Today, manufacturers face formidable challenges to thrive vs. survive. Manufacturers that rapidly adapt to technology thrive from the competition and build a sustainable future. Rising costs, supply chain disruptions, rapid skill changes, and customer expectations pose significant challenges for manufacturers to adapt to the latest technologies. Industry 4.0, agile factories, and intelligent production management form the core of the Factory of the Future.
Manufacturers that develop solutions for supply chain visibility, boost production efficiencies and address customer issues regain their competitive advantage for the future. Microsoft Power Platform addresses manufacturers’ many data, AI, and digital solutions needs.
Top Challenges in Manufacturing Industry
Talent and skills shortage
Like every other industry, the manufacturing sector is also experiencing a significant talent shortage. Do you know why? The Great Resignation and evolving digital skills have resulted in these gaps after the pandemic. And in the US, manufacturers experienced the biggest surge in employee quitting, a 60% increase from before the pandemic. As the adoption of Industry 4.0 and AI increases within manufacturing, the skills gap may widen further. Manufacturers should continue to embrace digitalization and employee engagement initiatives to retain talent and address the skills shortage.
Supply chain instability and invisibility
Supply chain challenges for manufacturers are manifold and still growing. PMI reports from the US point to the rising raw material and logistics costs, increasing demand, and slow deliveries of finished goods. Transportation remains challenging for manufacturers with significant labor shortages and demand outpacing supply. The main reasons for supply chain instability trace back to low inventories, supplier rationalization, and narrowing production capabilities.
Digital supply chain visibility with data, analytics, and AI can offer manufacturers a sustainable Factory of the Future solution.
Adoption of Digital Production Technologies
Digital transformation, Industry 4.0, and AI will soon be top manufacturers’ top priorities. Adopting emerging technologies to remain agile seems challenging for every manufacturer to sustain in the digital competition. The production losses and equipment efficiencies contribute to the significant revenue shift and process disruption in manufacturing. Hence manufacturers need to focus on these critical areas while also managing the supply chain and worker productivity.
With technology encompassing every manufacturing process, cybersecurity programs must also be complex to manage the risks. A cyber attack can cause huge losses while disrupting manufacturers’ supply chains, production lines, and entire value chains. Also, the attack on other stakeholders like suppliers, vendors, and partners may lead to significant interruptions. Hence the whole ecosystem needs to rethink its preparedness to address possible risks.
Insights from Environment, Social, and Governance(ESG) initiatives
As per a PwC report, 83% of consumers believe that organizations should implement ESG best practices for a sustainable future. Hence manufacturers should continue to focus on environmentally sustainable products. Measuring the carbon footprints and assessing the opportunities in producing sustainable products requires significant data gathering and analysis. And most importantly, the ESG efforts are now tied to the cost of capital, and making it a priority is on the agenda for C-suite.
Manufacturers that invest in easy-to-use data and intelligence platforms will have a significant advantage in their ESG initiatives.
As we discussed the challenges faced by manufacturers, now let us look at the ability of Power Platform in Manufacturing industry. Microsoft Power Platform offers a holistic solution for all the challenges faced by manufacturers and enables the factory of the future.
How to leverage Power Platform in Manufacturing Industry?
The application of Power Platform in manufacturing is not limited to the below areas. It has limitless potential owing to the total effects of the individual components used together. Hence, we preferred to discuss a few application areas common for most businesses in the manufacturing industry.
Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents for Supply Chain Visibility
AI-powered virtual assistants can address many tasks in the supply chain. They include procurement, paperwork, knowledge and information management, vendor and supplier queries, and payment processing. Does it answer your question about the potential? Let us discuss it with an actual example.
Manufacturers deal with many payments and information exchanges between different vendors and suppliers. If they can leverage chatbots here, there will be minimal scope for error and reduce the effort. And at the same time, Power Apps for manufacturing also provide greater ease. Manufacturers can enable an automated supply chain helpdesk by leveraging Power Apps portals and Power Virtual Agents.
How does it enable supply chain visibility?
Are you still dubious? Enabling chatbots in your warehouse provides more details about inventory and logistics. Vendor and supplier relations can be transparent with chatbots and helpdesk support. And you can leverage Power Automate and Power BI for more insights and workflow automation. So, all of them aid in better supply chain visibility.
Pre-built AI for equipment effectiveness
Manufacturers find it challenging to harness the data to improve their overall equipment effectiveness. The Power Platform in Manufacturing industry makes AI accessible for everyone irrespective of their algorithms and AI modeling techniques knowledge. AI Builder in the Power Platform has pre-built models for predictive maintenance, equipment run rate, and fault prediction. Additionally, customized solutions are available through the Marketplace and solution vendors.
Do you prefer to customize the AI model for your needs? Users can build custom AI models by choosing the model type in AI builder and training the model to accomplish the specific AI task.
Employee experience with Power Apps and Chatbots
A Gallup survey reported that only 25% of employees in the manufacturing industry feel engaged in their work. Employee experience has become an important strategic initiative to retain talent and improve productivity. Organizations need to focus on many aspects to improve employee experience – recruitment, onboarding, knowledge management, issue resolution, and employee engagement.
Let us talk about onboarding here. Onboarding is not a one-day process anymore. Organizations need to create a plan for the first thirty days to indulge the employee in work, interact with co-workers and imbibe the organizational culture. AI-powered chatbots can walk through these steps and be a companion throughout the journey. Organizations can create a low-code app powered by Power Apps with sequential updates and step-by-step knowledge management. Do you still have questions about how it works? Watch our Onboardn solution for more details.
Invoice management and document intelligence
Manufacturers still have to deal with a lot of paper-based documents in their processes. How do you automate such processes? Most technology vendors talk about invoice processing and entity extraction from these invoices. Intelligent document processing solutions in Power Automate will enable organizations to extract data from documents and validate them against the rules. Additionally, organizations can leverage AI builder to extract specific entities or read documents.
Do you think that these are limited to invoices? Microsoft Power Platform in Manufacturing is not for a process. You can leverage Power Automate and document intelligence for any vendor agreement, supplier agreement, or partner contracts analysis.
Monitoring ESG initiatives with Power BI
Globally, many organizations started tracking their ESG initiatives due to increased attention from customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Organizations in the manufacturing industry have volumes of data about these initiatives and their impact on the business. But, it is important to have ESG reporting so that the stakeholders understand the impact. With the evolved features in Power BI, manufacturers can resolve the data challenges and garner insights about ESG initiatives.
Though we listed a few Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents and Power BI have unlimited potential for factory of the future. You can reimagine many processes with the holistic value from the Power Platform.
How can we help you?
Do you still have doubts about where to start? We are offering a 4-hour workshop to ideate the best use case for your transformation roadmap. It does not end here. And it comes without any strings attached; you can choose your vendor. Are you sure about your use case? We offer accelerators like App in a day to witness the potential of Power Platform. Initiate a quick chat now!