Operational Excellence for the Challenges of the Future of Manufacturing

    Technology, technology, technology, period. That’s the undeniable mantra of every manufacturer’s Chief Financial Officer. That’s where the money will go. In the Kronos/Industry Week The Future of Manufacturing: 2020 and Beyond study, they cite the top 10 market challenges as:

    1. Market volatility
    2. Material costs
    3. Price reduction pressures
    4. Labor costs
    5. Transportation/logistics costs
    6. Environmental laws and regulations
    7. Business regulations
    8. Global competition
    9. Labor laws and regulations
    10. Global geopolitical risks
    11. Global expansion

    None of which come as new news to any executive in the industry. What has changed radically from previous decades in manufacturing is that the solution to overcoming these challenges is overwhelmingly… technology. Technology costs inflate material and labor costs to the extreme because purchasing technology and hiring/training for/in the use of it is expensive. Here’s a look at the 18 new-technology investment priorities of every manufacturer and how the technology drives profitability while reducing risk — and what human collateral is required to make the technology deliver.

    Engineer using laptop computer for maintenance automatic robotic arm with CNC machine in smart factory. Industry 4.0 concept
    What are you seeing as the most challenging trend in manufacturing and how can companies overcome that challenge?

    "Transition to NEV, sustainability, connectivity and autonomous technologies.

    It’s a “no way back” trend all segments must follow.

    Brasil INOVAR II and China Phase 4 are two examples of CAFE Regulation to be complied to.

    Adaptation to new requirements of assembling systems and components.

    Internet of Things will integrate everything, literally!

    New platforms and interfaces must be created."

    — MetaExpert Adriano Machado

    Adriano Machado
    What are the biggest challenges for the Manufacturing Industry?

    "In my opinion the most challenging trend is aging workforce combined with unsuitableness of some people to enter at industrial labor market. With diminishing workforce and with practically low input of new people, the only solution is to increase manufacturing system productivity. The good news is that 70% of time spent in production is waste. If you know how to deal with it, you might still keep a factory output with decreasing staff."

    — MetaExpert Jacek Jackowski


    Jacek Jackowski
    Higher productivity

    The technologies of advanced manufacturing, automation and robotics are credited with increasing manufacturing line productivity from 47 to 70% worldwide; supply chain for manufacturers is equally impacted. Labor cost savings from robotics alone represents a 16 to 33% cost savings globally. The manufacturing industry has been using these technologies already, but going into 2020 they’ll no longer be on any industry executive’s wish list, but rather a must have.

    It was suggested at a Brookings Institute manufacturing summit that every person on a manufacturing line will need a four-year college degree by 2020. That’s not going to happen. What can (and must) happen is placement of the right interim high-performing team developers to identify what technology-use skills existing employees have or are interested in having, where their ambitions and abilities lie, and fast-tracking them through hands-on, high-tech manufacturing mentoring, then backfilling any talent gaps. This process will maximize available talent resources while bringing to light what your new line looks like.

    drinks production plant in China
    Faster responsiveness to customer orders and requests

    Speed is the new black in customer satisfaction. Information is available at the touch of a button and our tangible goods are expected tomorrow. If the button doesn’t deliver and the goods were late or undesirable, customer experience has to be adroit, adept and immediate. It’s unlikely these expectations will ever be lowered, that people will ever accept again that they can’t get anything they want delivered on a Sunday, let alone have to leave their home to fetch it themselves. Regardless of what your company delivers and to whom — 2C or 2B — they’ve high expectations that are easy to shatter.

    Customer service requires unequal measures of CX technology and CX management — some business can rely almost exclusively on CX technology while others need much more touchy-feely CX management and back-end design. Either way, your CX technology is aggregating data that will tell you how to deliver the ultimate CX. If you don’t already have an action-from-analytics team in place, an interim expert in user-experience data extraction and interpretation, teamed with OpExpert™ in deployment of data-response initiatives can be called in to get your process online, up-to-speed, and transfer the capabilities of managing it on to your team quickly.

    Speedy Delivery
    Enhanced collaboration with customers and suppliers

    Competition is a dirty word. Leading-edge manufacturers don’t do that anymore. In the MESA International white paper Collaborative Manufacturing Explained, the organization describes the foundation of collaboration: “In Collaborative Manufacturing, designated individuals and organizations – both internal to a manufacturing enterprise and extended to its suppliers, customers, and partners – work together for mutual gain. The objectives of Collaborative Manufacturing are to streamline end-to-end business and supply chain processes and provide a more comprehensive and accurate information base from which to make decisions.”

    Innovation is one of the key drivers of collaboration because it demands so many inputs, diverse information and/or materials, broad range of talent, etc. Manufacturers are finding that making things with their past competitors rather than in competition with them, allows all parties to get better products to market faster, benefitting all. Collaboration effects all aspects of the manufacturer(s)’ business from supply chains being interwoven to the product information sales and marketing put out to the world. Many executives in the industry maintain that bringing in an interim intermediary team to develop collaborative relationships is the most effective way to proceed as it eliminates any hard feelings that may exist between the ex-competitors and brings companies together from a position of strength — working together is already working before multiple in-house teams in multiple companies — start interfacing regularly. Innovation driven by consumer demand, giving them what they want not what you think they want, is also vital and always benefits from interim change management experts who know how to get your people advocating for consumer-driven new products.

    Augmented reality glasses
    Enhanced market intelligence

    Enhanced market intelligence is the direct result of information-collection technology. Market intelligence in any industry is the understood and acted-upon combination of dialogue with consumers/customers, data analytics and deep knowledge of the competition. Until recently, the latter was the predominant focus for most manufacturers, but with the onset of collaboration rather than competition, knowing what resources they bring to bear and what the customer/consumer landscape really looks like have taken precedence. Regardless of your optimal mix of market intelligence factors, you now must commit to embracing opportunities for data, customers and even your competition to enrich your market intelligence.

