Mark Hughes, regional vice president UK & Ireland, Epicor explains how manufacturing’s can rise from the ashes of the old norms, stronger and better
It has been a year of momentous change for UK manufacturers, from political upheaval following Britain’s planned withdrawal from the EU to today’s market outlook. Now, manufacturing businesses are experiencing some of the most challenging trading conditions since Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) records first began.
There were manufacturers, who for the first time, ran their production lines 24/7, to keep up with this black swan event, given that this demand could never have been forecasted or planned for. Others adapted their focus to creating new products such as face masks and ventilators to support those desperately in need. Many businesses were pushed to the limit, but those using technology to streamline and improve operations will emerge stronger and better as a result. From challenging times comes opportunity, and British manufacturers must embrace this to navigate through the ‘old norms’ into the ‘new now’.
Bringing manufacturing back onshore
Whilst the last few decades have all been around the globalisation of supply chains, manufacturers are now reverting to basics, putting a strong focus on ‘Made in Britain’ manufacturing, rather than relying on off-shore trade.
Aside from eliminating rising overseas labour costs, trade tariffs, and other export overheads, bringing manufacturing back onshore can help businesses maintain control over supply chains, avoid potential vulnerabilities, and mitigate against changing market conditions. Though the myriad of stockpiling and supply chain challenges the industry is currently seeing could not have been predicted, onshore manufacturing will help protect against similar events. This is because it gives businesses greater control and visibility of operations.
Automation will drive innovation
It will certainly be speed and direction that will help see manufacturers through these trying times, and automation will be key to driving this, enabling businesses to implement new tools and systems effectively to meet manufacturing demands.
Technologies such as robotics and AI, when teamed with the right business systems, can help make routine, time-consuming tasks less labour-intensive for workers. In addition to reducing costs and increasing speed of production, they can also help ease the pressure on workers, freeing them up to work more strategically and help businesses plan.
Accelerating the speed of deployment
As more employees worked from home, businesses quickly realised the benefits of cloud-based technologies. Where some manufacturers have been teetering on the edge of cloud adoption, they are now being forced down this route to enable seamless access and system control even when staff are working remotely.
When sustaining business growth is more important than ever, cloud-based platforms provide a cost-effective and smooth transition from outdated systems to innovative applications that can help businesses remain agile and responsive.
Time to evaluate and rejuvenate
Whilst certain manufacturers operating in the current climate will see an increased demand in production, there will also inevitably be businesses that feel a slump in activity. During these fallow times, businesses should look inwardly and reassess current efficiencies, taking steps to consider overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and other internal processes to boost efficiencies of internal systems.
When businesses are successful, they can be so focused on growth that they often do not have the time to think and analyse. The same processes can be run for years without someone taking a step back and rethinking how they could be done better. For the businesses experiencing downtime, now is the time to evaluate and reassess, so that they can put in place the steps and tools that will enable them to emerge from these times stronger than ever before.