The year when COVID-19 stampeded into our world will be known for many things, none associated with business as usual. Phrases like “unprecedented times,” “Zoom fatigue,” and “the new normal” have all become part of our worldwide lexicon. Even those typically not as plugged-in to the manufacturing industry comment on how disrupted supply chains are when they can’t find toilet paper, a sourdough starter, or larger purchases, like a new refrigerator or vehicle. Given that change remains a constant, why have so many manufacturers been caught flat footed?
While extremely disruptive, the COVID-19 pandemic is just one of many disruptions that has impacted global manufacturing and supply chain competitiveness throughout the decades. Regardless of the disruption, it is well documented that the industry needs the ability to be resilient and meet challenges head-on with creativity and innovation.
For enterprises facing existential, financial, or merely operational threats thanks to supply chain disruptions, finding new solutions that turn insights into action at speed and scale is especially urgent.
This often requires reimagining how to use traditional applications or systems of record in new ways. Legacy supply chain capabilities – or disrupted adjacent process areas – are especially ripe for this.
More than ever, these solutions must remove supply chain blinders and inaction and instead provide the right information to the right people with the right skills at the right time to make the right decisions in a rapidly changing global ecosystem. However, information is only half of the equation – being able to instantly act upon newly visible supply chain insights on a global scale is often the difference between success or failure.
Manufacturers can’t continue to look to the same places for different answers where enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and one-off solutions are band-aids to siloed business operations and processes that never scale, flex, or react to the urgent demands disruptions create.
So … where does the industry focus its attention instead when faced with industry changes or disruptors?
- Agility – the ability to quickly start new initiatives and change fast as needed.
- Flexibility – being adaptive with the ability to scale and adjust to changes.
- Resiliency – continuity and recovery in the face of change.
- Harmony – omnichannel, holistic integration with the ability to connect across business siloes.
The business-value “DNA” of intelligent automation provides companies the ability to respond to disruptions. With intelligent automation, business can finally ignore the constraints of too many channels, applications, calcified processes, inflexible systems of record, and a morass of often useless data – when rapid business value is what’s needed most. Specifically, low-code, intelligent automation makes scarce resources more valuable. It allows business professionals to:
- Get stuff done now: Technology does the easy stuff to free up more difficult tasks for people, who can in turn work more efficiently.
- Confidently make difficult decisions: Identifying difficult situations that need immediate action and addressing them appropriately. Humans can make these decisions with more confidence backed by intelligent automation capabilities which gives them the information to make a more informed decision.
- Be more productive: With the right capabilities, humans have the opportunity to focus on the problems technology alone can’t help with, freeing up intellectual capital and knowledge.
Since the pandemic forced a range of urgent obligations, there continues to be much discussion about digitization, the Internet of Things (IoT), business analytics, etc., and where they must add immediate value. The foundation for this technology-driven business approach is that more data is being made available from many more sources than ever before. Digitization provides a tremendous opportunity for insight, discovery, and decision making. However, the data itself that powers digitization does nothing.
Rather, supply chain resiliency comes from marrying critical data to aspirational business processes and desired outcomes – then incorporating intelligent automation to make new data and visible insights actionable in a way that humans and technology (or technology alone) can rapidly adapt to without constraint. And with low-code capabilities empowering business subject matter experts to use their skills, experience, and knowledge to quickly and easily modify how the automation executes, supply chain executives can rapidly create business impact in ways once unimaginable.
That is the key. Low-code, intelligent automation that lives at the center of a business architecture is action-oriented – it drives resiliency, agility, flexibility, and harmony. And when the next disruption comes, be it a rush on scarce inventory, a hurricane, or other impacts of a global pandemic, manufacturers will be ready and resilient.
Therein lies the opportunity. What is your organization waiting for?