The manufacturing sector currently makes up 11.4% of the US economy, employing 8.5% of the workforce, according to nam.org.
It’s no secret that manufacturing in the US faces a number of challenges. From our perspective, one important challenge is how to use systems and digital automation to drive agility and productivity. It’s only going to get more acute: over the next few years skills shortages will worsen, and “Industry 4.0” will pick up speed. No manufacturing company can afford to be left behind.
Tracking and managing production without the proper technology is time-consuming. The line between shop-floor production systems and back-office administrative systems is being erased, creating an integration challenge for many manufacturers, with CRM, ERP, MRP, MES and EDI all playing a critical part.
At the same time, COVID-19 has driven changes in how manufacturing businesses reach customers, with an increase in B2B eCommerce. This switch has created problems with data management and systems integration, as well as complicated supply-chain challenges.
The bright side is that all of these issues can be managed, and the businesses who do so will become more efficient and profitable.
New collaboration systems and devices can dramatically improve communication, planning, and forecasting. They can radically reduce costs and time wasted in the purchase-to-pay cycle. But innovation needs to be balanced with rigor: all projects must begin with clear, objective business objectives based on the business strategy.
Manufacturers should start by asking whether they are getting the most out of their current systems before they embark on exciting new projects! Basic IT infrastructure, data management and system configuration must be properly defined and implemented; but, for solutions to deliver real business benefits, they need to address process and people and data issues including organization, training and culture as well.
At the same time, cyber security and risk management is a complex issue as the manufacturing sector is a prime target for fraudsters. A lack of expertise in this area can hold back the investment in necessary technologies to drive innovation.
Innovation and improvement must become part of the culture of the business but a sensible and commercial approach is required in order to ensure solid return on investment and to manage risk.