What Does the Future Hold for Manufacturing Operations Management?


With the COVD-19 crisis continuing to disrupt manufacturing processes and supply chains around the world, companies are having to develop creative solutions to keep their products moving. However, many traditional manufacturing operations management strategies have proven ineffective during this time of crisis, leading to planning and scheduling conflicts, missed delivery deadlines and a shrinking bottom line. But rather than focusing on the negatives, some manufacturers are using this opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation and create more resilient business processes.

Assessing the impact of COVID-19 om manufacturing operations management

In early March, the National Association of Manufacturers released a detailed survey on the expected financial and operational effects of COVID-19. The study found that roughly 78% of manufacturers anticipate the pandemic will have a major economic impact, while 53% believe it will force them to make significant changes to their production processes and other operations. Most manufacturing firms are preparing for slowdowns in their respective markets and reduced customer demand, but there are other back-end management tasks that also need to be resolved.

As part of any manufacturing operations management framework, supervisors must be able to efficiently oversee work schedules, warehouse inventories and supplier deliveries in real time. Companies that rely on separate IT systems to manage these activities are often at a disadvantage, as it can be hard to get the right information in front of the right person during emergency situations. Additionally, calls for social distancing have forced manufacturers to restrict face-to-face interactions on the plant floor, with many opting to staggered shifts to help prevent widespread infection.

While there’s no telling how long the COVID-19 outbreak will last, it’s clear that manufacturers are focused on future-proofing their operational processes. This pandemic will no doubt serve as a valuable use case in the years ahead, but to turn raw data into actionable insights, companies will need to have the right IT systems and management tools in place. That’s where a cutting-edge manufacturing operations management platform can help.


Manufacturing operations management

Improving manufacturing processes with end-to-end visibility

Manufacturing operations management (MoM) refers to the continuous improvement of production processes through real-time monitoring, asset utilization and supply chain planning. This forward-thinking approach allows manufacturers to optimize their end-to-end operations and quickly adapt to shifting market conditions. For example, if a supplier of raw materials were to suddenly go out of business, a manufacturer might leverage MoM strategies to locate a cost-effective alternative. Of course, MoM encompasses more than just raw material procurement and the manufacturing processes - it also extends to quality control and even end-customer distribution.

Modern supply chains are only growing more complex by the day, and manufacturers that lack complete visibility over their operations will have a difficult time dealing with crises like COVID-19. This is particularly true for companies looking to leverage lean manufacturing techniques to lower operating costs and reduce waste. According to the American Society for Quality, lean manufacturing seeks to eliminate “non-value-adding activities” that result from errors, disorganization and communication breakdowns, including:

  • Manufacturing defects
  • Overproduction
  • Unplanned downtime
  • Unutilized talent
  • Transportation delays
  • Extra-processing

Combating these inefficiencies isn’t just about maximizing production quality and keeping costs low, however, it’s also about creating more efficient business processes that will hold up in times of crisis. To quickly respond to supply chain disruptions and quality control issues, manufacturers must have reliable manufacturing execution systems (MES) that are capable of providing real-time updates to relevant stakeholders. Comprehensive MES implementation offers complete end-to-end visibility over production schedules, warehouse inventories, supplier relationships and other key workflows. This level of oversight is essential to tracking and documenting the transformation of raw materials into finished goods, and ensuring customers receive their orders in a timely fashion.

Digital transformation in the fast lane

Much like other manufacturing IT, an MES relies on accurate information and streamlined data-sharing pathways to secure the best results. As noted by McKinsey & Company, manufacturers have already  been “digitizing” their plant floors and warehouses using distributed control systems, but new innovations in artificial intelligence aren’t as widespread. In many cases, manufacturers still rely on the expertise of control-room operators to manually monitor and adjust production processes as needed. This reliance on experts with years of experience and training is particularly troubling today, as many employees are being furloughed until the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

In lieu of on-site experts, manufacturers can ensure effective manufacturing operations management practices are upheld by using AI-powered tools and a centralized IT platform. AI can also be used to automate a variety of complex tasks and menial jobs, from basic data entry to performance reporting and beyond. Most importantly, embracing digital transformation can help manufacturing firms quickly roll out new production processes, quality management procedures and supply chain optimization strategies when it matters most. There’s no telling what the next global crisis will bring, making today’s MoM initiatives crucial to maintaining operational excellence in uncertain business climates.

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