Manufacturing In An Age Of Uncertainty

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Age Of Uncertainty- As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, agility in manufacturing operations is more important than ever before. Supply chains have been disrupted, demand for various products shifted dramatically, and many factories were temporarily closed to protect workers and comply with government regulations designed to combat the pandemic.

Indeed, the sheer scope of change and uncertainty facing companies that actually make and deliver physical things is, at the very least, unusual if not unprecedented. A recent report from McKinsey & Company, highlights three core operational areas that manufacturers need to focus on regarding plant operations in response to the coronavirus crisis. These include protecting the workforce with proper social distancing measures, managing risks to ensure business continuity, and finding new ways to drive productivity even with large parts of the workforce working remotely.

Coordination and collaboration

Across all these areas, one critical key to success is coordination between the shop floor and the top floor – between what happens at the ground level of the manufacturing plant and the decisions made by planners in the executive suite to effectively respond to demand in uncertain times.

Such collaboration needs to be bi-directional – with each side sharing and receiving information as needed. Let’s have a look at both sides of the coin.

Responsiveness – From top floor to shop floor

Top floor executives and planners are responsible for implementing and enforcing the standards and procedures required to bring the workforce safely back to plants. Yet even in face of in-flux workplace dynamics, organizations still need to manage today’s dramatic swings in demand.

These swings can go up (as with toilet paper and sanitizers) or down (as with luxury items or restaurant food). Whatever the case, the ability to respond effectively requires agility – which, in turn, requires detailed and real-time awareness of operations across company boundaries.

Organizations that can digitize collaboration with the shop floor can create the real-time situational awareness to tweak plans as circumstances change. Such digitalization, furthermore, creates the data to analyze performance and continuously improve.

The result is production efficiency with the responsiveness to deviate from production plans as shift schedules change and the flow of incoming materials fluctuates. And with analytical views that rely on centralized data, organizations can ensure that operations and logistics are aware of each other’s progress in near real-time. This provides the operational transparency needed to avoid shipping delays and meet customer expectation for on-time deliveries.

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Article Credit: Forbes