Manufacturers today face challenges on multiple fronts. Globalization, new and developing facets of the fourth industrial revolution, cyber threats, and other matters present hurdles for any company looking to make its mark.
A survey of the top issues concerning manufacturers today turns up several prominent ones, including the following.
1. Producing and Protecting Innovative Products
Developing a reliable product that earns loyal clients and ongoing revenue is difficult. Innovations are difficult to come by and a key point of leverage over market competitors.
Such a goal becomes exponentially more difficult to achieve if someone walks off with your company’s intellectual property (IP). Valuable data must be protected against unlawful attempts to access it, whether that attempt comes from outside the enterprise or inside it.
2. Rising Cyber Threats
Ransomware is growing at an annual rate of 350 percent and has an estimated annual global market of about $1 billion.
Manufacturer Mondelez International incurred expenses of nearly $200 million as a result of the Notpetya virus. More recently, a cyber attack forced an aluminum producer to close multiple locations in the U.S. and Europe.
Delays caused by network outages, whatever the cause, can bring production to a standstill and wreak long-term damage to revenue and reputation alike.
3. Competition Abroad
Another issue industry watchers see for U.S. manufacturers is the rise in the quality of products produced abroad.
In decades past, “Made in (Blank)” — where “blank” represents any country other than the U.S. and perhaps Germany, whose manufacturing prowess is lauded globally — used to be synonymous with lesser quality goods.
Technological advances in production and materials, however, are blurring that quality distinction.
4. Workforce Shortages
Nearly half of all manufacturers surveyed by the National Association of Manufacturers cite a shortage of skilled workers as the biggest threat facing their business.
Until the necessary numbers of workers can be recruited and trained, a collaboration between manufacturers — paired with reliable network and security infrastructures enabling such collaboration — may take on increased importance.
Close collaboration will require network safeguards. A failure to pre-screen software from a third-party vendor cost the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company big when that software turned out to be infected with WannaCry ransomware that then spread throughout the company.
5. Data Utilization
On the topic of manufacturing’s workforce: helping to manage it will one day be the province of artificial intelligence (AI). AI can access available data and help managers make decisions on what training is required for which associates and the most effective training practices available.
It’s a transition that might not be easy for some. “The notion that data should inform people decisions is new for a lot of companies,” one expert said.
Whether in HR, IT, or any other department, data-led management can’t work without data. Decisions based on inaccurate or outdated information won’t prove fruitful. That’s why it’s crucial for companies to capture what data they can and to make it accessible for purposes related to AI and other improvement strategies.
Success in an increasingly complex manufacturing environment requires addressing these and any other issues that arise. CTC Technologies can assist your company in achieving the necessary operational efficiencies and business-focused communications that can help.
Contact us today to learn how.