Shifting market dynamics, evolutions in technology, and the rise of e-commerce are all changing buyer behaviour, with the modern consumer expecting more product choice than ever before. To remain competitive and maximise revenues, brands need to react fast when introducing new products to the market.

Winshuttle recently surveyed large manufacturing firms using ERP systems and found that 68% of respondents expected the number of new products they would launch over the next four years to increase. Some brands are already attempting to respond to this trend, for example, global fashion retailer Topshop launches over 400 products every week while sporting goods giant Adidasreported that the new products it introduced last year accounted for 79% of sales.

However, with an abundance of data to collect, multiple teams involved, and complex processes, it can be problematic for large organisations that are not streamlining and automating manual tasks to speed up product launches in the timeframes required.

The need for speed

According to our research, the rush to get new products to the market quickly is the result of a number of pressures being placed on large manufacturers, with 82% of respondents claiming the number one factor driving new launches is customer preference, closely followed by competitive pressure.

For example, in the UK, digital commerce has driven over £100 billion of sales and has contributed to giving consumers more choice while enabling niche competitors to flourish. With more products available, this has not only given consumers more purchasing power but has also made them more selective in their buying choices.

This means that large manufacturers need to get products on the shelves, days, weeks, or even months faster to yield incremental revenue and secure that critical first-to-market advantage. Yet, speed remains the number one challenge as 70% of manufacturers are struggling to get the volume and variety of products to market fast enough. In fact, 68% of CEOs believe it’s ‘do or die’ for businesses to ensure that their systems and processes are matching the speed of the market.

Foot on the brakes

For large organisations, there are a variety of factors slowing down the overall launch process impacting their ability to stay competitive.

Firstly, there is a large amount of data required to set up the manufacturing process of just one product line. This will involve possibly hundreds of attributes across multiple data objects, ranging from material information, sourcing lists and pricing, to product codes, specifications, and routings. The process of collecting this data is a mammoth task that requires the involvement of many teams across the organisation; combine this with other considerations such as additional product lines, geographies, and user inputs, then the depth of its complexity becomes even more apparent.

Product launches are not only hindered by the complexity of data being inputted into the ERP system managing the production, but also the result of slow manual processes and poor data management.For instance, 60% of manufacturing professionals are still using spreadsheets and email to collect data, while around one in five is relying on paper forms. These manual processes are having a ripple effect across the entire system, causing a lack of visibility into launch progress, inability to scale, and poor data quality. Other common challenges identified by respondents that are contributing to slow product development include:

  • Disconnected processes-With multiple departments, various regions, and differences in maturity across business units, it’s not uncommon for there to be discrepancies between different launches. With no standard process, it is difficult to get all departments on the same page.
  • Slow approvals - The majority of manufacturers are still using spreadsheets to handle data. While this in itself is a laborious and cumbersome process, it also needs to be approved by multiple departments within the different stages of the overall supply chain, which takes time.
  • Error-prone data- With enormous amounts of complex information being accessed and exchanged across many departments, organisations without a highly flexible automation platform are prone to errors, which can take large amounts of time and resources to correct.

To overcome these challenges, our research and data management experiences around ERP shows that streamlining manual processes and automating data collection would have the biggest positive impact on product launch processes.

Accelerating product launches

Smaller, more agile brands typically have less data to collect and less complex systems and processes, enabling them to get products to market fast, capturing a great market share than ever before. In response, large companies need to adapt and become more agile when developing products within the core brand.This can be achieved by using a solution that combines business process automation to accelerate slow tasks and increase agility as well as proactive data stewardship to improve data quality.

Optimising and digitising product launch processes can speed up the collection of product data and improve the management of business-critical tasks such as sourcing new materials and creating new artwork. A flexible product launch platform can handle launch processes of any type, high levels of complexity, and high volumes—helping manufacturers get to market faster, scale up launch capacity, and offer the flexibility needed to keep up with the dynamic landscape.

However, transforming slow, error-prone, manual processes is not an easy job as it involves executive sponsorship, cross-functional collaboration, and lots of change management. The good news is that we regularly see customers reducing launch cycles by 50% when digitising their launch processes with Winshuttle.

So, while brands can create and design new products quickly, slow launch times are limiting the amount of market-ready products available to meet consumer demand, and, when a new product is finally released, often the market will have already moved on. For manufacturers to stay one step ahead of the game, new product launches must happen at both speed and scale—all of which can be achieved by digitising and optimising processes using a flexible product launch platform.