May 6, 2022

Source: Maziar Adl, CTO | Gocioust | Manufacturing Tomorrow

Product managers are in a tough position in 2022. Many supply shortages for items like chips or raw materials are expected to be backed up until 2025 or longer. The cost of shipping has increased exponentially – according to Freightos, shipping rates have almost tripled from a year ago and have risen 12-fold from two years ago. 

There’s little manufacturers can do until more supply becomes available. There is hope for the future as supply chains slowly diversify. For example, chipmaker Intel recently announced that it would invest billions of dollars building new chip plants to circumvent backed-up supply chains in Asia.

These disruptions will take years to resolve and depressurize. Manufacturers can’t wait on new factories or the next wave of industrialization for products that need to be built now. Here are three ways manufacturers are redefining their product roadmaps to account for supply chain issues. 

Manufacturers are stepping back to rethink their product roadmap entirely

Product plans laid years ago cannot continue on a ‘just-in-time’ management system of the past when goods flowed much more freely through the supply chain. 

Today, many product managers have made the hard but necessary choice to pull back manufacturing plans altogether and rethink their company’s entire manufacturing strategy to account for such disruption. For some, this means reverting to building and selling older products until the supply chain inefficiencies can be solved to make new products. 

When manufacturing at such scale, it’s extremely capital intensive to plan a product up to 10 years out from delivery. It’s even more capital intensive to not deliver on those plans. A setback in the short-term is a solution in the long-term for manufacturers today. 

As part of this “pull back and rethink” strategy, successful manufacturers should spend extra time on scouting the disruptions in their supply line. Talk to your suppliers and build relationships – sometimes, special relationships can lead to getting first access to a key manufacturing material once it becomes available. Tesla’s foresight and access to chips to develop its electric vehicles, beating out Apple and others EV competitors, is a great example of how scouting and relationship building can help manufacturers win. 

Once disruptions are known, manufacturers should draw a clear line between these disruptions and any dependencies in their product portfolio. This will help leaders see the bigger picture on how products will be affected and better predict where product plans need to change. 

Manufacturers are finding new ways to work with available materials

Ports are starting to make headway in the extreme shipping backup they’ve faced in recent months. But it’s too soon to expect relief to come with many other factors contributing to shipping delays. For one, the global pandemic is not over yet. Vaccination requirements are different across the world and this has affected freight, port and logistics workers, even trapping some workers at ports. In other parts of the world, including Canada and now the U.S., truckers are going on strike, backing up supply chains even more. The global conflict in Ukraine will have a separate but significant impact on the movement of goods. 

Supply chain volatility will not decrease in the near future and may be here to stay more permanently. For product managers, previously accessible may continue to be stuck somewhere in transit or entirely inaccessible. As a solution, manufacturers are turning to more predictable supply chains with more available materials to work around manufacturing gaps. Product managers are working collaboratively to reconfigure the scope of the product, change the product and find a new way to build it that aligns with the current supply.

Leaders are redefining product teams’ communication strategies

Because product managers are working backwards and around supply chain issues with product plans, designs and materials, manufacturing processes have become much more complicated. The supply chain crisis has pushed product managers – and entire manufacturing teams – to completely shift the way they work. 

In the past, product managers strategically tracked their products and needs using basic presentation tools and spreadsheets, making manual updates in static documents. With supply chain issues necessitating so much change to product roadmaps, multiple connected documents have become harder to update and keep track – especially as workers come and leave jobs at a faster rate. Digital tools that pull in manufacturing data from across the organization can make product roadmaps more efficient and keep product managers focused on solving problems.

Better communication between all stakeholders in the product roadmap is essential to keeping projects on track through supply chain issues. As a result, the lines between product manager and project manager roles are blurring. Product managers are beginning to actively use project management tools or work more closely with project managers. Meanwhile, in their role for keeping projects on time, on track and on budget, project managers have to collaborate with product managers when supply chains necessitate roadmap change. 

Bring senior leadership in to win

Aligning changing consumer needs, business goals, and volatile supply chain variables is a monumental task for any product team. As manufacturers work around the disruption caused by the supply chain crunch, it’s essential that product managers make decisions that benefit the company’s entire portfolio rather than one individual product. Because of this, leadership must stay involved and tuned in to changes to the product roadmap. As communication channels grow between product managers and project managers, these teams must also bring fresh updates to leadership at a higher frequency. In this way, companies can make better decisions overall and are prepared to change course once again when the next supply chain snag or other crisis changes the product plan.

The post How Manufacturers Are Redefining Product Roadmaps Amid Ongoing Supply Chain Challenges appeared first on Internet of Business.

April 15, 2022

Source: Claudia Jarrett, US Country Manager | EU Automation | Manufacturing Tomorrow

Here, Claudia Jarrett, US country manager at automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains how big players can learn from local businesses, using the IoT to their advantage.

