The manufacturing industry is facing many challenges in 2022, such as a labor shortage, an ongoing pandemic, the supply of raw materials and components, and workforce planning. What should be the orientation?

Inform, the optimization specialist based in Aachen, Germany, has compiled a list of five needs that should be met in 2022.

  1. Build resilient and agile value creation systems: To avoid short-term interruptions in production such as personnel and machine breakdowns or short-term changes in the order situation, machine builders urgently need modern planning tools. Using mathematical models and artificial intelligence (AI), they can simulate countless scenarios in the shortest possible time and create an optimized alternative plan. This allows companies to react in an agile way to disruptions and minimize their impact.
  2. Develop a data strategy: Data is the fuel of modern planning tools and other innovative software applications. However, this can only be used to add value to the business with a data strategy. A data strategy helps to continuously develop and implement applications for using data, open up new sources of data, and make better data-driven decisions. Prerequisites for this include the appointment of a responsible person, usually called Chief Data Officer, the development of internal data skills and a new decision-making culture in the company. After all, employees should trust the recommendations of their tools and not just their intuition.
  3. Focus on sustainable production: The efficient use of resources, the reduction of CO2 emissions and the lowest possible environmental impact are now mandatory for mechanical engineering. Not only because customers increasingly appreciate climate-friendly products, but also because sustainable manufacturing offers significant potential for cost reduction. Thanks to digital and forward-looking planning, machine builders avoid costly and environmentally harmful urgent deliveries, optimize their stocks and thus reduce their energy consumption and the waste of raw materials. At the same time, smart planning helps them make better use of the machines.
  4. Create a single source of truth: For new tools to unfold their full power, companies need digital data acquisition and interfaces for smooth data flows. In this way, they build a uniform database (sometimes called a data lake) that all departments, employees and applications can access, a so-called single source of truth.

    This not only ensures that employees manage demanding work and ever-changing order lists, but they also have to transfer less data manually and thus minimize errors. It also helps the company to maintain transparency on all processes and identify bottlenecks or critical paths in planning at an early stage in all factories. Planning adjustments can thus be made quickly and with relatively little effort, resulting in shorter lead times and more reliable planning information.

  5. Consideration of employees’ wishes: Office workers have so far been the main beneficiaries of “new work” concepts, but the shortage of skilled workers and greater fluctuation in production require a rethink of the areas where the Shift work often still dictates rigid working time patterns.

    Digital workforce planning, which some mechanical engineering companies have already implemented in recent months to respond optimally to order peaks or staff shortages, makes it possible to reconcile the interests of employees with the operational requirements. In this new way of thinking, machine builders are providing more flexibility to their workforce and positioning themselves in a more employee-friendly way.

“Mechanical Engineering must take the next step on the digitalization roadmap this year, especially given the continued effects of the pandemic, massive increases in the cost of goods sold, ongoing trade disputes and impending sanctions that are currently instituted in most industries. Uncertainty and economic fluctuations will occur more frequently in the future than in the past,” said Justin Newell, Chief Operating Officer of Inform Software Corp. “However, thanks to innovative digital optimization solutions, the industry can be better prepared for these challenges while becoming both more sustainable and employee friendly.This makes it easier for businesses to reduce operating costs, attract new new customers and retain and grow their skilled workforce.”