Technology is helping manufacturers move the needle in multiple aspects of their businesses. And it’s also helping them weather major disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with so many possibilities, it can be difficult to determine which products will have the most impact for your processes and protect your business through such uncertainty. Each has benefits worth pursuing, but which have been most relevant in this market and why?
Even before this crisis, the priority for manufacturers when looking at technology has been improving operations so they can meet customer expectations while minimizing risk overall. That means investing in tools that provide greater visibility into products and processes, allow you to scale operations quickly up or down, and gather insights from which you can take proactive and immediate measures.
All of this is meant to fortify your company against drastic market swings, but also allow you to capitalize on market opportunities. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, fortification and flexibility can make a significant difference for manufacturers.
There are several Industry 4.0 manufacturing technologies that are emerging as front-runners in the pursuit of these goals. Industry 4.0 refers to this period in our industrial evolution where we’re introducing digitization, connectivity, machine learning and intelligence to production processes on a broad scale.
One of the most effective steps in making your company more flexible and agile is moving your operations to the cloud, and more manufacturers are doing that this year. They’re finding that cloud services and a robust 5G connection are most conducive to success as they incorporate smart technologies and their factories become more “connected.” They are using the cloud to:
Having your operations in the cloud can be immensely helpful as you manage the impacts of the pandemic and other crises. As demands change, for example, respond more immediately and efficiently. It will also be easier to deploy certain roles to work remotely while retaining a high level of collaboration.
We’ve broken down four reasons to pursue cloud-based ERP systems.
This year, manufacturers are integrating technology into their production processes in ways that merge with and enhance human effort.
These technologies can be useful if your operations are disrupted. Use your AR/VR tools to quickly train employees if you need to shift their responsibilities to higher-demand products or new products entirely. And robots can help mitigate health risks by taking over certain responsibilities so that your employees can practice social distancing or take leave as needed. Further, robotic process automation – as with all automation efforts throughout your processes – can help you to run lean through uncertainty.
Technology can also help you with repositioning in the next normal.
There is a lot to gain from merging AI with IoT in manufacturing, and companies are taking notice. On their own, IoT sensors provide valuable information about nearly every process, including your inventory, supply chain, production line and transportation. The sensors can even give you insights into product performance in the field.
When you add AI to the mix, you enable these IoT products to use the information they’ve gathered to perform analytics and improve processes, make forecasts and reduce inefficiencies. AI opens up the possibilities for:
IoT and AI used in these capacities can make excellent buffers against disruption. Your IoT tools will deliver real-time information to help you manage changing supply, inventory and demand. And you’ll be able to monitor and even repair equipment without needing a technician on-site.
Read these Eide Bailly case studies to see real-world examples of IoT and AI in manufacturing:
Finally, manufacturers are starting to get on board with blockchain technology as the demand for greater visibility and traceability rises. Blockchain gives you a complete and accurate record that cannot be altered, which is most useful across a manufacturer’s supply chain. It follows the product through the chain and records each action, so that there are no mysteries and you can trace back as needed. When you add IoT technology to this, you can gain further insights that blockchain would otherwise not account for.
This technology has helped manufacturers identify disruptions in their supply chains before they could even feel the effects and might become an essential technology as the industry moves forward.
As you assess this year’s trends and consider applying them to your business, you must also consider the risk of staying in a “technology debt.” Operating with outdated technology makes your operations more vulnerable and keeps your company stuck in the past. In fact, right now there are countless organizations across industries discovering their outdated technology presents nearly insurmountable challenges as they manage and mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Identify the technologies that will help you most in your current operations, keeping you competitive and flexible against a fluctuating market and fortifying your business against present and future disruption.
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