Harvard Business Review reports that multinational companies are finding it difficult to optimize their products, services and culture to local markets. The article says that big players are finding international growth costly and cumbersome, especially in countries where they don’t have staff who are familiar with local cultures and customers or reliable local supply chain partners. 

Local companies understand the culture, language and compliance issues, of course, which raises the question: is there a better and more cost-effective way for large manufacturers to integrate local businesses and workers into their networks? Let’s look at some steps big manufacturers can take, and why the IoT will prove essential.

Going local

Three quarters of German manufacturers surveyed in Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC)’s Digital Factories 2020 report named regionalization as their main driver for investing in digital factories. The interviewees cited several benefits of Industry 4.0, including better customer proximity and more individualized, flexible production. 

One way large manufacturers can achieve better regionalization, or localization, is by integrating Manufacturing Execution Systems (MESs) into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) infrastructure. Not only can companies plan and control production in real-time, processes can also be digitized and communicated across the entire value chain — including between headquarters and local facilities.

One example, also cited in PwC’s report, is the electronics giant Philips that has increasingly integrated robots, 3D printing, big data analytics and digital twin capabilities into its manufacturing site at Drachten, Netherlands. Not only does the site itself employ 2000 workers of 35 different nationalities, with an understanding of the culture and languages of those countries, the plant itself is also within a large network of 16 high-tech manufacturing companies across Northern Europe.

According to Philips, the IoT systems facilitate better communication and worker collaboration throughout the network. In addition, they also support better localization of Philip’s products including vacuum cleaners, coffee machines and hair stylers that now have first time right designs for local markets.

Future work 

By expanding into local markets, manufacturers gain access to a new pool of potential workers with unique skills. However, there are obstacles too, including differences in business culture, operations and languages. While companies like Philips use IoT systems to help their multinational employees network with one another, how can manufacturers guarantee that all workers feel included or brought into the fold? 

Some answers can be found in the 2021 paper by Masood Rangraz and Lena Pareto published in the International Journal of Lifelong Education, Workplace work-integrated learning: supporting industry 4.0 transformation for small manufacturing plants by reskilling staff”. Rangraz and Pareto studied a small manufacturing plant transitioning from a manual assembly line to one that operates 24 hours a day with automated robotic systems. Crucially, its shopfloor employees had no experience of working with robots or automation. Instead, the small manufacturing plant invested in reskilling its workers, giving them new competences to work with IoT systems. 

Rangraz and Pareto write of how automation is “transforming the duties, work arrangements, distribution of roles and division of labour to accommodate the needs of the automated assembly process.” The study adds: “Although the manual assembly required more human physical labour, the automated assembly process required more human monitoring labour for additional shifts.”

In this case, we see how automation can provide learning and working opportunities for employees, both new and existing and low- and high-skilled, or even unskilled. This is where IoT systems with easy-to-use human machine interfaces (HMIs) can play a vital role in getting everyone in an organization onboard and directly involved with more accessible data share through customized reports. That includes onboarding staff from local markets and local cultures.

Digital transformation 

We’ve looked at how large global manufacturers can bring local talent into the fold. But what about establishing reliable supply chain partnerships? Tata Steel is setting an example by establishing better networks with suppliers with the IoT and big data. 

Serkan Sarioglu, customer engagement manager for Tata Steel, writes: “There is immense amount of data which could be used for improvements in supply planning, steel manufacturing, steel forming and many other fields. Even relatively simple solutions like material traceability could unlock a wide range of applications from quality management to circular business models.”

Sarioglu gives the example of a global manufacturer using feedback from OEMs or suppliers in local markets to fine-tune its supply and products. Tata Steel has turned to blockchain, the IoT, virtual reality (VR), machine learning and more. That includes a recent partnership with World Economic Forum with view to developing a blockchain platform that will address transparency issues in the mining and metal industries. With its capability to store encrypted blocks of data in chains, shared securely and chronologically along a peer-to-peer networks, blockchain could play a vital role in tracking and tracing materials. 

Sarioglu believes that the system could also help with product localization and even win the reporting of carbon emissions as part of a sustainability strategy. He writes: “It is exciting times to be involved in this digital transformation.”

To make this transformation work, however, manufacturers should seek to apply the latest Industry 4.0 technologies. But this needn’t be costly, and an industrial automation parts supplier like EU Automation can help manufacturers embrace data-driven systems as part of a low-cost digital retrofitting strategy. But, as Rangraz and Pareto write, “The organisations then need to pay equal attention to the change in the competence as they do to the change in the technology.” 

Fortunately, IoT systems can play a crucial role in bringing local manufacturing facilities and workers into the fold. With the IoT, it can be easier for large manufacturers to optimize their products, services and culture into local markets. 

To know more about the range of new, reconditioned and obsolete parts available from EU Automation, visit www.euautomation.com

The post The Future of Work in Developing Nations – IOT Helps Global Manufacturers Break Into Local Markets appeared first on Internet of Business.