We are free of charge but before you start please donate $5 to help others! Help us. Make a Difference.
Helping others is the first step in making the world a better place and improving the lives of those who aren’t as lucky as you. But it’s also shown to bring about a wealth of benefits for those who choose to help and might just be the key to happiness! We are helping all over the world.
Naveen Poonian is the president and CEO of iBASEt, digitally transforming how complex products are built and maintained.
In the United States, there’s a growing sense that the Covid-19 crisis is now abating. Returning to some sort of normal has become the prevailing ethos. While the coronavirus continues to be a threat by inflicting damage in other regions, causing havoc with supply chains and disrupting overseas travel, the manufacturing industry is now cautiously planning for the future.
Under this lens, a new challenge has quickly become top of mind — an acute labor shortage now threatens to derail future growth plans. In response to this shortage, manufacturers must now learn to do more with less.
Despite U.S. unemployment claims steadily declining and the employment rate picking up, factory employment is still 4% below pre-pandemic levels — a deficit of 515,000 jobs. Worker absenteeism, short-term shutdowns resulting from parts shortages and struggles to fill open positions continue to hold back manufacturers. While consumer demand for all kinds of material goods is ramping up, supplies in many cases are going down. A “new normal” is emerging for the nation’s workers, but no one is quite sure what it will look like.
According to the result of a recent study by Deloitte, “As many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will be unfilled through 2030. The report warns the worker shortage will hurt revenue, production and could ultimately cost the U.S. economy up to $1 trillion by 2030.”
MORE FOR YOU
Today’s Uncertainty Is Expected To Continue
Beyond the worker shortage, other developments are having a destabilizing impact on manufacturing. For example, changes in technology that affect customer demand, market operation and production are taking place at a faster pace than ever before. Companies are being advised to deepen their relationships with suppliers, yet they’re also being cautioned to quickly jettison those suppliers whenever problems arise.
Operational agility has become mission-critical. The ability to quickly respond to rapid changes in market conditions, customer tastes and disruptions of established supply chains has become essential to company survival. Not only must manufacturing companies learn to do more with less, but they must do so with greater efficiency and responsiveness.
Everything that affects an enterprise has metrics associated with it. This includes labor, materials, inventory, capacities, overhead, prices, transportation and customers. There’s a huge amount of seemingly relevant data out there. And yet those myriad data points are not simply isolated pieces of information. If they’re appropriately captured, connected and analyzed, they can become strategic weapons for the company, enabling better planning, fewer errors and far more effective use of its resources.
The Increasing Need For Real-Time Data Visibility
There’s no shortage of operations data — the challenge is there’s too much data! It’s coming from so many sources that the job of analyzing and extracting meaning from it all is way beyond the reach of mere mortals. Business operations — the traditional focus of information technology (IT) departments — are largely isolated from manufacturing operations, which have been the focus of operational technology (OT).
This is a decoupling that works against the efficiency demands that come with having to do more with less, particularly fewer staff members. This pressure has created strong demand to digitally transform operations, which helps explain why the resurgence of Industry 4.0 investments is now accelerating.
My company, iBASEt, has worked for more than a decade with an aircraft engine manufacturer. It collects data using telemetry from their customers’ engines while in flight. Just one flight generates more than a terabyte of data. Multiply that by the thousands of engines it currently has in service, and you start to get some idea of how overwhelming all of it can be to make sense of. Yet that data is critical to engine design, maintenance and safety, so it can’t simply be ignored.
Performance data may not be as critical in every industry as it is in complex discrete manufacturing. But the ability to take and analyze data from multiple sources — particularly vendors at lower tiers in the supply chain — applies to just about every type of business. In an era of manufacturing labor shortages, being able to automate the data collection and analysis as much as possible is key to making the best use of the company’s available workforce. But there’s also more to it: the organization itself needs to change.
The Importance Of A Digital Strategy
As companies undergo digital transformation and move toward becoming Industry 4.0-type organizations, there’s a corresponding need to breach the walls separating traditional departments. For example, engineering, purchasing and accounting — IT functions — have historically collected data using tools that are distinctive to their corporate functions. The same has traditionally been true of production, quality and maintenance operations — OT functions.
As a result, a lot of valuable data is coded in task-specific formats and stored in separate silos. This makes the data difficult to access, harness and coordinate across functions. When you add to that the same type of issues with each of a company’s suppliers, it’s easy to see why the job of aggregating data in useful ways has become such a challenge.
However, network systems, software applications and advanced technologies capable of integrating business-focused applications with production-side systems that are capable of operating in a fast-changing, multi-vendor, cross-functional and data-rich environment are available right now. But unless the decision to invest in them is accompanied by a determination to transform the organization’s structure, workflow and culture, the returns on that investment will disappoint.
The truth is, despite all the speculation, it’s difficult to predict where the economy will be in just a few years. The leading indicators frequently send contradictory signals, while business decisions often need to be made on short notice. But digital tools can help you make better decisions now — and adapt as often as needed. While the future may be uncertain, gaining access to good data to build sound business strategies is a smart bet to help your business thrive whatever the future holds.