Getting ready for what comes next
To be future-ready, there are five characteristics a manufacturer should seek to have:
1. Get connected
No manufacturer can think or work in a silo. Being plugged into your suppliers, service providers and customers is essential. This manifests at a technical level, through secure, interoperable machinery and integrated supply chain operations, but also at an operational and ecosystem level through process alignment and information-sharing.
2. Work leaner
A smooth-running supply chain needs to clear frictions and bottlenecks. Adopting leaner structures that capture both digital enablers and new ways of working (such as remote operations) is an important part of getting to the desired outcome faster. Most manufacturers have already implemented workflow management; the next step is to add capabilities such as virtual assistants and RPA to make processes fluid and repeatable.
3. Enhance, not dismantle
It’s a mistake to think that modernisation means starting from scratch. Manufacturers have typically made significant investments in their machinery and IT over the years and should seek to maintain what’s still generating value and capture the existing knowledge that defines their advantage. The approach is therefore to scale and extend existing assets, rather than rip and replace, in order to gain the agility to react more quickly to changing global dynamics and demands. Most importantly, this allows them to identify obsolete systems and focus investment on these areas to limit risks.
4. Adapt to new data
Manufacturing systems generate significant amounts of data across their operations, ranging from the performance of equipment through to inventory and customer order data. Being responsive to changes gives the manufacturer the ability to take a predictive and corrective approach to production based on real-time information.
5. Stay human
A prevailing, and profoundly damaging, narrative that is continually perpetuated is that digitalisation is about replacing the human workforce with machines. This simply isn’t the case; it's about enabling them to work together in the most efficient and productive way. Manufacturers can enhance their use of people by boosting human skills, such as creativity and pattern recognition, adding non-traditional skills, like data science and design, developing new skills through technologies, such as AR/VR, and capturing and pooling group expertise.