies. They have a track record of making operations more efficient, driving down costs, improving customer experience, and improving visibility. As a result, nearly two-thirds of metals companies are implementing or upgrading ERP technology, while almost half are investing in CRM technology.  

Metals companies are also looking to smart technology such as AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) to help them stay ahead of market volatility and provide automation and data analytics. Not only can these types of technology offer improved forecasting, but they can also provide real-time information and machine performance at any given time.

One of the most significant advantages of this type of technology is the ability to input data from internal and external sources to create accurate forecasts and models. For example, a metals-specific ERP using smart technology can support raw material forecasts, end market demand, and product profitability — all critical data points when volatility and uncertainty abound in the marketplace.

In times of uncertainty, companies can use technology to lead with clarity. 

The steel industry has a track record of leading the way forward for other industries, even in times of great uncertainty. Builders want to keep building, the auto industry needs cars to keep rolling off their lines, and people are looking for solid leadership that delivers clarity.

Steel hasn’t buckled under the pressure before, and it’s not about to start now. Instead, America and the world are counting on the industry to continue to innovate and drive things forward. The good news is, with the right technology, steel can replace uncertainty with a clear and confident path into the future.     

Crowe’s metals team guides leaders in the steel industry with metals-specific technology and experience to navigate through times of uncertainty. With solutions like Crowe Metals Accelerator built on top of Microsoft Dynamics 365™, they can help companies step into the future with clarity and confidence.

This article is sponsored content from Crowe.

Laura Miller

Read more from Laura Miller

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