By Peter Rifken, senior solutions consultant, Quick Base
Is your company defined by slim profit margins and the need to deliver quality products on strict deadlines? While these standards are the norm in the manufacturing industry, they are also difficult to live up to.
Thankfully, digital technology tools don’t have to be a dip in the road to world-class status. Smart investments and a will to change can transform dinosaur-era machinery and processes into a cutting-edge, company-wide system that is the envy of the industry.
Ok, so that sounds good, but what do you need to do to get there?
The answer starts with implementing tools to better capture available data and break down silos, streamlining communication across an organization.
A Proactive Approach to Data
As far as industries go, manufacturing is more numbers driven than most. That mindset spills over into companies’ ultra-defined KPIs, measurements and goals, whether it be parts per year, dollars saved, energy costs, etc. But more than others, this industry struggles to deliver effective, consistent results against their goals.
Why? For one, many manufacturers lack a centralized system to view relevant data. Without these capabilities, decision makers, both in the boardroom and on the warehouse floor, cannot dig deep into that data and understand what is preventing them from hitting target goals.
Certain data visualization tools allow manufacturers to see trends but don’t provide access to the database to see where a malfunction occurred. Let alone a tool to share that solution with teams across departments to scale the fix’s impact. Companies need nimble digital solutions that enable agility and flexibility, like filtering to view data that is most relevant to a given project.
With digital technology and the right tools, manufacturer leadership can empower employees to dig deeper into data and track the root cause of problems that contribute to hidden costs, and take action to create programs and initiatives to manage the continuous improvement process, moving the mindset needle from reactive to proactive.
Organizational Silos – A Strategic Roadblock
Silos are not a unique problem in modern business – but they are especially pervasive and detrimental in the manufacturing industry. That’s in large part because manufacturing companies are geographically spread out with disconnected operations. While they may be unified by a name and brand, these companies’ plants and departments are burdened by silos, with no digital tools to share useful information company-wide that can reduce rework costs.
Further, communication breakdowns can often be attributed to silos as it becomes difficult to disseminate lessons learned to a broader swath of employees — leading to duplicate work, inefficiencies, and increased costs.
The best way to break down silos is by providing and implementing better tools for sharing information across companies’ digital infrastructure. And yet most available communication solutions struggle to keep up with the pace of change that is required to realize integrated work environments.
However, there are cloud-based application development platforms that allow anyone to create, integrate and run business software applications and are tailored to the way their organizations work. This allows for both standardized processes and flexibility in a fast-paced world, freeing up time for leadership to think more strategically.
What Else Is Holding You Back?
Manufacturing industry challenges have been further amplified by the growing skills gap in the midst of one of the tightest labor markets in the country’s history. There are simply not enough prospective qualified employees for all of the available jobs on the market. A 2018 Deloitte study on challenges within manufacturing found that the skills gap may leave about 2.4 million positions unfilled by 2028. That’s not a great outlook for the coming decade.
But digital technology and cloud-based application tools can help bridge the labor gap by making companies more efficient – instituting processes to make employees’ jobs easier and more efficient. Emulating and aspiring to be a world-class company requires differentiated and innovative thinking, which is only possible with the right digital technology to identify and resolve issues and then deploying that solution to every other scenario across multiple plants or wherever else the same issue exists.
Technology has always been at the heart of the manufacturing industry. Finding a parity between older technology that still powers the brawn of the industry and the brain of the digital technologies powering the future of businesses is essential to walk the path to innovation and leadership.
About the Author
As senior solutions consultant at Quick Base, Peter Rifken is responsible for ensuring exceptional customer experience and evaluation for improvement.