Digital transformation: Is face to face still important?

Every industry in almost every corner of the globe is currently undergoing a digital transformation, as businesses seek to leverage new technologies to drive productivity, competitive advantage and growth. However, the value of human interaction should never be underestimated.

Servitization White Paper - People Culture Meeting - Stock ImageIcon Aerospace Technology is undergoing a root and branch evolution, transitioning towards manufacturing ever more innovative and technologically-advanced products and undertaking its own digital transformation.

One of the key steps in its evolution was the introduction of its multifaceted business ethos, ‘Face2Face’.

Icon is acknowledged as a world leader in polymer technology, engineering innovative solutions to connect separate product faces. As such, on the one hand, Face2Face represents putting rubber, fabrics and increasingly more complex materials together to create value.

The other side of Face2Face is getting out there, meeting customers, and – most importantly of all – listening to their challenges.

The Manufacturer recently sat down with Tim Pryce, CEO of the 150-year old business, who noted: “We have to understand our customers’ challenges; we aren’t there purely to sell a pre-existing solution, but to better align our product to their particular issue. To do that effectively requires personal interaction.

“Upwards of 55% of every message is conveyed through body language, 38% is in tone and volume, and only 7% is in the actual words. That means if I’m sending an email, for example, I’m communicating less than 10% of my message by definition.

“Now, tools such as FaceTime, Skype and WebEx certainly help in that regard, but you still miss out on the body language, the sense of the room, the cleanliness of the production room, the culture, the happiness of the staff, etc.”

All these factors, according to Pryce, provide a valuable insight into the working environment of a business and the pressures it is under. Understanding those pressures may help explain a business’ behaviour.

He added: “If you understand the behaviour, maybe you can pivot and consider a different way of managing the relationship or contract.

“A big thing for Icon is to align ourselves to what our customer needs and what the challenges are. Each business is different, so we have adopted a more consultative approach to help in that regard.”

It’s an approach which seems to be paying off for the Nottinghamshire-based business. Icon has the ambitious goal of doubling revenue by 2019. It is currently working through an order book worth upwards of £150m (based on Teal Group data), and has created 100 new jobs over the past 18 months.

Supplying the high-pressure markets of aerospace, defence and transportation (predominantly rail), Icon designs, manufactures, tests and verifies polymer products including: seals, ducts, hoses, run-flat wheels and bushes, to name but a few.