With Q4 2020 around the corner, it’s hard to imagine that the year is almost over already. Nobody could have anticipated the level of chaos that unfolded over these last several months. As we head into the holiday season and new year, global leaders are calling upon the private sector to rebuild our global economy.
It goes without saying that the manufacturing sector, serving a key role in the world’s supply chains, will have a critical leadership role in this process. But, as leaders in this movement, the process is not going to be easy.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is calling upon corporations to think bigger than survival – to instead, move towards a “reset” in reinventing their organizations.
“If we believe the investor community is very focused on companies that not only do well for their shareholders but do well for their stakeholders, there’s not a better time to make sure that we have the metrics to measure that success so that companies making progress can be recognized and rewarded,” writes Robin Pomeroy, Digital Editor at the World Economic Forum.
In the spirit of back to school season, the team at Maven Wave has identified the following themes to help align leaders in the manufacturing sector. It is crucial that we move into the end of the year with a shared perspective.
The tough reality is that businesses should expect continued disruption. Even with discussions of a potential vaccine, watching and waiting for change isn’t going to cut it. If we want to see change in the world, it’s up to us to make it happen.
We see early signals of companies continuing to play it safe. For instance, Google recently announced that they will be extending their work from home policy through July 2021, at least. Companies are under extreme public pressure, and rightfully so, to protect the health and safety of their employees.
The manufacturing sector is experiencing a unique set of constraints. According to research from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 80% of manufacturers expect that the pandemic will have a financial impact on the business. Already, companies are struggling to navigate closed facilities, layoffs, supply chain bottlenecks, and instability in the credit market, according to PwC.
Right now, manufacturing operations have absolutely no wiggle room for error, especially with the large-scale disruption that the pandemic has created. Charting the right path forward is to see the forest from the trees.
The Big Picture
In 2016, Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman at the World Economic Forum, put forth his thesis around the Fourth Industrial Revolution to the world, that we’re living in an unparalleled time in human history.
“We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another,” he wrote in 2019. He further elaborated that we’re living in a time of “great promise and great peril”— and that the stakes are higher than ever for leaders in technology to make decisions that prioritize human health and wellbeing.
Especially with COVID-19, this thesis statement is more relevant than ever. Time hasn’t stopped. But the need for private sector leaders to step in has amplified. The decisions that business executives make in Q4 of this year and Q1 2021 will be crucial to lead the world into the future.
So how do we find our footing and adopt a stance of decisive leadership in 2021, with the new year being just a few months away? The key to solving this problem is to break this big-picture question into smaller ones.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain
Key Questions to Ask
One of the most important steps that the manufacturing industry can take right now is to self-reflect, ask questions, strategize, and prioritize. This year, Maven Wave has been intently focused on exploring and addressing this question. We recently hosted a roundtable discussion in which IT leaders representing four companies with over 3 billion dollars in annual revenue collectively could freely and openly discuss their needs.
Here are the key themes that surfaced from the conversation:
- Human health and wellbeing. This theme set the tone of the roundtable discussion. Participants repeated this central focus throughout the 2+ hour duration of the conversation. A company’s employees are its most valuable asset, so it is imperative that manufacturers protect the wellbeing of their people. That means, at a basic level, creating new pathways for communication. Companies need to make sure that they are taking care of their people.
What 2020 proved is that work from home solutions such as G Suite are viable options for the enterprise. The ability to work remotely, even just sometimes, gives employees a material way to rest, spend time with family, and protect their mental health.
- Connecting your workforce. Manufacturers must create an integrated fabric throughout their operations, to be able to visualize and assess failure points — and how those failure points map back to your company’s big-picture goals. A resilient operation will be able to predict problems before they have a chance to happen.
Potential variables to monitor include country-level risk, environmental problems, human health indicators, and other hurdles with the potential to disrupt operations. Most likely, your company has this data on hand but needs help weaving perspectives into an integrated picture.
- Gaining business value from IoT. Over the last decade, IoT technology has empowered manufacturers to bridge digital and physical realities under one strategic umbrella. Thanks to sensors and accompanying software-defined environments, innovators have made it possible for companies to have an on-the-ground view of worker safety, machine performance, and how goods move from the bill of materials through production and distribution.
But how can manufacturers assemble a bigger picture? With the pieces of this puzzle in place, the next step is to make these data streams as functional and robust as possible.
- Increase supply chain transparency. New factors have the potential to impact otherwise impeccable supply chains for mission-critical goods and services. The big question that every manufacturing operation is facing is whether they’re getting the right insights from supply chain data. In particular, companies need to bridge gaps that they may not recognize currently exist. Our white paper, Will Your Business Live By Data, or Die By Data, goes into detail on how organizations can determine which data to analyze to drive effective decision making.
No company’s plumbing is failure-proof. There’s a need to continuously revisit what’s in place to ensure that the overall organization is ready to adapt and respond. That process involves adding new layers of contingency planning. Solutions will hybridize technology, operational, and people-based approaches.
- Deploy practical use cases for Artificial Intelligence/machine learning. The manufacturing industry has spent decades investing in AI/machine learning over the past several decades. Our world has reached a new phase of corporate innovation in which we need to focus on deployment. The time has come to increase adoption of what’s tested and true — beginning with addressing the themes that we’ve listed above, in this article.
Manufacturing leaders are encountering challenges that have surpassed the scope of human brain-span. Thinking ahead means gaining more use out of the technologies that are already in place.
Need Help Executing?
We get it — taking the right step forward can be daunting during this incredibly challenging time in human history, which nobody could have prepared for. We cannot even fathom that we are only in the beginning stages. It’s up to private-sector leadership to chart pathways forward into the unknown.
Maven Wave can help get your company get future-ready and execute on your ever-changing business objectives. Contact us to connect with our experts to discuss how we can help you identify and prioritize what needs to get done as true strategic partners.
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