Cross-Industry Technology

The ability to go further, draw inspiration from every experience, observe what others are doing and learn from anyone, regardless of the sector in which they operate, have long been identity traits of pioneers and true innovators. This is especially the case today, as satisfying the needs of consumers and users requires advanced, evolutionary and personalized solutions. Technologies and their applications are complex, multidisciplinary and interdependent by nature. Just a few years ago, car manufacturers would communicate frequently with tire companies. These days, they work with app developers, virtual reality performers, and digital entertainment technicians. Head physicians at hospitals confidently utilize robotics and 3D printers, while airline pilots are trained using video game interfaces.

This is where cross-industry convergence comes into play. It is the process of fundamentally redesigning not only the classic boundaries between the industrial and commodity sectors, but also to reshape the very concept of the production sector. The future is reserved for ecosystems made up of specialized, highly-integrated combinations of skill, know-how, technology, products and services. In fact, the transition is already taking place. Some of today’s most dynamic companies have set aside their mission of putting new goods and services on the market at increasingly lower prices to focus on finding the most effective way to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers.

We thus go from objective-focused management to focusing on the customer and their experience.

In the current competitive arena, companies that embrace this approach – as shown by recent market studies – conquer market shares and experience turnover thresholds much larger than businesses that are anchored to more traditional models. Performance differentials shouldn’t be overlooked, either. According to a recent study published by Forbes, the ratio of client-oriented companies to the rest of the market is nearly 3:1. Businesses that supply goods and services unrelated to consumer demand suffer significantly. For them, the market simply narrows to the point of vanishing.

In short, there is a clear message to be taken from the unraveling scenario: companies which align their strategy, organization and offers to the customer satisfaction and at the same time continue “fishing” for “cross innovation” and “cross know how”, generate higher returns in the short term and increase their value in the long-term.

Of course establishing the ideal connection between customer experience and competitive success is neither immediate nor simple. It requires a vision, skills developed over time and an organization oriented toward conceiving and managing innovation. Planning, designing and promoting problem-solving products and services to the market thus become a fundamental component of the company’s identity.

A case study. An ATM manufacturer requires an high bright digital display to be installed in direct sun light. The traditional approach would be for engineers to increase the display’s brightness by equipping it with increasingly powerful, high energy consuming LED backlight in order to offset the direct sunlight. However, the customer-oriented path would  take a different trajectory. In fact users do not necessarily want a brighter screen.

They simply want to be able to read and use the ATM, even in the sunniest and brighter environment, such as Miami’s Ocean Drive.

In this case a cross-industry approach was taken.

The finished product ultimately consisted of a screen with increased contrast. In fact contrast is far more important than simply brightness in direct sunlight.

Contrast enhancement technology had originally been developed and used in the marine sector to allow display readability under extremely bright conditions such those you have on a boat in the open sea.

An higher contrast also allows to, under the same conditions,  a proportionally lower brightness with the result to reduce energy consumption and to extend equipment lifespan.

This is an example of a technology which is “borrowed”  from a different application, something no vertical specialist could conceive of but that is common and good practice when the company is open to a cross-industry approach.

Marketing analysts as well as management analysts both recognize the wide range of benefits that companies of this type are experiencing. First, they move through the innovation cycle faster than their competitors, from the understanding of the problems to the development of the solutions: their time-to-market is no longer measured in years, but months. Furthermore, they may leverage on economies of scale to expand their technical knowledge  that are unreachable to those who practice just “vertical innovation.” Finally, they arrive at solutions that are far more stable than those of their competitors because they have a much larger application base. This is, therefore, the most successful approach.

The cross-convergence paradigm is the only one that can guarantee a connection between business intelligence, knowledge needed for innovation and the complexity of modern-day scenarios.

However, this is no magic formula. It requires the development of a widespread company culture that promotes the transversal model and cross-thinking. This implies continuous efforts to drive the procedures governing the complexity and dynamics on which innovation is based. It also requires a firm commitment to promote knowledge circulation within the company in such a way that new ideas, developments and experiences are shared with the entire organization. That’s  the way to consolidate experiences and practices in designing and implementing solutions for different sectors and customers; the value chain must not ignore or rather disregard transversality.

Overcoming sector barriers seems to be the last – and most important – step of the digital revolution to ultimately do business more effectively in the future.

Faced with such radical changes, OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are challenged to revise their business models. The whole value chain is involved: design, upstream manufacturing technology, material, machinery and predictive maintenance, logistics,  risk management and ultimately user expectations are all subject to change.

How can a company come out the winner?

The winning factor lays in collaborative alliances with partners and suppliers of technologies and solutions selecting those which have already embraced the cross-industry model. It is essential to be able to redefine product concepts together, come up with original ways to develop hardware and software as customized and predictive systems, and reconfigure a product life cycle to make it smarter and more efficient.

GDS (Global Display Solutions) has largely anticipated the changes that are currently taking place. It has adapted its corporate DNA and culture to develop the ability to meet the demand using as much as possible a composite, transversal and intersectoral baggage of knowledge,  to make the customer the center of all its activities. GDS has a well-established culture of reasoning by analogy and acting by contamination of different kinds in order to transfer solutions from applications and ultimately drive the innovation process in a more creative and effective way. What others consider the future is already a consolidated practice at GDS: so it happens that printers’ business unit may transfer technologies to the display products; the lighting products may use developments conceived for the displays and lighting technology can be used  in certain smart interface products. All the different business units and relevant internal and external teams and partners share their knowledge and work so that the boundaries of each business model are constantly pushed and challenged. For this reason, GDS is the ideal partner for any OEM company who wishes to innovate its sector by openly facing the critical issues posed by the wave of changes taking place today.

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