Manufacturing Lessons from 2020

Nearly a year and half into the COVID-19 pandemic, the pressure on industrial organizations to digitally transform themselves with industry 4.0 strategies has mounted. These unprecedented times have called for a dramatic reduction in costs, increase in productivity and usage of remote capabilities as economies dwindle and social distancing requirements continue.

When the pandemic hit, conventional manufacturers were caught off guard with fewer people on the shop floor to manage, monitor and track what’s happening with critical pieces of machinery. They realized they lacked the type of remote access digital solutions such as the RES.Q Machine Inventory (MI) provided to identify the state and health of assets in internal as well as external buildings and factories. Nor the remote access to real-time skill competencies of the workforce that could have been tracked and managed through solutions such as RES.Q Skill Management (SM) to determine precisely who should be on the factory floor and when to manage operations.

Most manufacturers agree that 2020 has been an eyeopener. It has challenged the flow of investments and shifted the focus to building manufacturing and supply chain resilience. It has also compelled many companies to explore technologies that offer detailed analytics to curb waste. Early adopters of smart manufacturing solutions, however, reveled on the competitive edge the pandemic has provided. They have been making more informed and faster decisions by leveraging on advanced analytics for real-time view of operations. Enabling a cloud environment on the factory floor has more than halved their need to produce business reports as a handful of automated RES.Q dashboards alone have replaced hundreds of spreadsheets. In a world battered by the pandemic, digital solutions have enabled remote management and predictive maintenance to get more work done with fewer employees.

2020 has also heightened the role of digital solutions in reducing manufacturing costs arising from decisional delays and data inaccuracy. By removing the human error from data capture, manufacturers have been able to enhance data integrity and data accuracy and identify anomalies in manufacturing processes. It then enables companies to combine internal and external data sets to analyze and forecast workforce and business performance, thereby improving process yield and product quality.

The ability to access data from anywhere and at anytime has become a vital tool as many employees are social distancing and working remotely. The management has been able to monitor processes remotely with timely intervention when problems arise. In fact, companies with the right mix of talent and software tools are best equipped to recover and thrive in these changing conditions. Moreover, having a cloud-based smart manufacturing solution have added a layer of flexibility to confidently pivot production towards in-demand products. Companies such as Creative Foam were great examples as they shifted production from foam parts for the automotive industry towards foam parts for ventilators. 

In a world where technological and automation implementations are reshaping the manufacturing industry in permanent ways, 2020 was a wake-up call for businesses that were toying with the concept. Should you build a resilient business in a hyper-connected world with more disruptive events, 2020 has shown where investment opportunities lie.

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