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3 ways manufacturers can speed up their journey to the ‘new normal’

  • Posted on April 22, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

“I feel the need. The need for speed!”

If you know the line, you know the film: Top Gun. It’s my wife’s favorite film, and she was eagerly anticipating the sequel. COVID-19 (which she contracted, though thankfully in a milder form) has meant Top Gun II has been pushed back until later in the year.

And while delays to Hollywood blockbusters probably rank as the lowest of our concerns right now, it did stir a thought in my mind around how manufacturing companies across the globe have responded to their own “need for speed”. Amid the COVID-19 challenge, many have been moving with a pace and sense of urgency never experienced before.

My colleague Tom Nall outlined some of the inspirational ways manufacturers have been innovating and adapting. Manufacturers have had to face, and overcome, many challenges recently: Brexit, the global trade war, and now COVID-19.

The latter of those crises offers two certainties:
  1. We will get through this, but…
  2. It won’t be the last global challenge the world will face


That’s why we’ve been advocating for manufacturers to be ready for the future, have a modern workplace experience and have a robust and agile infrastructure. Doing so enables a quick transition to the post COVID-19 “new normal” that emerges.

Today’s global business environment requires manufacturers to quickly identify and understand challenges, respond effectively to those challenges and (with a sense of urgency) implement solutions that will dictate their ability to survive, adapt and then thrive. So, here are three ways manufacturers can prepare for what’s next.

1) Respond with purpose

Reducing the stress on your workforce with clear, secure and robust systems is essential if you want to focus on protecting your existing customers and attracting new ones. Manufacturers across the planet have been responding with purpose and embracing new working patterns to protect employees, customers and partners.

Global manufacturers like Dyson, Mercedes and Burberry are leading the way, adapting and responding at an amazing pace. The “Avanade Elastic Digital Workplace” guide can help you plan your workplace resilience by developing new capabilities and ways of working that will seamlessly enable longer-term changes to how you operate.

From Avanade executive research undertaken just before the crisis, we know that 94% of industrial equipment manufacturers want to attract and retain top talent and have a modern responsive workplace and supply chain system. With supply chains being disrupted on a global scale, a humanitarian and societal emergency lies in wait. A continuous cycle of risk mobilising, sensing, analysing and configuring operations will help companies to adapt supply chains and protect communities. Avanade’s partner Accenture will give you some ideas on how supply chains can leverage platforms that support applied analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, while also ensuring end-to-end transparency.

2) Reset with agility

If you look back to the recent global shockwaves of 911 and the economic crash of 2008, a global economic slowdown is approaching. To survive this, manufacturers need to transform into more agile businesses that leverage intelligent automation to improve business processes.

Before the COVID crisis, our research found that 87% of consumer goods manufacturers believe modernization of business-critical systems is paramount to business agility and employee engagement. Meanwhile, 92% of consumer goods manufacturers believe that moving to the cloud will help them to remove their reliance on legacy technology. However, just 30% of industrial equipment manufacturers believe they will be cloud optimised in the next three years.

From our research, we also know that manufacturers are operating on out of date, on-premise, legacy business applications that are inefficient, costly and are often immensely difficult to extract accurate data. Modern cloud-based business applications are more functional, scalable and accessible. These agile and secure applications can support your business strategies by greatly reducing costs and facilitating entry into new markets, new products and new lines of business quicker than before.

Our research found that 94% of industrial equipment manufacturers (IEMs) agree their marketing, ERP and CRM systems are no longer fit for purpose. If you’re one of those battling against legacy business apps, the story of Theramex, a UK pharmaceuticals manufacturer that has been able to deploy business applications at speed, will make interesting reading.

3) Renew with strength

Manufacturers must position themselves to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever and ready to thrive in the recovery. That means embracing the trend of industry 4.0 along with associated new technologies.

But industry 4.0 is not the end game for industrial digitalisation. In today’s world of perpetual change, the solution is not another industrial revolution, but a transformation of products and how we make them. This is often referred to as industry X.0, comprising new technologies like IoT, analytics, AI, mixed reality and digital twins to unlock new revenue streams and work with customers, employees and partners on a whole new level.

Chris Lloyd Jones recently spoke with the Manufacturer.com about manufacturing and factories of the future, discussing how the industry can benefit from emerging technologies to drive new products and services to uncover new talent and innovations. Manufacturers that are future ready can adapt and respond more quickly to challenges, as illustrated by this example from the NHS.

Navigating to the new normal

As I write this, the province of Wuhan has ended its lockdown, and locations like Singapore, South Korea, China are now seeing the green shoots of recovery. There will come a point when we will return to normal (or a “new normal”).  And I’m hopeful that, when that happens, manufacturers will be in a strong position to embrace a new fabric of their company, where leadership, culture and skills are aligned to new business operations and working practices driven by technology. I’m also hopeful that my wife will finally get to see Top Gun soon.

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