Will Manufacturers Adopt the Social Web?

by Jay Deragon on 01/07/2008

The Social Web for manufacturersAs we study business uses of the social web we find innovative thinking across multiple segments of industry.Many people have said the social web is for the service sectors of business but not for manufacturers. The wrong perspective?

The end result of manufacturing anything is a product. The processes involved in manufacturing are services aimed at production. The internal processes of any business are aimed at serving connected processes and people otherwise the “production line” would stop. To say the social web is more for service businesses really means it applies to any and all businesses.

So one might say maybe but we don’t see any major manufacturer adopting the social web in the context you have suggested. Really, read this:

On Thursday, GM unveiled plans for its celebration that began with the launch of a new, GM-specific, Wikipedia-style Web site and daylong online media chats with top executives. It will culminate in later this year with a weeklong celebration of its history and future.

The new Web site, called GMnext.com, is intended to show off GM’s new and future vehicles and technologies and provide a forum for employees, retirees and the public to share stories, insights and opinions about the company, its history, new vehicles and its future.

“We’re starting our second century at a time of fundamental change in the auto industry,” GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said in a statement. “We’ll use GMnext to introduce some of our ideas for addressing critical issues concerning energy, the environment and globalization. In the process, we also hope to spark a broader, global discussion on these important topics.”

The automaker said it will host a series of GMnext-themed activities until a week-long global celebration in September that the company said “will reflect on the company’s first century and highlight plans and products that will begin to define its second century.”

Throughout the year, GM will host citizen reporters at auto shows to blog and film videos for GMnext and live online chats for the public to ask questions of key GM decision-makers following new-vehicle unveilings.

GM has already had some success generating dialogue and buzz with its FastLane blog — where Vice Chairman Bob Lutz often shares his viewpoints — and forums for consumers interested in fuel cells. On Thursday, GM used FastLane (fastlane.gmblogs.com) to reveal the first official public pictures of the production Chevrolet Camaro.

With GMnext, spokesman Scot Keller said: “We also are looking at participating in a number of global rock festivals to engage the youth market.”

Automotive analysts said the strategy of involving customers and potential customers in the online forum is a smart move, particularly for reaching younger buyers.

“If they’re going to grow their market share, they’re going to need to bring in the younger buyers, who are buying imports because their parents bought imports,” said Joseph Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting. “This is a big step in the right direction.”

Many people don’t understand that any business, regardless of its end product, is in the service business. Manufacturers of products serve the interest of people and businesses. They do so through service processes. A service process is anything and everythng from sales, marketing, internal communications, recruitemtn etc. etc. and all along the way the “service” is a people driven process. Thus the social web in all its functions and features aimed at engaging people fits very well for any business whether they think they are in manufacturing or service businesses.

The GM example above is just one of many to follow and sooner than later the social web will be used for all businesses interested in conversing, sharing, learning and producing one to one to millions. What will it produce? Conversational innovation beyond most of today’s imaginations.

What say you?

Previously posted at The National Networker 

{ 2 comments }

Slerranguage August 3, 2008 at 10:34 am

It’s amazing

David J. Hinson January 7, 2008 at 8:10 am

If by “manufacturers” you mean the sales and marketing arms, execs, etc. reaching out… sure, I see that.

If you’re talking internally below the management level… it’ll never happen.

Manufacturers want reliable, repeatable, predictable processes. Anything that detracts from that on the human level is squashed and stamped out.

When you’re costing everything down to the level of how much time it takes to wrap tape around a bundle of wires to make a harness, or the cause and corrective actions needed to bring a proces back down to 1sigma variance versus 2 sigma, getting super poked by Joe down in shipping ain’t gonna fly.

Manufacturing Management doesn’t trust their operators, machinists, and factory floor workers not to play Solitaire during their downtime, much less trusting them to be brushing up on best practices of manufacturing amongst their colleagues over the web. Man-machine interfaces? – yes. Social Networks? – I know manufacturers who spent years agonizing on 2-D bar code formats.

Based upon the latest quarterly earnings from American auto makers (GM in particular) I’m not sure I would bet the future on their ability to forecast technology.

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