The manufacturing industry has been hit hard by Covid. Just how are the top minds in the field adapting and getting back on top? What are the challenges, and how is the industry set to move forward?
Like other industries, manufacturing faces an uncertain future. The disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, both on the logistics of business and on the wider economy, have made planning for the future extremely difficult.
Market uncertainty is undoubtedly the biggest challenge that the sector currently faces. However, out of this disruption new opportunities may emerge.
Different manufacturers will have different priorities, depending on their current state of operations. A thorough audit will be necessary in order to look at where waste can be eliminated and efficiency tightened up.
Certainly, the future of manufacturing as a business must involve leaner operations, and to survive in an uncertain climate, companies need to maximize efficiency to ensure long-term resilience.
These companies also need to be flexible, embracing change and new ways of working. To this end, new minds and new ways of looking at manufacturing are needed. The economic, environmental and social climate will not adapt to the needs of your company. Therefore, your company needs to adapt to a changing climate.
Those coming into the field will need to have a fresh perspective on manufacturing that doesn’t assume that traditional working methods are necessarily the right ones for the current moment. Modern technology must be utilized to its full potential, while the needs of the market must be continually reassessed.
A holistic approach to the sector, where the manufacturing process is seen both in the context of business and of society as a whole, will reap more benefits than a narrowly focused, atomized outlook.
Candidates with an online masters in lean manufacturing will have an advantage over their rivals when it comes to progressing through the sector. As the name suggests, lean manufacturing seeks to improve output, streamline processes and reduce waste, defined as anything that doesn’t add value to the end product. The result is a better quality of product alongside reduced lead times and operating costs.
A key principle of lean manufacturing is that although the producer creates value, the customer defines it. It is therefore necessary to eliminate waste and excess expenditure in order to create a product that fulfills all of the customer’s needs at a price they are willing to pay, all while making the highest possible profit.
This is done by adhering to the models of flow, a pull system (where work only begins once the demand is there), and constant improvement in pursuit of perfection, known as kaizen.
An ethical approach
We are entering an era when manufacturing is expected to be more transparent. Wider ethical concerns will need to be addressed, beyond the simple logic of profit and loss. A new way of thinking is called for that considers the wider landscape that manufacturing operates in. This includes factoring in the impact of processes on the environment and local communities.
A move towards greener manufacturing methods, ethical supply chains, and global fair trade will be increasingly necessary in order to protect the wider ecosystem that businesses inhabit. Those firms that are unwilling to take these issues into consideration may find their hand forced by government regulation or consumer pressure.
Environmental concerns often dovetail with the need to cut business costs and improve efficiency, by using less energy, reducing waste, and so on. At other points, significant financial sums may need to be committed to put appropriate structures in place or to refit and replace aging, inefficient machinery.
Diversification of supply chains is another route to greater efficiency, by reducing reliance on a limited number of vulnerable points in the network. An increase in the amount of options means greater resilience in the face of possible disruption. A wider choice of suppliers and transit routes means a stronger and faster production schedule.
Driven by data
Behind the scenes, new minds need to understand advanced analytics in order to stay one step ahead of demand and any obstacles that may be just around the corner.
The business of manufacturing may become more data-driven, but this does not mean that executives should be tempted to ‘overthink’ issues. The aim is to be more adaptable, with faster response times and a range of fluid options for any eventuality.
The importance of data analysis goes hand in hand with the inevitability of increased automation, both in terms of the actual manufacturing process and the digital software controlling supply, distribution and other aspects of business.
From robots working alongside humans to predictive AI anticipating consumer demand, automation will further bring the business and production aspects of manufacturing closer together.
The manufacturing business is changing and needs new minds capable of keeping up with the pace. The need for greater efficiency locks in with the urgent problem of environmental responsibility, and the use of lean manufacturing techniques to embrace continual progress and best value. By combining all of these complementary principles, manufacturing can continue to serve the needs of an evolving world.