Top Challenges Facing the Manufacturing Industry
Manufacturing has been a driving economic force from the first industrial revolution into the fourth industrial revolution (dubbed Industry 4.0). That’s not about to change. Yes, there’s no denying that the U.S. manufacturing sector suffered a severe downturn for several years. However, there’s also clear evidence that the sector is slowly but surely rebounding.
To continue this positive trajectory, manufacturers must stay ahead of the latest manufacturing trends, keep up with technological advances, and be flexible enough to continue evolving. This requires meeting new and ongoing challenges head-on.
New Trends, New Opportunities, New Challenges
We tend to think more about the opportunities afforded by new trends in big data and robotics. But despite the advantages, there are risks and challenges, too. Here are just two examples:
The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought big data to modern manufacturing facilities, resulting in real-time insights, operational efficiencies, shortened production, and time-to-market cycles, as well as the most obvious advantage, better data collection. While knowledge, speed, and efficiency can increase manufacturing output exponentially, they also increase security risks as they expose more endpoints to viruses and cyberattacks.
Automation and robotics and lean manufacturing allow manufacturers to do more with less on the shop floor. However, automation requires a significant investment in equipment that can leave companies cash strapped. Should the cost of materials rise in an unpredictable market, cash will be required on short notice to prevent materials shortages. There’s also the cost of the skills gap issue, the need to hire workers with advanced skills, or train an existing workforce to program robots and robotic arms.
Manufacturing software and cloud-based apps, designed for your unique processes and installed on your workstations, will help train new employees faster, and guide experienced employees to work more efficiently. This helps mitigate the risks of turnover and makes “upskilling” a lesser trained workforce more feasible.
Waste is not an option at a time when manufacturers are facing unpredictable material costs. Implementing IoT systems for condition monitoring reduces the risk that equipment failure will cause downtime or quality issues. New technologies will increase the ability to detect anomalies and enable immediate remediation, thus preventing costly downtime that could amount to $300,000 or more an hour.
Manufacturing software solutions that incorporate the following, are readily available:
Platforms for training employees to work effectively and productively in automated environments
Manufacturing systems that transform plants and factories with technology advancements for smarter, better, faster work
Implementing digital technology that reduces costs and speeds up production schedules
Real-time monitoring tools that improve scheduling, inventory control, and production timelines
Supply chain management (SCM) automation
Warehouse management systems (WMS)
It’s also important to note that companies should be reevaluating their supply chain networks.
Diversifying supplier relationships is one way to address increasing costs, but there are risks unless the right safeguards are in place. Consider:
Performing a risk analysis of existing suppliers to identify potential issues and ways to be more efficient.
Developing contingency plans to build resilience and agility into your supply chain, such as identifying back-up partners in certain regions, or remapping distribution networks.
Updating supplier contracts to clearly detail responsibilities and service expectations and assign liability appropriately.
Manufacturers have a lot on their plates in order to remain viable and competitive. We work closely with all our manufacturing and distribution clients to provide cutting-edge Microsoft Dynamics ERP software solutions to help them stay ahead of the curve.