What Every Manufacturing Executive Should Know Going into 2021

Even pre-pandemic many manufacturers around the globe were grappling with immediate challenges like keeping workers healthy, maintaining productivity, and inventory issues, while also considering long-term effects, including economic weakness, worker retention and predicting future obstacles. Obviously, the pandemic took these challenges up to a whole new level.

We recently surveyed 50 US Manufacturing Executives on the state of the industry, their future vision on what is to come and how they’re staying ahead. This blog outlines what we learned.

While manufacturers are currently focused on managing the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic — and its implications moving forward — they are also cautiously optimistic. More than half [52%] of the executives surveyed said that they were either very or somewhat optimistic about the outlook for the industry over the next 12 months, with nearly ashutterstock_702079657 quarter [24%] of folks very or somewhat troubled, and another quarter [24%] unsure. Some of their key concerns for both the short and long term include optimizing data, cyber-security, reducing downtime, better connecting information and operational technology, and maintaining a qualified workforce. So, how can these organizations stay ahead of these concerns moving into Q4 and the new year?

Collecting and connecting data

Data is the heart of digitization. Digital technology enables companies to collect and connect their data in order to provide actionable insights that produce real results. Our survey showed that making the most out of data is a key goal for many, with half of the manufacturing executives citing unlocking real-time insights as their most important short-term goal. So how are these manufacturing leaders accessing these insights? By upgrading their legacy systems to modern ERP systems, these manufacturing companies are able to access data that gives them the visibility, digital intelligence, and insights their organization needs to optimize operational efficiency, deliver outstanding customer experiences, and accelerate growth.

Reducing downtime/proactively predicting maintenance

Reducing downtime is crucial for leaders in our survey. More respondents [44%] chose this as their most important single short-term priority than any other category. On a related note, the second most-popular category was proactively predicting maintenance, which nearly a third [32%] of survey respondents chose as their most important short-term priority. These issues are important for respondents in the long term as well, with a total of 50% naming these two categories as their most important long-term goals. So again, how are these manufacturing companies planning on achieving these goals? By connecting their equipment with modern technology, they’re able to analyze data faster and bring in the right people for proactive management, which ultimately will reduce downtime.

Better connecting information and operational technology

While optimizing data is crucial toward improving production, data cannot be optimized if it can't be collected. In manufacturing, that data comes from operations, and to truly unlock it, operational technology needs to work together seamlessly with the information technology that can process and interpret it. In our survey, 26% of respondents chose better connecting information and operational technology as their most important short-term goal. Reaching these goals means not only deploying more Internet of Things [IoT] devices to capture data but harnessing that information with the right tools to glean actionable insights using data visualization and artificial intelligence.

There is no doubt that 2020 has shaken up the manufacturing sector in a big way. But that shake-up also represents an opportunity to lean into a new direction, with a focus on innovation. Taking full advantage of tools such as cloud computing, advanced data collection and storage, artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT, and more will empower manufacturers to make faster decisions with more accurate information.

Contact us to learn more about how your manufacturing company can take advantage of these tools and we’ll help you discover where they fit within your operations and how they can fine-tune other areas to highlight the unique parts of your business.

View the full Manufacturing Trends Report to see more answers.


Author: Doug Bulla, VP of Solution Development

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