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Microsoft: manufacturing innovation & digital transformation

Entering into a new decade faced with the continuing challenges of COVID-19, Manufacturing Global learns how resilience, agility and willingness to embrace technology will drive manufacturing growth in ‘the next normal’ from Irina Ghose, Executive Director, Cloud Solutions, Microsoft India’s latest insights.

The challenges facing manufacturers

Identifying critical issues for the manufacturing industry – including materials shortages, demand shifts, supply chain disruption, reduced workers, cash flow and planning concerns – Ghose highlights that “while many businesses reconfigured their production, supply chains, and services, the shift toward digitally enabled manufacturing is only going to ramp up.”

Like many other sectors, Ghose expects to see digital acceleration across all manufacturing areas. “whether it is keeping employees connected and productive; connecting dealer management systems; automated, robotics-driven factories; or ensuring health guidelines compliance in their facilities,” adds Ghose.

Intelligent and agile factories

Within her insights, Ghose explains the importance of embracing agile manufacturing methods. Businesses that do, “will achieve new levels of productivity by strengthening OT with IT innovations using IoT, cloud, AI, and mixed reality.”

The benefits of this include:

  • The ability to monitor equipment and predict anomalies to significantly reduce downtime
  • The capacity to calculate overall equipment efficiency with AI and cloud, as well as optimise production saving costs, reducing material waste and reducing energy use
  • Increased speed when it comes to industrial scale digitalisation with open platforms and common data frameworks, as well as breaking down data silos on factory floors
Resilient supply chains

In the next decade, Ghose expects to see supply chain efficiency increase due to organisations harnessing machine learning and AI to reduce complexities.

“Technology will enable manufacturers to maintain optimal inventory levels, manage costs, avoid disruption, and increase agility and responsiveness,” says Ghose, who expects data and analytics to play a critical role in analysing and mitigating supply chain risks. This is due to the technology’s ability to enable real-time visibility and deeper insights.

Innovation and new services

Further within her insights, Ghose expects manufacturers to be able to speed innovation, realise a faster speed-to-market, and improve product and services quality. She attributes this to the vast quantities of data being produced from IoT sensors, field service, sales, factories, and the supply chain.

“With connected product innovation solutions, you can get real-time insight into which products and features customers are using without waiting for customer survey results.”

Customer engagement

Forward looking, Ghose details the need for businesses to engage with customers in new ways, “It will be essential,” says Ghose, “to deliver relevant experiences across marketing, sales, and service channels.”

To move towards ‘product-as-a-service’, organisations should proactively engage with customers throughout a product’s lifecycle. “With connected field service solutions, you can remotely monitor the smart products sold to customers. One can thus get the insights they need to do predictive maintenance – and minimise the customer’s downtime.”

Ghose also identifies the importance of taking a collaborative approach to the sales process in order to help sellers navigate increasingly complex portfolios.

Workforce transformation

Finally, Ghose states that “while technology is radically changing how we innovate, make products, deliver services, and explore new business models, at the core of all of this will be people.”

She explains that it will be vital for manufacturers to ensure that they equip their workforce with the skills and manufacturing technology needed in order to keep up as the industry shifts. “Advancing modern roles, re-skilling to accelerate a data-driven culture, and empowering the first-line worker will be as important as embracing technology to leapfrog into the next phase,” Ghose adds.

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