Connected Planning is going to be very important as both demand and supply continue to be unpredictable. According to a recent HBR survey, 9 out of 10 planners still use Excel to plan and that is going to break down in the current context. Quick adoption of technology solutions that help to integrate planning b/w Finance, Supply chain, Sales and Production will provide the ability to conduct “what-if” scenario planning in a rapidly shifting environment.
Demand forecasting models will have to be rewritten to ensure that they include the variables of varied opening schedules and patterns, shifting customer purchasing power, factoring in demand patterns of the end consumption sectors in case of B2B businesses etc., all done at a regional level to enable forecasting with a fair degree of confidence.
Quick supplier onboarding will become important as manufacturers look to onboard suppliers either to reduce reliance on global suppliers and onboard more domestic suppliers, and also look upon new suppliers because the old suppliers might not be able to cater to the demand.
Additive Manufacturing could be very powerful to enable New Product Introduction. It is a pure Digital 3D manufacturing process and eliminates the dependency on shop-floor workers for re-tooling, which is challenging in current times. It can also be looked upon as a strategy to fabricate critical components and products locally (at a location close to the place of consumption) and eliminate the dependency on logistics.
Visibility of raw material or component inventory - what is sitting in the factory, what is in the warehouses and what’s in transit. Powerful visualization tools can help aggregate information from various systems where this information resides and present the insights on Inventory in a holistic manner.
Extending this further would be solutions and technology based on RFID/NFC that help undertake physical inventory tracking, both at rest in factories and warehouses, and also in-transit inventory. This helps get a much faster and accurate view of the inventory in hand, and the ability to predict the delivery timelines of in-transit inventory, which will become very important in the current context.
Social distancing and health norms on the shop floor will require rethinking of Manufacturing
A massive technology intervention will be required to ensure that volume and productivity levels reach pre-crisis level as the number of workers on the shop-floor reduces to accommodate social distancing and health norms.
Ensure worker health safety – Solutions such as:
- Maintaining temperature records and history of workers on the shop floor (as permitted by the regulations in each country)
- Scanning each worker at the point of entry and logging it in for records
- Using mobile phones or vision techniques to provide alerts/haptics for maintaining the stipulated physical distance
- Ensuring usage of facemasks through machine vision etc.
…are some examples of non-intrusively leveraging to ensure a work environment adhering to the safety norms from a COVID-19 perspective.
From a connected employee perspective - Remote expert assistance which helps people on the shop floor gain access to remote experts for any problem solving will become an effective tool. This becomes important especially in the context of the shop floor expertise residing mainly with the aging demographic, who are potentially at high risk based on the initial research, and could potentially stay away from shop floors for a longer period of time. Hence, this is a good way to tap into their expertise without having them come to the shop floor.
Remote monitoring of plants will have to be enabled to ensure business continuity, and also ensure that diagnostics can be conducted offsite, thereby reducing the number of people in the plant. It will also enable data capture, which can be analyzed to discover inefficiencies at a plant and line level.
Leveraging AI to improve OEE will help in ensuring that the availability, productivity and quality levels are improved to offset the impact of fewer workers on the floor. Examples include:
- Leveraging ML to predict end of line quality by predicting the most optimal combination of input parameters – raw material, physical parameters of production – such as temperature, RPM, time to process etc., to ensure the highest quality levels
- Automating visual inspection of products by using machine vision to measure quality based on surface or dimensional properties
Robotics and automation will help address the challenge of having fewer workers on the shop floor. Manufacturers will selectively adopt Cobots depending on the nature of the manufacturing process and the volume requirements. Robots can also be effective in managing warehouse operations.
Aftermarket services and customer experience re-imagination
The field services and the inbound repair requests will potentially experience a surge as the world re-opens. Manufacturers with legacy systems will struggle to manage these loads with a smaller work force. Field services management solutions that have strong capabilities in scheduling, knowledge management, and AR/VR support will be key to ensuring superior customer experience.
Automation of customer and field services enquiries using Chatbots will help manage volumes without compromising on customer experience.
Warranty claims could potentially go up, either because of issues related to “re-starting” machine components, or in case of household products, just because of the increase in utilization. If manufacturers don’t have powerful systems, the process could potentially break down.