“Smart” changes in the modern world didn't bypass the manufacturing industry too. Today`s smart factories are unimaginable without 3D smart printers or Internet of Things (IoT) machinery. These modern systems help companies accelerate process orders, manufacture products, and ship to customers faster. Through them, managers and leaders can improve core business processes and stay ahead of competitors.
But, in these challenging times, business operations are disrupted and manufacturers need to find the best way to deal with it. The velocity of the fourth industrial revolution is challenging the manufacturing industry to transform business models and adapt to digital changes. According to Delloite, manufacturers need to build “digital muscles” to stay competitive. “Digital muscle building can be one of the leverage points to increase flexibility in global supply chains. Applying artificial intelligence, cloud computing, advanced analytics, robotics, and additive manufacturing to the value chain can increase visibility and transparency, allowing manufacturers to make faster changes to operations to respond to market-based threats or opportunities”.
According to the same report, only every fifth surveyed manufacturer feels ready to deal with changes brought by the digital revolution which shows that the manufacturing industry is at the crossroad.
Companies that are adopting changes, already see benefits in their digital journey. Early successes in digitalization increased many companies` appetites which lead to further digital exploitation and investment. The front-runners in accepting digitalization technologies and automation in their existing manufacturing processes have a greater pace than their peers, to drive higher productivity, output, and customer satisfaction.
New digital technologies are opening a new era in automation, considering humans and machines working side-by-side. Those who already embraced automation and those who are just getting started dealing with automation need to consider the following three fundamental perspectives, according to McKinsey. “Those fundamentals are: what automation is making possible with current technology and is likely to make possible with technologies continue to evolve; what factors besides technical feasibility to consider when making decisions about automation; and how to begin thinking about where to automate to get the best value from automation over the long term.” Also, as CEO of Siemens, Joe Kaeser said, there are two simple rules of applying automation in business:” The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
- Procurement automation – Procurement processes have great potential for automation, because of too many manually handled documents and a lot of communication between employees and approvals needed, which can lead to stagnation of productivity. Examples of automation in procurement are: creating customers' folders, management access permissions, or notifying team members of new information for the process.
- Planning automation – Intelligent automation can learn from past order or productivity volumes and predict future, such as product price or time of year that requires higher worker request, which can help organizations preparing their workers to achieve planned results
- Compliance automation – Every industry, including manufacturing, has a variety of compliance measures and laws at the local or state levels. Because of numerous manual processes, tracking compliance measures and laws can be challenging. By implementing intelligent automation, which is based on rules, tracking of these measures, or preparing compliance reports becomes easier reducing the possibility of human errors.
Besides mentioned examples of general opportunities what to automate, each organization runs differently and has different processes which are candidates for automation. The organizations and decision-makers often make mistakes, thinking that they need to automate whole processes rather than part of processes. As mentioned before, the goal of automation is to make life easier to employees and organizations, and organization needs to understand that, sometimes, automating part of processes in cooperation with workers can be more efficient and can bring better results than automating whole processes.
You can`t tackle all your inefficient processes at once and the suggestion is not to start whit the toughest one. While considering which process to automate you should ask yourself some of the red-flag questions, about processes, such as:
By bringing automation in the organization to your manufacturing processes, you should set your team to catch new data points which means analyzing and tracking the data flow. By evolving your processes and tracking data, you have opportunity to understand why certain requests are approved or rejected or why the certain process takes longer than average or why certain team member needs more or less time to make decisions. This information can show you how to adjust your processes going forward and how to make general decisions about your operations.
In the past five years, more and more manufacturing organizations have recognized the potential of automation and began transforming their processes. As a result, the manufacturing sector enjoys errorless and simplified procedures without needing to conclude full performance to enable the best productivity.