Smart manufacturing plays a paramount role disrupting and transforming traditional production and operations in the supply chain thanks to the combination of technology, data, processes, and human interaction. The pandemic has served as a catalyst, accelerating smart manufacturing initiatives.
Yet, few organizations have embraced sustained action. For manufacturing leaders, now is the time to take a step forward and accelerate moves toward digital maturity and improved business performance.
Indeed, the future of supply chain technology could not be more exciting. Emerging and maturing technology advances in the manufacturing sector are bringing competitive advantage to supply chain organizations.
Key considerations toward a successful smart manufacturing strategy
Industry researcher, analyst, and consulting firm Gartner anticipates that in the next few years, there will not only be an increase in the adoption of digital supply chain technologies but also the creation of new IT-focused roles which supply chain leaders must integrate in order to advance business performance.
According to a Gartner survey, the execution of smart manufacturing lags. The survey revealed that less than 50 percent of manufacturing leaders are either implementing, or have a fully deployed smart manufacturing strategy. However, many of the manufacturing leaders surveyed acknowledged its importance, with 86 percent agreeing that smart manufacturing is an integral component of their digital supply chain and 84 percent agreeing they expect smart manufacturing to increase their competitiveness.
So then, what is holding smart manufacturing back? According to Gartner analysts, it is not technology or poorly educated leadership that is constraining manufacturing and holding manufacturing back but rather the challenges of change management. Responses to Gartner’s survey showed a number of reasons such as cybersecurity, access to skills, and competition for resources as some fundamental challenges to deployment, with leadership commitment not mentioned as an issue.
In order to navigate the future of manufacturing, an actionable strategy to move smart manufacturing forward includes the following Gartner recommendations:
People come first: Smart manufacturing is meant to improve and enhance how humans do their jobs. The shifts in organizational design will blend stakeholders across information technology (IT), operational technology (OT), engineering technology (ET), and supply chain. This convergence and alignment is a paradigm shift that emphasizes culture, decision making and governance ahead of technology in many instances.
Prepare to integrate continuous innovation with continuous improvement:
Synchronizing initiatives is meant to enhance core operations of today’s processes with future innovation and process capabilities. This helps to manage change and avoid resource constraints.
Shift performance management from efficiency to speed:
Improving operational excellence is the burning platform and not the destination or endpoint for smart manufacturing. Focusing on speed will improve order cycle times and service levels while identifying opportunities for digitization and automation
Expect to execute gradually:
Pilots are not disruptive in and of themselves; it is their deployments that can be disruptive. Each factory has a different blend of equipment, systems, processes and workforce capabilities. Even when scoped in advanced, it may be harder than expected to manage the challenges of re-engineering processes and avoiding hidden integration costs.
Be realistic about your expectations at each stage:
It is critical for manufacturers to know what benefits to emphasize and de-emphasize at different stages. As demand for new technologies and improved ways of working increases, limited benefits in some early stages can be the most beneficial later.
Create a roadmap:
A dedicated smart manufacturing organization can identify the roadmap and tactics essential to maintain ongoing engagement and consistent execution from factories up through leadership, sequencing initiatives, and managing the potential disruption. In addition, a roadmap ensures that budgets do not underestimate the costs associated with process re-engineering or integration.
Learning from top global supply chain leaders
When we want to learn how to do something we always look at those who have done it before us. In the journey to digital transformation, perhaps it is worth it having a look at how some top supply chain leading companies have mastered best practices to excel in 2021 with Cisco Systems topping the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 report for the second consecutive year.
According to Gartner, by 2025 and toward the expected trends in manufacturing in 2030, 23 percent of supply chain leaders expect to have a digital ecosystem in place, up from only one percent today. Staying at the forefront of the digital transformation, manufacturing leaders will remain relevant, competitive, and attuned with the digital era and the factory of the future. The ability to attract and retain customers as well as employees will depend on it.
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