Digital solutions aid sustainable start-ups leapfrog legacy players

6 January 2023

Today’s start-up manufacturers are born out of agile thinking. They identify the traditional processes that take up valuable time and money, and find ways to make them more efficient and effective. This can deliver multiple benefits, such as lower costs and better customer care – but it can also heighten their environmental sustainability credentials.

Research shows that almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers now consider sustainability when making purchasing decisions. To win over this more eco-conscious customer-base and retain them as loyal customers for years to come, manufacturers must be able to demonstrate their eco credentials throughout their value chain.

Developing a manufacturing operation that supports an environmentally friendly model does require clear planning, however. And this needs to begin at the product design phase – so manufacturers can establish processes that support a sustainable approach from end to end.

This is where an agile start-up can seize a major competitive advantage and leapfrog legacy players who will find it hard to transition to a new way of working. By embracing new processes and technologies, they can gain a significant edge. Here’s how:

Go paperless

Supporting customers with digital systems that can replace traditional paper-based alternatives should be foremost in a start-up’s mind.

When you consider that a single 500-page product instruction manual takes up around 5% of a tree’s useable materials, you can start to imagine the cumulative environmental burden caused by paper-based systems.

But when a start-up replaces the traditional product catalogue with a digital platform like Partful, they eliminate those carbon emissions. At the same time, they will be providing customers with a 3D tool that makes it easier to identify parts quickly and accurately – helping to eradicate wasteful ordering errors in the process.

Meet regulations

Digital tech solutions are also helping start-ups manage the recent surge in ‘right to repair’ laws being passed around the world. In response to environmental concerns, legislation has been passed in the UK which aims to end ‘planned obsolescence’ and compel manufacturers to provide repairers with access to spare parts and technical information by July 2023. Similar laws have recently been passed in the US and France too – putting pressure on manufacturers to provide additional support to customers.

Providing detailed repair and maintenance manuals for every product will be a nightmare for any start-up that sticks to the traditional paper-based support approach. This headache can be avoided, however, by deploying a digital platform which offers digital work instructions, instead. 

This will provide customers with access to online instructions that are accompanied by 3D virtual twins of their product. Not only is this an eco-friendly alternative, but it has also been shown to help speed up repairs by up to 50%.   

Support customers in the aftermarket

The end of planned obsolescence is also very likely to initiate an era of ‘manufacturing for maintainability’ – with there now being a need to design products in a way that makes it easier to maintain and repair them throughout their life span.

As a result of this change, part sales are likely to become an ever-more critical element of manufacturers’ revenues. This will inevitably require manufacturers to enhance customer support in the aftermarket.

Spare parts already contribute around one-fifth of overall revenues for the average SME, but with products set to last longer, that income stream is set to grow. To protect and nurture this revenue stream, start-ups should be looking to provide their customers with a quick and easy parts purchasing portal like Partful.  

It’s clear that environmental concerns are driving major change in the manufacturing industry, and digital solutions offer agile start-ups an opportunity to gain an edge. It may enable them to leapfrog legacy players, who will need to adapt before deploying more sustainable practices. This is clearing a path for sustainable start-ups to seize the advantage and, in some cases, even overtake established brands.

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