For manufacturers, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a premium on agility and the ability to seamlessly pivot, both to avoid essential-supply shortages and to ensure innovative product and business-model opportunities.
We believe that the pandemic provides an opportunity to reevaluate strategies, business models, processes and technology adoption as increased investments in new competencies and operational agility may be required to thrive going forward. Modern technologies such as cloud, virtual workspaces, thermal imaging and intelligent automation will accelerate the pace of digital change. For most organizations, the opportunity will heighten their focus on innovation, inspirational product designs and manufacturing processes to bolster their marketplace differentiation.
In short, agility and resilience are key attributes of the modern manufacturing enterprise. Unlocking them depends on the following strategies:
1 Leverage data and partnerships to cultivate new sources of revenue
The infrastructure that supports enterprise operations tends to grow along organizational lines, with associated technology footprints that stunt interoperability and collaboration. The modern enterprise demands a holistic approach to business operations that is designed to eliminate operational silos and unlock data. Data can then be integrated with business and engineering systems and converted into information to drive down operating expenses or launch new service lines.
2 Merge the physical and digital worlds
The true value of IT and operational technology integration can be achieved only if data generated by physical assets is integrated with the IT systems designed to support them. For factory operations, this means integrating systems affiliated with different manufacturing processes on the factory floor with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems. This provides a 360-degree perspective on operations that can be analyzed in order to anticipate and adjust for equipment failure, production bottlenecks and supply chain issues.
3 Democratize data
Delivering highly personalized experiences requires access to customer records, which were previously unavailable due to system incompatibilities. The underlying approaches that facilitate the modern enterprise, such as cloud computing and application programming interface (API) management, help unlock critical data that was previously inaccessible. However, without a modern data architecture, strong data management and a resilient data governance foundation, businesses will struggle to fully realize this potential.
Data modernization efforts that aggregate and normalize data make it much easier to store, use and share. From here, a manufacturer can do more with its data as it shifts from a hard-to-manage and expensive-to-store liability into an asset that helps leaders drive revenue growth, contain costs and increase business value. Accessible data also holds insights that can be mined via artificial intelligence (AI).
For example, APIs for pandemic tracing can be directly integrated into the operational data store feeding supply chain planning engines. This will help forward planning and execution by monitoring likely shutdowns, limited manpower availability and material supply disruptions. The opportunity presented through data democratization, modernization, integration and conversion to insight takes on more urgency in a post-pandemic world.
4 Augment human skills with AI
The integration of the modern enterprise construct is expected to raise the bar for insight and decision-making. Employees will use AI to assist in the conceptual design phase of the R&D process, which will swiftly unravel complex production bottlenecks on the factory floor. Smart businesses will extend this to areas of their operations that historically were digitally disenfranchised, merging traditional blue- and white-collar work to create a “digital craftsperson.”
5 Achieve continuous development, deployment and operation
The use of advanced technologies will enable more agile product development that can be executed using an “anyshore” model. This means not only the ability to leverage Agile software development methods and tools, but the creation of a common product foundation. Such an approach helps institutionalize organizational agility, ensuring prompt development and delivery of products and services that anticipate and meet regional market requirements.
6 Ensure superior experience at every touchpoint
In sum, a modern enterprise approach must enable manufacturers to become hyper-responsive to customer needs across the value chain by building the products they want, when they want them, at a price they are willing to pay, and with matching service and support.