Visibility. Variability. Velocity. These have always been critical in manufacturing success—but never more so than today where efficiency and organisational agility are clearly separating the winners from the losers. Digital technologies are the catalyst to better navigating the current crisis and being ready for whatever the future may bring. And many of these technologies are more readily available and easier to leverage than you may think.

Key Takeaways

  • Visibility into all areas of the business; managing variability in supply, demand, and operational capacity; and the operational velocity to respond to evolving conditions have emerged as three keys to successful modern manufacturing.
  • The global pandemic has amplified the need for all three Vs, making it essential for manufacturers to act now to examine and improve their data and technologies.
  • Regardless of budget, there are steps all midsize manufacturers can take to address visibility, variability, and velocity and translate them into greater profitability and resiliency.

The global pandemic has demanded that your manufacturing operation think and operate differently in so many ways. And that’s not going to change any time soon. As you attempt to keep pace with ongoing evolution in the marketplace, taking advantage of the data and technology that you already have, as well as considering more ambitious investments where possible, will be key to thriving in your next normal.

Start by increasing visibility into everything.

With everything changing at a lightning-fast pace, you have to keep closer tabs on the critical pillars of your business. Data and the smart use of technologies will be musts for maintaining a clear line of sight into:

  • Supply and suppliers. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), supplier portals, and web APIs are all good ways to gain insight into supplier capacity, inventory, job status, and shipment status. A dashboard can help you keep track of and understand the data.
  • Customers and demand. You have order data from your customers. Go a step further to understand what’s happening at the point of sale. Real-time market data is often readily available from vendors such as Nielsen and IRI.
  • Internal capacity and production capabilities. Greater visibility into labor, equipment, processes, and flows will help leaders understand their ability to respond to changes in supply and demand. This data is likely readily available thanks to metrics you are already tracking and IIoT technologies.

Prepare to better manage variability.

Once you have visibility into fluctuating supply, demand, and capacity, you can rely on several technologies to manage through the variability of your operations, including:

  • Analytics. Software like Sisense and Dploy Solutions offer capabilities that allow you to go beyond manual spreadsheets to identify trends, warning signs, and opportunities and alert decision-makers to potential problems. 
  • Modeling and simulation. Technologies including Simul8, Simio, Riverlogic, Arena, and AviX can help you understand the results of operational decisions before you commit to them, such as rebalancing work across facilities or shifts, altering delivery patterns, or distributing inventory differently.
  • Management systems. Digital management systems such as Dploy Solutions not only help you model scenarios and the impact of changes, they also track what happens once decisions have been made, allowing you to continually monitor and refine your strategy. These systems can also promote remote working for achieving social distancing and safety goals.
  • Digital training. Readily available video and digital training tools make delivering online training easier. You can even combine video with artificial intelligence technologies, such as Drishti’s factory video analytics or AviX, to offer more precise instructions.

Push the pedal down on your operations.

Ultimately, the goal of velocity is delivering the right products, at the right time, to the right places. And it’s the payoff from taking control of visibility and variability. But keep in mind that velocity can’t wait until the end. You need to be quick in how you gain visibility and understand variability. Choosing technologies that let you do everything faster gives you the agility to keep pace with today’s marketplace changes and stay ahead of the competition, fueling a virtuous circle of continuous improvement in visibility, variability management, and operational velocity.

 Start today.

It’s possible to improve visibility, management of variability, and velocity right now, without a sweeping digital transformation effort. If you can afford to be more ambitious, by all means, you should. But don’t let a limited budget hold you back from taking full advantage of the data and tools that are already at your fingertips.

Read the comprehensive article.

To learn more, download our comprehensive article, Manufacturing Technologies Plants Need Now to Keep Up with COVID-19 and Beyond. And see how you can apply technology to weather the current crisis and be ready for whatever is next.