Of all the restrictions caused by the pandemic over the last year, the one that has had most severe impact on our behavior, both as individuals and businesses, is the need to “keep our distance”. As humans we are social beings; we commit to the ability to “get up close and personal”– to confer and seek reassurance from others when considering new ideas or needing confirmation that we are doing things correctly.
This is all well and good when the people you would go to for encouragement, assurance and support are in the same workspace and face to face conversations can take place to check information or get direct feedback.
Not so, in the current workspace where “work from home if you can” and muffling at colleagues through facemasks, are now the norm.
These requirements have caused businesses to completely rethink their business models; from physical shop floor constraints dictating one-way systems and specific entry and exit points, to the technology platforms that are needed to underpin an environment that can no longer depend on being able to tap someone on the shoulder for help.
Is the manufacturing industry ready for remote working?
Many businesses have introduced new shift patterns to minimize the number of people working on the shop floor at one time; but when an activity relies on manpower and knowhow to move it through the process, without a completely new approach, there is a limit to how effective these tactical changes can be.
Many smaller manufacturing businesses that have grown organically over the past couple of decades, are likely to have a disparate set of systems and processes that have been added to over time, as particular requirements have arisen. It is not uncommon to find businesses run on spreadsheets, or for critical pieces of information to be held “in the heads” of key individuals.
Previously, this approach would have enabled the business to keep doing what they are good at, in the same way they have always done it. However, the circumstances over the last year have exposed that whilst this approach has supported the “status quo”, their processes were entirely deficient when faced with significant and unexpected change. To survive, businesses have had to deploy new ways of working in short order just to allow them to keep trading.
Implications of adapting for new ways of working
As businesses adapt to accommodate new ways of working, there are many key challenges that need to be addressed. For example:
- How to share information and collaborate between remote and off-site workers?
- How to ensure product quality and traceability across a disrupted supply chain?
- How to maintain productivity while deploying new ways of working?
- How to manage data security and accountability across global supply chains?
- How to support new operating methods using disparate or paper-based systems?
It is no surprise that the more a business relies on manual processes, disparate systems and people knowhow, the more problematic they will find addressing challenges like these.
Without the right tools, it is difficult for businesses to respond to unexpected events; adapting to new ways of working are likely to be costly and inefficient and in some cases compromise business continuity.
An example during the first 2020 lockdown from a manufacturer of ventilation units, was a realization of how reliant their supply chain was on components shipped for China. How do you find alternative suppliers of replacement components at short notice? How do you take back control? Technology can make the risk management of this more visible and give you more control over your supply chain.
Another UK manufacturer was suddenly faced with a supply issue when they discovered that one of the steel printers they depended upon for their product manufacture, had shut down their factory for 3 or 4 weeks. They needed to identify a European alternative quickly but recognized the logistical problems of this. How do you manage export and import delays? And who carries the can if it all goes wrong? How can you simplify the logistics when you can no longer “walk items through” the supply chain? Again, having the right technology in place can provide visibility, traceability and alternatives was key to solving this.
It is also recognized that remote working requires trust; you need to define where the responsibility and accountability sits, throughout the supply chain. In an industry that relies on checking and counter checking, where does the expertise lie and who is accountable when things go wrong?
The events of the last year have brought into clear focus, the varying degrees of preparedness throughout manufacturing supply chains. The impact of just a single point of failure within the supply chain on the entire manufacturing process and an individual manufacturer’s ability to remain viable, should be clearer than ever.
Streamline Operations, Enhance Collaboration, and Thrive in Uncertain Times
However, amidst the challenges and disruptions caused by the pandemic, there is an opportunity for the manufacturing industry to embrace a solution that can empower businesses to navigate these uncertain times with resilience and efficiency. Enter RamBase, an advanced Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system designed to meet the demands of modern manufacturing.
RamBase's streamlined processes and automation capabilities enhance productivity and support business continuity, even in the face of unexpected events. It addresses data security and accountability concerns in global supply chains, while eliminating the limitations of disparate systems and manual processes.
In conclusion, if your manufacturing business is looking to navigate remote working, supply chain disruptions, and evolving operational needs, it's time to explore RamBase. Embrace the future of manufacturing, unlock your business's full potential, and discover how RamBase can transform your operations today.
A shorter version of this article has been published in Subsea UK digital magazine. This article is part of a four-part series. Read the first article here: How to use Cloud ERP as an Enabler for Business Continuity.