Technology Bolsters Manufacturing and Supply Chain Resilience

Following the Covid 19 pandemic, the manufacturing industry was hit with a supply chain crisis in which they had difficulty obtaining raw materials, spare parts and other business essentials. As a result, it became challenging to get products to customers. Although pandemic-related issues are winding down, disruptions caused by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, additional geopolitical upheavals, acts of terrorism, natural disasters and other unexpected events have manufacturers scrambling to create supply chain resilience in an effort to protect their businesses. 

Fortunately, advanced automation and digital technologies enable the agility to quickly mitigate the effects of unplanned constraints, such as raw materials shortages or replacement part delays, thus creating supply chain resilience so manufacturers may continue production despite today’s topsy-turvy climate. 

Manufacturing Supply Chain Troubles 

According to the M4.0 Supply Chain survey conducted in May of 2022 by the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC), 90% of respondents reported suffering either significant (52.5%) or partial (39%) supply chain disruption in the past two years, including raw material shortages, higher costs for materials and shipping and component shortages.

And, 63% of manufacturers are experiencing severe risks in securing raw materials, while 69% of manufacturers’ suppliers are facing operational issues.

Making a bad situation worse, the NAM study found that 45% of manufacturers say that worker shortages have left them unable to take on new business and led to lost revenue opportunities. 

Building Supply Chain Resilience

According to the NAM study, many manufacturers have taken action to boost supply chain resilience; however, 73% of respondents said their current supply chains are still not fully protected and 12% believe their supply chains lack resilience. 

So, what can be done to create manufacturing supply chain resilience?

In addition to fostering stronger relationships with existing suppliers, developing new ones, moving the supply chain closer to home and increasing visibility into their supply chain, many manufacturers are working toward redesigning processes and utilizing the power of technology to improve supply chain agility and create supply chain resilience. 

Creating an agile, resilient supply chain requires adaptability and the ability to make proactive decisions that optimize labor availability, inventory management and overall equipment effectiveness. Fortunately, advanced technologies such as automation, digital tools and data analytics have the power to provide agility and enhance manufacturing and supply chain resilience. 

Automation Aids Manufacturing and Supply Chain

Since one of the biggest obstacles to producing products in a timely manner is the ongoing labor shortage, automation can help manufacturers offset these issues, reduce bottlenecks, increase throughput and performance and improve agility. 

Technologies such as industrial robots and cobots, automated material handling systems, automated packaging and palletizing equipment and automated inspection systems can remove existing workers from time-consuming, repetitive, low-value manual labor activities. Instead, employees can perform higher-value tasks that require complex thinking and problem-solving skills, including supervising production lines, overseeing inventory management and identifying, troubleshooting and managing issues such as bottlenecks and raw material shortages that may negatively impact production schedules. 

In addition, automated systems perform the production work faster and more accurately than manual laborers, increasing throughput and allowing manufacturers to get high-quality products to their customers in a timelier manner or to boost production capacity following a raw material or component delay that negatively impacted the planned production schedule. 

Digital Tools Enhance Supply Chain Resilience 

Thanks to the introduction of Industry 4.0 and the availability of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, digitalization allows manufacturers to collect and understand real-time data and use it to make on-the-fly decisions regarding raw materials, spare parts inventory and equipment effectiveness. 

Digital tools connected to Bluetooth technologies and GPS can provide data regarding transportation and delivery of raw materials, providing traceability and advanced knowledge when delays are expected, allowing manufacturers to identify issues and take action to reduce the impact on production. 

Connectivity and visibility into the supply chain also fosters data sharing between suppliers, manufacturers and customers, providing insight into inventory, product availability and shipping status, improving communication with suppliers and customers and strengthening the overall manufacturing supply chain. 

Sensors connected to automated equipment provide real-time, actionable data and visibility into the health and effectiveness of equipment, production disruptions and quality issues, allowing managers to make informed decisions regarding necessary maintenance and production schedule adjustments, reducing the impact. 

Data Analytics Improve the Manufacturing Supply Chain 

Data analytics improve the manufacturing supply chain in a variety of ways as it permits evaluation of current and future trends, as well as overall equipment health and effectiveness. IIoT devices can gather data regarding raw material inventory, equipment maintenance requirements, productivity and other factors that impact throughput. This data can be analyzed using data analytics software to reveal current and future trends. Reports and suggested actions can be generated and sent to managers who can examine the results and make proactive decisions. 

Informed decisions regarding business activities such as scheduling maintenance to prevent downtime or rearranging production schedules to accommodate anticipated disruptions or customer demands can be made based on real-time visibility and analysis of the situation so that inefficiencies and potential disruptions can be addressed, bolstering a manufacturer’s capacity to handle supply chain disruptions. 

Manufacturers must create agile and resilient upstream and downstream supply chains in order to succeed. Contact JHFOSTER, a Tavoron Company to learn how automation, digitalization and data analytics can help strengthen and build agility and resilience into your manufacturing supply chain.