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How manufacturers can safely ramp up global operations

Steven P. Silver,
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global manufacturers across every sector and surfaced the unforeseen risks of too many depending on a seamless global supply chain to operate. For example, vehicles, medical equipment, industrial products, or high-tech products might be designed in North America, assembled in China with components sourced from around the globe, then shipped back to the U.S. for warehousing and distribution. And during typical economic conditions, if a supplier in one country has an issue delivering on a commitment, a manufacturer would search for another supplier somewhere else across the globe to fulfill their need.

This pandemic, however, is simultaneously shuttering manufacturers and suppliers everywhere while creating previously unforeseen challenges to those who want to reopen their factories and restart production. These obstacles are more profound for those manufacturers who are pivoting to produce net new offerings like personal protective equipment (PPE), medical devices, or other products to fight the impacts of COVID-19.

While it’s possible to shut down manufacturing production in a matter of days, restarting operations across a global footprint – given the wide array of health and safety obligations and supply chain challenges – is massively more complicated.

Complicated because as businesses reopen and operations resume, manufacturers may only have a fraction of their workforce healthy enough to return or maintain operations. Complicated because suppliers or logistics providers might not yet be operational, or worse – are insolvent and won’t return at all. For many, these gaps in global supply chain and safe operational readiness are significant and massively complex, requiring different variations of common solutions across a global operational map.

For too many manufacturers, the daunting challenges to restart and keep operations running smoothly are compounded by brittle, inflexible systems that normally keep business running – like bespoke, legacy supply chain management (SCM) applications or inflexible enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Manufacturers with digital transformation efforts in the planning or early stages now find they need to update and unify operational systems as quickly as possible, but it will take months of expensive re-planning, re-architecting, and application development to make a dent when urgent solutions are required in days and weeks. Similarly, low-tech, manual tools like spreadsheets and emails can’t handle the complexities needed to achieve rapid operational recovery on an industrial scale. Enterprises need to immediately re-engineer how they safely ramp and maintain operations, source materials, identify and onboard new suppliers, and respond to regulatory requirements old and new.

Pega can help.

Pega’s crisis response solutions are designed to help manufacturers minimize risk, orchestrate and automate processes, respond to a variety of regulatory requirements, and promote collaboration – in days and weeks – all in conjunction with their existing systems of record.

We’ve worked with clients and technology partners to develop solutions that can be implemented quickly to address the most immediate challenges manufacturers are facing right now, plus provide a digital foundation as businesses reopen, scale, and grow.

  • Manufacturing production ramp readiness: Designed to help manufacturers safely restart, accelerate, and maintain operations, including managing the health and safety of workers, complying with regulatory requirements, and staging the return of your workforce. Delivered with partner Tech Mahindra.

  • Supply chain collaboration and communication: Provides capabilities to extend and automate legacy supply chain management capabilities. Manage communications and collaboration with existing suppliers. Identify and resolve risks, gaps, and disconnects in your supply chain. Onboard alternate suppliers rapidly. Delivered with partner Infosys.

  • Captive finance preemptive servicing automation: Manage the surge in inquiries from customers seeking payment exceptions or modifications on loans or leases with self-service technologies for email, web, mobile, and IVR channels. Monitor and evaluate risk. Define business rules for different lines of business, states, regions, countries, or other regulatory requirements. Automate payment concessions. Delivered with partner Tech Mahindra.

Enterprises are stress-testing their digital architectures in real-time as they mobilize to address and emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.

Manufacturers have lived between the proverbial rock and hard place for too long, with this crisis amplifying the risk to their operations and even viability. In the pre-COVID global economy there was enough wiggle-room with global supply chains that worked well-enough, workforces and processes that were healthy and safe enough, and reliance on challenging, inflexible systems that functioned just enough to support operations while protecting razor-thin margins. But the crisis and a “new normal” has removed the ability to ignore, defer or defend the status quo. Whether fighting for survival or positioning themselves to capitalize on this crisis, manufacturers know that they need to modernize or augment their highly manual- or paper-based processes or antiquated systems because of, in the midst of, and despite this global pandemic. Because thanks to this unprecedented global disruption, doing nothing is no longer an option.

During a crisis, emerging from one, or beyond – start with your most critical microjourneys

Instead of standing up top-down, channel-specific solutions or building out entirely new mainframes from the bottom up ­– something that isn’t likely a pragmatic consideration anyway – our advice is to start in the center. Manufacturers must identify their most critical customers or stakeholders, the processes and outcomes that are most critical to them, then break down each into their most essential steps. We call this a microjourney, and enterprises only need to focus on one of these at a time. Then, they can connect those microjourney steps with existing channels and data. This approach helps eliminate the silos created by bespoke systems or limited packaged apps that handcuff manufacturers and scale in ways that email, spreadsheets, or other productivity apps can’t. It’s a way to get great results fast – when needed most – and ultimately serves as the bedrock of manufacturers’ delayed, but not deterred, digital transformation efforts.

Learn more:


  • Challenge: Business Agility
  • Industry: Manufacturing
  • Product Area: Platform
  • Topic: Digital Transformation

About the Author

Steven P. Silver, Vice President and global industry market leader for Manufacturing, Automotive, & High-Tech at Pega, helps C-level executives improve operations and engagement by enabling experiences that live up to their customer, operational, brand, and bottom-line aspirations.