The COVID-19 pandemic hit manufacturers in an unexpected and unprecedented way. For the first time in the history of modern manufacturing, demand, supply, and workforce availability have been affected globally simultaneously.
Every organization across the globe has prioritized social distancing and employee safety measures. However, for manufacturers, these important norms have created an additional level of pressure. While it is simpler for office employees and knowledge workers to operate remotely, most factories in India are not designed to do so, due to lack of infrastructure, digital tools, and technologies needed to support such activities.
The best way forward for manufacturers to not only recover but also future-proof themselves would be to rethink & reimagine their ways of working, their structures, assets, and how they steer their daily work. Digitization can help with instituting best practices, such as new product launch management and advanced analytics, AI and ML can increase process maturity, accelerate innovation & boost productivity.
As manufacturers face this dilemma and look for workarounds, as leaders in analytics, we have had a ringside view of the journey of adoption of digital transformation initiatives that include remote diagnostics management & collaboration tools. This is a critical aspect of driving a “virtual shift,” where a team of specialists are connected remotely (online) to guide and support the reduced “physical shift” of onsite teams.
It can be enabled by real-time data, AI-based insights, and a range of communication and collaboration tools. This virtual shift will help digitize and scale much-needed expertise across the organization, thereby enabling the onsite workforce to become more focused, and ultimately more productive. Virtual work is not just for the office-goers or desktop users anymore; it is a new reality even for those working on manufacturing shop-floors that can help accelerate a trend towards lights-out facilities.
For manufacturers, greater connectivity will mean the significantly accelerated deployment of IoT, including sensing, data visualization, remote collaboration tools, and AI-based insights and machine learning across their operations. A Control-tower view of data and insights across the whole manufacturing operation line will become a standard component of running a manufacturing organization.
As an immediate step for digital transformation, our advice would be to start by collecting streaming data from machines on the plant floor, assets in the supply chain, or products being used by customers. This data can then be combined with other business data, modeled and analyzed to gain actionable insights. It is easier for analytically-driven organizations to quickly spot opportunities and adapt with agility. For many business leaders, analytics isn’t going to be just a competitive advantage; it’s a requirement for survival!
To arrive at game-changing decisions, organizations must evaluate models that make hundreds of predictions; from whether raw materials will arrive at the right facility at the right time, to assessing the quality of products during production, to anticipating equipment failures, to measuring customer satisfaction and product performance once products are released. The best performing models should be selected and integrated into the workflow so that results can be realized.
Industry leaders within manufacturing are harnessing these capabilities of digital transformation across the spectrum of:
- Data, computational power, and connectivity: sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technology
- Analytics and intelligence: Advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and knowledge-work automation
- Human-machine interaction: virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, automation, and chatbots
These digitization capabilities being adopted by manufacturing industries are driving vital aspects of:
- New revenue models
- Enhanced product design processes
- Increased insights for driving down costs, improving compliance, and reaching new markets much faster.
A few critical areas that may see immediate results for manufacturers by accelerating digital transformation & harnessing real-time data, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and advanced analytics include:
- Demand Planning Stability
- End-to-End Supply Chain control tower to identify the best supply chain response to satisfy demand shifts and minimize operational costs.
- Ensuring availability of the right product at the right time
The COVID-19 crisis has made having access to reliable, real-time data an absolute necessity. While this transition of virtual-shift happens through the realm of real-time data, IoT and AI-based insights become the most valuable resource. This process of going from data to insight to decision to impact in a rapid and scalable manner will pave the way to accelerate digital transformation going forward!
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