We were all amazed during the early months of the pandemic when manufacturers – even in the automotive industry – turned on a dime to produce PPE and medical equipment. That ability to leverage agility and innovation to operate amid disruption may be the new normal for manufacturers.
During the pandemic, manufacturers experienced a significant dip in employment levels, largely due to forced shutdowns. In April 2020, manufacturers saw the lowest employment levels since 2010. Despite recent gains in manufacturing, employment levels are still lower than normal. Meanwhile, disruption in the supply chain has added new challenges. This has created an environment of ongoing uncertainty.
In a recent report, Deloitte has identified four challenges that face manufacturers as they grapple with worker shortages, supply chain disruptions, and ever-intensifying global competition.
- Navigating disruption in the manufacturing industry: Solving forecasting challenges could be critical to navigating the disruption
For manufacturers, the pandemic may be a call to arms for developing better systems for navigating disruptions. Visibility is likely to become the most critical capability for manufacturers. Digital technologies could be important enablers.
- Digital investment: Digital twins could support new levels of resilience and flexibility
The digital twin is a representation of a physical thing. That thing could be a single product or a component. It could also be a production process or the physical production environment. Using digital twins, manufacturers can virtually recreate a product, its production, and even simulate its performance in the real world without having to “bend metal” or take any other physical activity.
- Supply chain resilience: Manufacturers may expand their options to reduce exposure to trade and other disruptions
Manufacturers can turn to digital capabilities to increase their supply network visibility. During the early days of the pandemic, manufacturers created war rooms that brought together demand-and-supply planners to manually share updates in real-time from their respective viewpoints. Now, manufacturers can automate this process with a digital supply network to gain a real-time understanding of activities across a complex supply network.
- Adapting to the new workplace: Disruption in the manufacturing industry increases the need for greater workforce agility
Manufacturing leaders are unlikely to return to all the pre-pandemic work arrangements. Manufacturers are seeking ways to re-architect work, the workforce, and the workplace to manage disruption and uncertainty. More than 60% of surveyed executives are planning to develop a hybrid model for their production and non-production processes over the next three years.