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A Year for Action

While the MT industry and economy at large still struggle to recover to pre-pandemic levels, there are a few things all business leaders can do to protect their future. Despite ongoing uncertainty, manufacturing leaders are largely optimistic...
by AMT
Apr 15, 2021

While the MT industry and economy at large still struggle to recover to pre-pandemic levels, there are a few things all business leaders can do to protect their future.

Despite ongoing uncertainty, manufacturing leaders are largely optimistic about the status of the industry, according to a postelection poll of more than 350 U.S. executives in the energy, resources, and industrial sectors conducted by Deloitte. The results of the survey were published in the 2021 Manufacturing Industry Outlook.  More than 60 percent of the executives surveyed reported a somewhat or very positive outlook on business.

For many leaders, the pandemic drives home a simple truth: the only constant in business is change. Whether it’s a global pandemic, or a natural disaster, or something you’ve never even thought of, there will be disruptions. Plan on it. Strive to build a disruption-proof business. An increasing number of manufacturing executives turn to digital solutions and local networks to minimize disruptions.

The report highlighted specific areas where leaders at every level can act.

  1. Meet the good twin. Nearly one quarter of executives surveyed who planned to invest in digital technologies believed digital twin would be most important to their company. Digital twins for products, production, and performance are copies. They save time and money when tests are run and mistakes are made in the virtual world, instead of on the factory floor. While digital twins require an initial investment, they can pay huge dividends—by helping to avoid or minimize disruptions.

  2. Adjust the supply chain. It’s been for more than a year. By now, manufacturers are very familiar with their supply chain – and its shortcomings. According to Deloitte, more than 40 percent of executives plan to shift toward a more regional supply chain in the next year. Those who can’t source regionally are considering nearshoring (31%) – or bringing all or some of their production or sourcing back to the Americas. Consider methods for shortening or simplifying your supply chain.

  3. Transform supply chains to networks. Close the gap by making your supply chain a circle. A supply network is more complex and more powerful than a supply chain. Deloitte recommends the use of a digital supply network (DSN) to better leverage data and respond to changes in supply or demand. DSNs use data from internal sensors and assets, as well as from outside suppliers to provide advanced solutions. Using DSNs will allow “manufacturers to reevaluate their extended supplier network and develop an inventory strategy based on data and insights rather than on history and hunches.”

  4. Upgrade your workforce. Whether it’s through automation or skill building – or both – it’s time to invest in your workforce. More than 60 percent of the surveyed executives plan to move to a hybrid production model integrating robots and cobots over the next three years. The report noted that “As robots, cobots, and other forms of automation grow in the production environment, the need for a workforce to manage and interact with these technologies also increases. These ‘middle-skill’ roles require technical expertise and regular upskilling.” Recruit or train employees with skill sets that match the evolving work environment, including workers who are comfortable working alongside automation or working remotely.

  5. Develop a talent pipeline. Increased training and a focus on finding qualified workers will continue for the foreseeable future, as manufacturing faces huge workforce shortages. Rather than wait for qualified candidates, many companies are taking proactive steps to fill their talent needs. Companies are partnering with technical schools, community colleges, and others to find and train future employees. Build a local pipeline to find and cultivate local talent.

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