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Readying Manufacturers’ Digital Ecosystem for the Disrupted Future

March 3, 2022

Amitabh Sarkar   

Vice President & Head of Asia Pacific and Japan - Enterprise, Tata Communications

Asia Pacific is home to many global manufacturing powerhouses and any disruption in the region can cause worldwide product delays or shortages. For instance, automotive manufacturers had to stop their global assembly lines due to the semiconductor shortfalls. In this blog, Amitabh Sarkar, Vice President and Head of Asia Pacific, Tata Communications, will discuss how businesses in the manufacturing industry can strengthen and future-proof their operations. 

Undoubtedly, Covid-19 caused much of the disruption we see across the industry. From homebound employees to disrupted production cycles, many aspects of the manufacturing sector were severely impacted or even abruptly halted last year. This gave rise to the need for manufacturers  to transform themselves to address new business priorities and ready themselves for the future, or risk getting snowed under by the changes and challenges in this new disrupted world.

Priorities and challenges in the new world of manufacturing

Strengthening their operation’s and supply chain’s resiliency is a priority that manufacturers are focusing on in the aftermath of the pandemic. Achieving this will require manufacturers to diversify their operations and supplier portfolios. However, this will create a more complex ecosystem that makes it harder for them to manage and maintain operational visibility.

Diversification will also make product development and decision-making more decentralised. Some functions, such as design engineers, can face greater collaboration and communications challenges as their teams are scattered across diverse locations. This can hamper product innovation and delay time-to-market.

Lastly, security has always been a critical concern for manufacturers. Any physical or cyber security lapse can potentially lead to grave consequences, including unplanned downtime and losing intellectual properties (IP).

“Cyberattacks, in particular, are an increasingly significant risk. The recent spike in ransomware attacks illustrates how they can readily disrupt and shut down physical operations.”

Moreover, as manufacturers become more digitalised, they become increasingly attractive targets for cybercriminals.

Rethinking their digital strategies to build a future-ready organisation

Digital technology will play an even greater role in manufacturing organisations as they adopt new operating models to address these challenges and meet new business requirements. While many have already started their digital transformation journey before the pandemic, they will need to rethink their digital approaches to stay relevant in this new disrupted landscape and position themselves for growth in the future.

Here are four digital strategies that manufacturers can consider to transform their digital ecosystem and build a future-ready digital infrastructure:

  1. Build a robust digital foundation

To increase their organisation’s resilience, agility and productivity, manufacturers will need to digitise the entire value chain – from supply chains to the factory floor and customer acquisition to customer service. This requires them to examine the entire spectrum to identify the changes needed and strategise how digital technology can help.

As part of this exercise, manufacturers must first plan how they can develop a strong digital foundation to support current technologies and future digital initiatives. This includes building a hybrid architecture to maximise the potential of advanced technologies like AI and IoT, and integrating new digital systems with legacy infrastructure.

  1. Harness data to create new competitive advantages

As manufacturers digitalise their value chain, they will have unprecedented opportunities to obtain data from the business environment. By leveraging intelligent systems to convert data into actionable insights, manufacturers can improve all aspects of their business, from enhancing end-to-end visibility across the supply chain to boosting strategic decision making.

For instance, manufacturers can harvest real-time data on their production processes with IoT sensors. Combined with hybrid cloud platforms and data analytics. Manufacturers can swiftly isolate issues in product lines and identify key opportunities for the business to enhance efficiencies or innovate. Moreover, manufacturers can analyse real-time data of their machines’ conditions to facilitate predictive maintenance. This allows companies to plan their maintenance around their production schedule and prevent unexpected downtime.

  1. Implement a robust communications and collaboration platform

“As remote working becomes a permanent feature in the post-COVID landscape, manufacturers must have a versatile unified, collaboration platform that supports messaging, voice, and video functions.”

This ensures their employees and partners can work seamlessly across functions and geographies, which will help accelerate time-to-market and drive innovation.

Furthermore, manufacturers can customise their communications tools according to their unique business needs by embedding communications platform as a service (CPaaS) solutions into enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) applications. This can elevate the customer, employee, and partner experiences by making them more personalised, enriching, and seamless.

  1. Establish a framework for ubiquitous security

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly critical as manufacturers’ operations and supply chains become more digitalised. By adopting a zero-trust approach, manufacturers can secure their digital environment beyond the traditional perimeter and provide employees secure access to applications and data, regardless of location, device, or broadband connectivity.

Manufacturers will also need to be more proactive in monitoring and safeguarding against cyber threats. A security operations centre (SOC) can act as the first line of cyber defence, allowing companies to constantly monitor and investigate anomalous activities across their digital ecosystem while reducing their response time to attacks.

Future-proofing the organisation

While the manufacturing output across Asia Pacific is showing signs of recovery, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the market and manufacturing companies must reassess their business priorities and refresh their digital strategies to stay agile and productive in this new reality.

“By setting a clear vision of what they want to achieve and evolving their digital strategy to support it, manufacturing organisations can build up their resiliency against current disruption while positioning themselves advantageously for future innovation and growth in an ever-evolving environment. “

Setting up of Digital transformation office

In order to fast track from legacy world to Digital-First, manufacturing organisations in Asia pacific need to focus on skills, culture and tackle growing threats from cybersecurity breaches. A progressive company considers investments in their digital transformation as a business investment more than an expense – they ensure they have looked at all parts of their business to drive digital transformation. This includes bridging skill gaps by bringing in external talent to accelerate digital adoption. For manufacturing companies to radically transform customer experience and dramatically improve cost ratios, it’s imperative that they have trusted and specialised technology partners to deliver the business outcome.

To learn more, please read this blog on The quest for unified collaboration.