If there has ever been a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment in modern manufacturing, it’s now. Things may still look normal in the world outside, for the most part. But what’s currently happening in the business environment can seem downright surreal, even if there haven’t been any reports of flying monkeys.
Just like Dorothy and Toto, now that we are in “Oz”, it doesn’t matter how we got here. What matters most for manufacturers is where we go. The first challenge, is simply finding our own yellow brick road, or path back to “normalcy.” The problem is that standard business models and forecasting approaches won’t cut it in such an unusual economic situation. In the near term, survival and success will depend on having visibility into your business, supply chain and the marketplace and being able to quickly pivot based on what’s actually happening. Download this article published by Dploy Solutions’ parent company, TBM Consulting Group, around four critical considerations for restarting or ramping up business again.
A brain, heart and some much-needed courage: the case for analytics
Much like the beloved rusty tin man, cowardly lion and scarecrow, today’s manufacturers without analytics are missing something essential to realizing their full potential. After all, if your operations have been slowed or even stopped for weeks now, it’s only natural to have developed some operational “rust”. And without a tool to see and understand what’s happening in your business, it’s very hard to be courageously decisive about what to do next.
Just consider that most of the parameters and assumptions you’ve used to forecast demand and plan your inventory, supply base and operations have been effectively blown out the door by an economic “tornado.” That means that getting back to a good place won’t be as easy as turning the switch on and falling back on tried and true methods. If you’ve been operating through the shutdown period, then you are probably already aware of this based on seeing huge variations in demand and supply availability. Even with the economy starting to open up, it’s very difficult to predict what will be happening in different parts of the country throughout the summer and into 2021, given the different ways states are responding to the crisis.
A good analytics solution for manufacturing won’t magically solve all of these problems, but it can provide the insights you need to meet customer demands while more effectively managing all of the business in a very dynamic economy. Let’s look at some quick examples of how analytics can help you move smarter and faster to maximize your current potential.
As the country opens up, figuring out how to best deploy inventory will be a huge challenge. Areas where demand may have been the largest before, such as in the Northeast, may see much smaller demand for the near term. And areas that are opening up first, such as Georgia and Texas, may see surges.
An analytics solution can provide a dashboard view of critical numbers from forecasting and planning systems so you can make more frequent and informed decisions about deploying inventory.
Supply and Procurement Considerations
Since suppliers are also going to be dealing with inconsistencies, you will need insights about what’s happening across your supply base to make sure you can get the supplies you need when you need them. What suppliers will be up and when? What’s their capacity and what can they commit to? What are the changes to lead times from suppliers? Without this type of information, you won’t be able to run. With good analytics and a bit of cooperation from your suppliers, however, you can smooth out potential bumps well before they lead to problems.
On some level, this crisis is likely to change the way supply chains work, with manufacturers demanding more visibility into the inventory of their supply base.
Operations and Maintenance Considerations
As manufacturers start bringing capacity back online, many are likely to see a lot of issues related to quality and equipment downtime. Analytics can provide you clear insights into how fast your capacity is coming up, how much capacity is online, how people are performing against capacity and much more. They make it much easier to understand where you’re having issues, what’s driving them and how to resolve them.
In many ways, the operational considerations tie to maintenance. For example, using analytics to identify mean time to failure or where streams are running roughly enables you to be more proactive about maintenance to keep capacity optimized. You could even use analytics to keep an eye on maintenance spend as your ramping up and through the recovery to better understand the implications to the business.
Human Resources Considerations
Relying on analytics to track and analyze productivity and quality can add value on a couple of levels. First, they enable you to track returning employee performance based on critical parameters. You can also visualize the productivity of new employees compared to tenured employees to gain insights into the effectiveness of onboarding and training processes. Moreover, if you combine analytics capabilities with video and training process solutions, you validate that people are doing things correctly and effectively in real time and accelerate your learning curve.
The next best thing to magic slippers
In Oz, Dorothy’s competition is clamoring for her magic slippers because they provide an easy way to go anywhere. Analytics for manufacturing solutions clearly aren’t magic. But when used properly, they can definitely make life easier for manufacturers during unusual times.
Keep in mind, we’re not encouraging you to spend a lot of money to implement things like inventory management or supply chain management capabilities. We’re simply talking about building dashboards around data your business already collects or could connect to quickly. If you already have an analytics tool implemented, you are off to a great start. If not, Dploy Solutions has the analytics and data integration capabilities to guide you quickly and deliberately around current and future disruptions along the road. The idea is to provide key people with the insights they need to make quick, informed decision on what’s happening today, so no one feels like the equivalent of the scarecrow, tin man or lion as you chart your new path forward.
We are all happy to see the world reopening a little more each week and we want you and your team to have the best foot forward toward success and profitability. Don’t hesitate to contact us should you need quick to implement and affordable analytics software (or if you need analytics support to set up your current analytics solution) to see and act on your business in a whole different way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ken Koenemann, VP of Supply Chain and Technology at TBM Consulting Group, is a 25+ year veteran of manufacturing, operational excellence and supply chain optimization. At TBM, Ken is actively leading the effort to our suite of services to include emerging technologies that improve productivity and convert complex data into information for improved decision making.