Resolving Key Manufacturing Challenges With Process Optimization

Andy Douglas

Part 1 in the “UK Manufacturing” series, which explores how companies in this sector can harness technology to conquer adversity.

The UK manufacturing sector continues to grow, even in these uncertain times around Brexit. It is currently the ninth-largest globally and contributes to a huge 44% of UK exports. Rapid growth has resulted in successes and struggles, bringing concerns faced by few other industries.

To continually grow as it has in the past, discrete manufacturers have to deal with unique challenges. In this first blog of a three-part series, we’re looking at the key challenges in the UK manufacturing industry and how technology can be used to address them.

Empower decision makers with accurate data

As market demands increase, it’s become the norm to continually strive to do more with less – which means increasing pressure from senior leadership, especially around inventory management. Of all the challenges discrete manufacturers face, visibility and management continue to be the most prevalent. Of the common issues facing manufacturers, which most concern you?

  • Multiple Excel spreadsheets with no single point of truth
  • Difficulty in monitoring KPIs
  • Excess inventory levels causing problems with SG&A expense
  • Failure to keep track of stock
  • Low product turnover

With the growing demand for product variations, this throws into the mix the problem of sourcing the raw materials in the first place. Many suppliers need extended lead times to get the products to the manufacturer; thus, manufacturers often struggle to forecast their inventory demand early and correctly. If not done properly, this puts increased pressure on production planning, and ultimately, client relationships become strained due to poor order fulfillment, sometimes to a point beyond repair.

Simplify production with predictive planning

Production planning is the heartbeat of operations in discrete manufacturing. These challenges can be detrimental to success, with increased product complexity and the need to get products out of the door quicker. Production planning has a fundamental role in ensuring efficient processes and people management. How many of these issues are still putting pressure on your production planning?

  • Use of unsuitable and dated technology, such as Excel, to manage planning
  • Lack of data visibility from teams not seeing the shop floor
  • Overly optimistic scheduling without factoring in possible downtime
  • Reactive instead of proactive maintenance for asset management
  • No clear understanding of capacity
  • Minimal continuous improvement planning
  • No clear visibility for customers into where products are in the production process
  • Customer pressure on visibility of source pricing and sell pricing impacting margins

Proactive management of fluctuating customer demand

Customer demand on organizations to demonstrate flexibility and continue to meet their requirements – but with more product variations – is now the reality of today’s discrete manufacturing industry.

The ability to identify changing demand patterns is certainly a common problem. Product lifecycles are reducing drastically, and volumes are on the increase. This adds to the difficulty of having enough skilled labor and equipment that can produce masses of product variants quickly and with minimal downtime.

How process optimization addresses manufacturing challenges

These issues have drastic implications for the ability to meet revenue targets as well as satisfying customer demand. Process optimization is critical in manufacturing to:

  • Drive a proactive, transparent supply chain
  • Build a foundation for innovation to take advantage of Internet of Things (IoT), predictive analytics, and blockchain
  • Enable adaptability in rapidly changing markets

Manna Foods’ recent ERP implementation has enabled the company to empower decision-makers and simplify production. From empowered consumers and high brand loyalty to greater trust between supply chain partners, an advanced ERP solution has driven optimized and streamlined processes. Find out more in this video case study.

Without innovation in the business process and technology aspects of manufacturing, organizations are heading into a downward spiral. Consequently, competitors that continue to meet customer needs are the ones that will succeed, both now and in the long term. Short-term vision and planning can mean long-term failure or stagnating growth.

Coping with change and uncertainty is more than manageable with the right foundations in place. To find out how your peers are innovating to improve visibility and control, watch this webinar replay on demand.

Andy Douglas

About Andy Douglas

Andy Douglas has been delivering projects and programs for Delaware Consulting since 2004 after serving in the Royal Corps of Signals for seven years. Andy delivered the MoD DII(f) infrastructure program and carbon reductions programme for ASDA until moving to focus on SAP software implementations in 2008. Andy has delivered across multiple sectors including retail, distribution, discrete manufacturing, and utilities and has implemented SAP ERP, SAP HANA, SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA, and SAP S/4HANA.