Gary Sewell, General Manager at Clearwater Technology explores how manufacturers of all sizes can keep pace with three growing industry trends
Manufacturers face a range of growing challenges on a global level. Consumers are more demanding than ever before. Alongside increasing demands for more environmentally friendly products and production processes, manufacturers are tasked with delivering the best quality of product at a faster rate, as the likes of Amazon accelerate consumer supply expectations through their rapid last mile capabilities.
While industry leading organisations have the budget and resource to adapt to growing trends with seemingly effortless ease, others are left in the wake of disruption, scratching their heads and wondering how they can keep up. In smaller measures, it is possible for these businesses to keep pace with industry leaders and reap the benefits.
Read on to find out how manufacturers can easily keep up with three key industry trends:
1. Becoming more sustainable
Driving pressure from governments and the public for greener operations has forced manufacturers to analyse everything from their production process to how they source materials and components. Manufacturers must consider every single element across supply, production and shipping, to reduce their carbon footprint.
However, all efforts to operate in a greener, cleaner way must be affordable with minimal disruption to the manufacturing process. Operating in an unstable political climate, manufacturers are living in a state of flux with elements such as economic nationalism creating uncertainty that is impacting their willingness to make any drastic changes. Further uncertainty lingers around the bottom line and expenditure on new technologies that enable greener operations must also deliver return on investment.
Significant gains can be achieved by analysing and optimising a manufacturing plant’s energy efficiency. An energy management provider with extensive experience working in manufacturing facilities will be able to analyse a manufacturer’s energy consumption and identify areas where they wouldn’t have imagined energy savings could be made.
In cooling towers, for example, a percentage of waste water can actually be re-used instead of disposed of at cost to the business. Steam boilers can be made more efficient through a preventative maintenance programme that can be fully managed by the facility’s water treatment provider.
2. Addressing the skills shortage
The manufacturing industry is challenged with a growing skills gap with a lack of fresh talent entering the industry. A career in manufacturing isn’t exactly high up on the list of possibilities promoted to school and college students exploring their future career paths. Moreover, there’s a significant lack of female workers entering the industry, undoubtedly due to manufacturing businesses struggling to shake off the age-old reputation of being male dominated environments.
Manufacturing businesses should consider investment in training and recruitment drives that emphasise the potential to train on the job and promote the rewards of a career in manufacturing. Female candidates should be inspired and empowered by the prospect of succeeding in what’s perceived to be such a male dominated industry, but the willingness to invest in people will prove to be the clincher.
While the word ‘investment’ may worry some manufacturers already forced to invest heavily in other areas of the business to remain agile, investing in training a workforce needn’t cost a significant sum. Identifying mentors within the workforce that demonstrate a strong depth of knowledge and designing an in-house training programme that enables them to teach on the job will require minimal investment while delivering strong returns through a growing skilled and knowledgeable workforce.
3. Embracing Automation
Automation needn’t be a dirty word in any industry. While repetitive headlines continue to rouse fears of robots stealing our jobs, the truth is that automation will simply make our working lives easier by eliminating the need to undertake lengthy, mundane tasks, instead enabling us to focus our energies on more important and fulfilling tasks.
While automation is already at play in some of the world’s leading manufacturing businesses, for many others with lesser budgets, it remains a futuristic concept. However, those that won’t be investing in automation any time soon should keep in mind the principle that drives automation; creating efficiencies that drive profitability.
Taking the concept of automation and eliminating inefficiencies in the same vein can be as simple as rethinking how elements such as maintenance and compliance are managed. Manufacturers enlisting energy management providers to help them operate more sustainably can achieve this by selecting a provider that can take full responsibility for the monitoring, maintenance, management and compliance of on-site energy equipment.
By following these tips, manufacturers should have no trouble remaining agile in uncertain times. From simple internal development programmes to fully manged and affordable energy management services that deliver significant cost savings, it’s not as challenging to keep up with industry trends as some manufacturers might think.