    Because data interpreters, customer experience experts and competitor collaboration professionals all have widely disparate skill sets and information-to-action styles and experience, executives in the manufacturing industry agree that bringing in interim guides who have created internal cross functional teams and departments (even collaborative cross-company teams), is a fast track to mastering contemporary market intelligence. Furthermore, these guides have extensive experience with getting people comfortable with information technology and evolving into passion for using it and excitement about what they can make happen because of it.

    Big data futuristic visualization abstract illustration
    More effective customer communication

    See #4 above — same technology and guidance rules apply. Furthermore, effective customer communications, both in and out, is trendy. What you need from your customers is evolving as rapidly as what they demand to hear from you. Documentmedis.com states how the customer rules very succinctly: ” The clear trend is that the customer is in control, dictating the speed that new channels are implemented, slamming poor service on social media, and demanding that just the right amount of information is made available on the right channel and at the right time. Failure to deliver on the required positive customer experience will result in loss of new and existing business to savvier communicators.” As a manufacturer, not only does your product have to please, but so does your way of supporting both it and your customer’s expectations, fulfillment and experience.

    This “I will build it and they will buy it” stance of manufacturing entrepreneurs is obsolete. To communicate your genuine caring for and appreciation of your customer, you need to hear them clearly, even ask them for clarification and detail, and tell them how you incorporated their desires. Furthermore, you must solicit their ongoing feedback and adjust continuously. This can be very difficult for companies because most of their people who interface with the customer have traditionally been solving problems. They need training and practice in engaging with their customers, reaching out with genuine interest about the customer’s experience, solving problems with service and incentives far beyond just fixing what’s broken. Customer engagement is a big paradigm shift for most customer experience people in manufacturing — get interim help if it is for your company.

    Businessman holds modern technology in hands
    Enhanced employee engagement

    Most of your executives and team member over 40 remember when employees only engaged with each other and the outside world by phone or personal meetings, both formal and casual. Technology now allows them to tell and learn life stories of people and products in minutes with a click. In a minute, any one of your employees can engage with millions of your customers, suppliers and collaborators/competitors through social media. In fact, even if they are not authorized to engage on behalf of the company, they still will put their personal information, often as it relates to work, out to their social media networks…

    Enhanced employee engagement through technology isn’t about scaring you. Rather, it’s about your due diligence in making it known how their engagement impacts your manufacturing company, how they can use engagement to benefit the company, and the positive effect that ultimately has on them. If you don’t have someone on-board who can get your team members up-to-speed with the engagement technologies, bring in an expert who can.

    Engineer Training Apprentices On CNC Machine
    Enhanced data availability

    Big data is revolutionizing manufacturing industry. Never before has data played such an important role in reducing waste and increasing the value in process-based value streams. Now your shop-floor data is one of your greatest assets, especially for complex (discrete) manufacturers who have hundreds of variables in your processes and equally as many in your data stream. Before the availability of big data, you had to choose sets of variables to analyze ‘manually”, now you can quickly map how the effect each other and ultimately your bottom line, then adjust accordingly. Manufacturers are frequently seeing 50% increases in output and millions of dollars in savings in reduced wastes concurrently.

    Big data is still a big challenge for most manufacturers. Those that do analyze their data typically don’t utilize it for operational improvement and excellence, but simply to track systems. The top challenges for you in utilizing big data are the same for everyone:

    • Volume, velocity and variety,
    • Getting the information needed quickly (and reacting to it),
    • Getting big data talent on board (we’ve solved that problem for you with big data MetaExperts),
    • Making data from various sources work together,
    • Validating the data,
    • Making it safe and secure, and
    • Obtaining team buy-in (also solved by change management MetaExperts).

    Managing the technology of big data, from hardware to software to analytics requires specialists. Interim help is the best way to jump-start your big data asset, because these are big challenges.

    Global network concept. Internet of Things. Artificial Intelligence.
    Deeper knowledge of customer preferences

    See the big data issue above. Again, the technologies to manage the data your customers give you is available — you probably already have it in place. The challenges are the same. Your customer delivers real-time business information to you constantly. That information is of great value to your business. Even if you’ve just begun to really look at what your customer data tells you, you have to know the basic customer data rules to respond to them and flourish. They are:

    • No one can better tell you what to manufacture,
    • Make no assumptions about what they want,
    • Be thorough in hearing them (you’ll avoid mistakes),
    • It’s about quality of data, not quantity,
    • Adapt to the data easily and quickly (be agile!),
    • Adapt in real time,
    • Know that the analytics can only help, never hinder,
    • Use all the data that matters,
    • Big data is a big picture asset, and
    • Get it everywhere and in every way (multi-platform) you can.

    The technology of big data is highly specialized, and interpreting it is as well. Don’t go it alone. Get interim help if your customer data isn’t making big, positive changes in your business already.

    Global network connection
    All the other things technology delivers to manufacturers that you can’t do without
    • More accurate forecasting
    • Enhanced production flexibility
    • Reduced time to market
    • Enhanced operational visibility
    • More effective strategic execution
    • More efficient workforce management
    • Enhanced analytical capabilities
    • Deeper supply chain visibility
    • Easier product customization

    We’ll be adding a lot more on these issues to this page and in articles in the MetaExperts MagEzine and in our executive blog. Please follow us on Twitter @MetaExperts for updates on our manufacturing industry articles.

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