With many Governments now easing lockdown and putting plans in place to try and help the economy recover, the manufacturing sector is focused on a gradual return to a new normal. As the industry begins to evolve from the initial COVID-19 response phase and businesses adjust to meet new demands, it is important for businesses to consider how they are preparing their supply chains for the next stage of recovery, and beyond. Organisations will need to develop and deploy new strategies across their operations to remain competitive and help their business thrive. But how can they best plan for the recovery phase and ensure their supply chain operations are fit for the future?
Advanced digital technologies are crucial in enabling manufacturers to rapidly adapt or change their operating model. Smart businesses currently operating a sophisticated digital infrastructure were able to adapt quickly and pivot their business to satisfy new customer channels and products. The ability to access real-time data enables businesses to improve their forecasting and decision-making rapidly.
Digital technologies also support improved and alternative forecasting methods including “what if’ scenario modelling using both internal and external data sources. This may involve adapting forecast models and updating them to reflect a changed world.
Predictive analysis, statistical and probability modelling techniques, behaviour analysis, machine learning and data mining techniques are all capable of analysing current and historical facts to make future predictions.
In planning for the longer term, businesses must be aware of economic change. That means asking a number of important questions:
Businesses must be prepared to evaluate the resilience of their end-to-end supply chain, working both up and down the chain with customers and suppliers, sharing data and providing more insights. This should involve working with suppliers beyond Tiers 1 and 2.
Linked to this is the need for a full-scale lockdown exit strategy. Again, there is a lot to consider. Businesses will need to gauge, for example, how staff can best return to workplaces while maintaining social distancing protocols, and if these proposed measures are sustainable. Assessing the impact on productivity, costs and corporate culture are all crucial considerations.
Businesses must also consider developing a digital strategy with a robust digital backbone reimagining how they can increase their online presence, create alternative channels and develop new customer channels. They should also consider how they can become more agile and flexible within the supply chain, and able to switch to alternate/new suppliers if required.
Through this phase, it is key to focus on effective people management and good clear communications. Businesses should invest in training, ensuring their employees understand the changes in the business, how they are likely to affect them directly and what they need to do to ensure they remain efficient and productive in the new normal.
As manufacturing businesses emerge from lockdown and move into the recovery phase, they face a raft of operational and strategic challenges as the ramifications of COVID-19 will continue to be felt for a long time. Greater and more informed use of digital technologies is key to improving future forecasting and decision-making, thus setting a foundation for new operational models that ensure long-term business resilience.