9 December 2021
Chris Stock looks at how manufacturing has changed post-Covid and how technology has helped to overcome new challenges.
We’ve all read the warnings about product shortages and price hikes and we’ve seen for ourselves the gaps in the supermarket shelves. While some issues are clearly down to distribution delays, many manufacturers are still playing catch-up after the effects of lockdowns and the lasting repercussions of the ongoing global pandemic.
So, what changes have we seen in the manufacturing sector since the emergence of COVID-19? And how has technology helped manufacturers to adapt, adopting new ways of working in response to the changing times in which we’re all living and working?
The pandemic served to highlight where many manufacturing inefficiencies lay, most noticeably with an inability to quickly and efficiently change direction, shifting priorities in response to not only changing demands but new challenges too.
For many manufacturers, they discovered that redirecting their business focus and adjusting their ways of working was more akin to steering a cruise liner rather than nimbly surfing the COVID waves on a jet ski.
Manufacturers needed to be able to change operations almost overnight, responding to changing customer demands while dealing with supply chain issues and delays, something that is still the case now.
What it highlighted for many was their lack of business agility, not only unable to make the swift changes to operations needed but also showing that the business didn’t have access to the information needed to make the rapid, robust decisions that would trigger the necessary operational changes.
An inability to secure a comprehensive view of operations hampered many manufacturers, with too many disjointed and disconnected systems meaning it took too long to get a true picture of the business at any one time.
This problem led a great deal of manufacturers to reassess their systems and processes, looking for a way to streamline existing ways of working with a view to boosting their business agility and their ability to make the necessary changes quickly and effectively.
To solve this very issue, more and more manufacturers are turning to a centralised ERP solution that sits at the very heart of the business
Uniting seemingly disparate business functions and amalgamating information from right across the organisation to provide that all-important comprehensive visibility in real-time.
By turning this information into actionable insight, such solutions can underpin the rapid, robust decision-making that’s the crucial factor in creating a truly agile business.
With this increased visibility comes the ability to easily identify any issues and inefficiencies that are having a negative impact on productivity.
Once identified, the business can use the information available to see how best to rectify these issues to optimise operations.
Such solutions ensure increased business foresight too, paving the way for improved forecasting, again increasing efficiency and making sure the business is better prepared for seasonal variations in demand for example.
At the same time, the technology provides the agility to deal with any unexpected changes too, shifting manufacturing and distribution schedules in-line with changing requirements, while still maintaining operational efficiency.
Additionally, the right ERP solution can boost levels of automation too, automating time-consuming, manual tasks, freeing-up personnel to spend more time on proactive, value-add activities, as well as speeding-up operations.
It can reduce complexity too, streamlining complex business processes by providing a clarity and accuracy of information to pinpoint exactly where processes can be simplified.
Ultimately, the right technology can help to create agile and resilient manufacturing organisations, which is what manufacturers need to prioritise going forward.
That’s not to say that all ERP solutions are created equal and, for manufacturers in particular, it’s crucial that they choose an ERP solution that’s designed to meet the specific needs of not only the manufacturing industry, but their individual businesses.
Working with an experienced partner can help manufacturers to ensure they’re choosing the right solution for their specific business.
The right partner will bring technical expertise, but expertise that’s grounded in business reality, knowing exactly how the technology should be applied and used within their customer’s organisation to achieve the customer’s specific aims.
One size definitely does not fit all and sometimes it takes an experienced third-party to not only highlight the issues a business needs to address but to guide the manufacturer as to which solution is best-placed to do just that.
Manufacturers have faced, and continue to face, some of their most challenging times. With the right technology at the heart of the business, more and more manufacturers are realising that they can build truly agile organisations, able to respond quickly and efficiently to changing demands, streamlining and optimising operations, while boosting business resilience and standing firm in the face of adversity.