This COVID-19 crisis-driven downtime has given manufacturers the opportunity to rethink strategic priorities. While organizations look at ramping up, it is critical to prepare for future capabilities that can transform business models. The reality is – more essential now than ever – manufacturers must digitalize their processes. And the need for a right technology partner and a partner ecosystem that can enable organizations to assess, prioritize and act is acute.
Short-term technology investments will be around the following areas:
- Modernizing remote work capabilities
- Centralizing monitoring and diagnostic operations of assets
- Heavy investment in manual process automation
- Remote product service as a key part of product innovation
- Building resilient supply chains
Digital: An enabler in the new order
Although manufacturers have embarked on their digital journeys, and each is at different stages of adoption, in order to realize the full potential and benefits, effective usage of digital tools and technologies is imperative. The manufacturing industry will eventually recover from the crisis, but what would matter is the speed at which these digital technologies can be essentially integrated in order to yield the highest level of productivity and prepare for a transformative future.
The near future will see organizations shift their ways of working and focus areas/priorities:
- Health and safety in the strategy blueprint: People’s health and safety priorities have changed over the last few weeks. Work from home and self-isolation will build behaviors to spend more time at home, and buy local. Consumption patterns of products and services will change and businesses will incorporate health in their products or move to business adjacencies that include health - air conditioners with germ filters, anti-bacterial interiors, autonomous service technology etc.
- The impact of demand interruption: With financial impact, and decrease in customer confidence as key challenges for your business, it is imperative to predict and prepare for the fluctuating demand. There will be an increase in decision-making anxiety as each next step is crucial and technologies like predictive analytics and forecasting will become vital.
- Automation – the survival kit: Digital enablement is the bedrock for recovery and business growth. It forms the foundation for access to data, service, demand analysis, collaboration etc. Automation and robotics will play a significant role in remote working, remote operations and advanced scenario modelling.
- Supply chains need 100% visibility and resilience: Understanding the shift to new behaviors will help build efficient supply chains. It is crucial to invest in the technology behind building visibility and resilience into supply chains. Technologies like the Cloud, AI and Blockchain will be the building blocks to the future manufacturing organization.
The 3-prong approach to digital transformation
A 3-step approach will help prepare for the future of business and transformation
Assess – There are a number of digital technologies, each designed and developed to achieve a specific function and purpose. Adopting the right technologies can help organizations to enable its employees to deliver safely and seamlessly on the processes and outcomes.
The ongoing situation has forced many manufacturers to pull up their plans of implementing remote monitoring and diagnostics of operations and assets earlier than originally planned. Connected assets and IT-OT convergence can aid organizations to restore operations and run critical-to-business activities without jeopardizing the safety of its employees.
10 major potential digital manufacturing opportunities
- Collaboration platforms
- Connected assets
- AI for decision support
- Remote product performance
- Warehouse robotics
- AI driven inspections
- IT/OT convergence
- RPA for manual operations
- Service robotics
- Ecosystem and networks
Prioritize–With strong foundational technologies in place, the PMO should dedicate ‘preparation’ of people, process and platforms to scale new business requirements. Enabling remote working of people and cost optimization are the biggest priorities for manufacturers right now.
Knowing what technologies to invest in is not enough when businesses accelerate their investments to bounce back to business growth. Here is where, having a framework truly helps. This will enable organizations to prioritize the top actions around remote work, building a business resilience matrix, cost optimization measures focused on digital solutions across key business and IT realms.
An instance is Wipro’s $AVE framework for manufacturers: