Simply knowing they need to modernize is not enough: manufacturers with specific digitalization needs and challenges have to know some basics …

Amid global supply chain disruptions such as rising costs, shipment delays and port congestion, how can manufacturers boost resilience and minimize customer inconvenience and internal strife?

With such obstacles, manufacturers must be resilient and forge ahead if they embrace technological solutions. Technological solutions are available that can help in this regard, according to David Irecki, Director, Solution Consulting, Boomi.

He tells how supply chain managers may need to know some basics about automation, digital transformation and a unified approach to data management before they even know how to win buy-in to invest more in the right transformation strategies.  

DigiconAsia: What are the technological approaches that manufacturers can take now to cope with the supply chain disruptions?

David Irecki (DI): The most helpful solutions are the ones that allow manufacturers to rethink and reshape their business practices to be more integrated and nimble amid potential geopolitical or climate emergencies.

Imagine the difference between having data stored in different clouds and servers, including some information in legacy formats and other different information in the cloud and at the edge. Inefficiencies and costs incurred in trying to access such siloed information can slow down an organization’s ability to cope with disruptions.  

One Hong Kong-based retail company, Native Union overcame this problem when it connected all its core applications and automated the previously manual processes in its business using a low-code cloud-native platform. Its enterprise resource planning system is now connected to its e-commerce platform as well as a multicurrency payment gateway processor. This unified approach extends visibility and control over its own supply chain and strengthens links between work processes, improving response and production times. 

In this way, supply chain managers can extract information from various connected systems and tie them with data from the rest of the business to boost business oversight and thus agility.

DigiconAsia: How about the shortage of manpower or training in the manufacturing industry that is hampering transformation plans?

DI: To address manpower shortages, manufacturers can adopt workflow automation and improved data connectivity as described above to improve operational efficiency. Work that would have taken months to complete can be improved via automation, AI, ML and other cloud-computing tools to be achievable in much less time, freeing up time for employees and reducing staff attrition.

On the IT side, sparing teams from menial tasks such as managing integrations, manually applying patches and performing repetitive or low-value manual duties can free them up to focus on mission-critical objectives that keep them motivated to stay on.

When employees and new staff feel more valued knowing that their talents are not going to waste, they are more likely to stay on and develop even more valuable skills, reducing any skills mismatches and other push factors that cause employees to leave.

In addition to upskilling and retraining employees, organizations should consider job redesign, redeployment and relocation to ease employees’ adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies. These are all critical elements of achieving staff buy-in.

By modernizing the supply chain, improving workflow connectivity and removing friction from the end-user experience, manufacturers can improve resilience and agility and use it to advantage in tackling other internal challenges.

DigiconAsia: What other hurdles do manufacturers face in trying to modernize while struggling to cope with current disruptions?

DI: Smart manufacturing capabilities are imperative to mitigating fluctuations and staying competitive.

However, knowing how to align technology adoption with the goals of the business can prove challenging. 

Winning the buy-in of C-suite executives and finance heads is an obvious challenge, especially with businesses in emerging economies formulating more stringent digital investment strategies. Also, many manufacturers still dependent on legacy, on-premises systems can take months to modernize. At the same time, when seeking out vendors, such firms will have to be shown convincing proofs-of-concept to invest funds in cloud-native, enterprise-wide automation amid existing business constraints.

Such proofs-of-concept should show how a significantly less time and resources would be taken up implementing modernization than it would take to retain on-premises systems.  

Finally, other parts of the supply chain may already have gone digital, adding to the data deluge facing manufacturers that are lagging in their abilities to manage the data pain points to turn raw data into actionable insights.

For such challenges, such manufacturers may benefit from a unified cloud-native modernization platform that offers low-code functionality. When such a platform is low code and offers a drag-and-drop visual user interface, more staff can be quickly trained to automate operations and write their own code to tap incoming data insights.

DigiconAsia thanks David for sharing his insights