Inject calm into the chaos

Managing director of Kin + Carta’s B2B team, Shawn DeVries advises manufacturers to carefully explore the implementation of new supply chain solutions using a ‘minimum viable experience’ approach.

Amid Covid-19 uncertainty, what advice would you offer companies as they adjust to new realities? 

Low touch, low friction commerce is a must-have. If you have not started, we propose taking a hard look at buy vs build. It is easy to fall into a trap to solve near-term pain, but vendor lock-in is a real risk. Consider a ‘minimum viable experience’ first to tackle the realities of product data, order flow, order tracking and customer communication, with a mindset of test-and-learn before going all-in.

When markets have shifted this fast commerce experiences may end up misaligned with supply chain realities. There are moments throughout the buying journey that can be adjusted, usually at low cost. Incremental changes add up, helping move order flow in the right directions.

Covid-19 is creating new hurdles regarding employee safety and overall productivity. How can leaders address this?

The plummeting cost of industrial connected sensors, combined with mesh-based operational connectivity, allows for a real-time proximity network on the plant floor. Historically, this has been applied in hazardous locations with success. With social distancing rules colliding with worker productivity and collaboration, this same solution can be applied to keeping workers safe from each other.

Taking a pragmatic approach to analyzing your backlog of low-touch initiatives will help repurpose workers to focus on tasks that can be tackled without traditional human interaction.

What is the role of predictive analytics during unpredictable times?

Knowing when a manufacturing system requires servicing allows you to methodically plan for maintenance. Enabling secure remote monitoring capabilities can be as simple as licensing a specific feature from a software vendor, hardware partner or system integrator. The limitation is willingness to change.

For manufacturers in the early stages of implementing connected shop-floor systems, hope is not lost. Focus on prototyping the connected systems that can help drive stability in your forecasting, supply chain and maintenance cycles. Doing so will inject a bit of calm into the chaos.

Do you think companies are re-prioritizing adaptable and responsive ways of working? 

Too many organizations have kicked this technical challenge down the road, not realizing the business and risk reduction opportunity that emerges out of a modern, secure and scalable infrastructure. Consider what you have today and measure the impact of that system breaking. Will orders go through? Can you bill customers? Do employees get paid? Understanding the risk of maintaining a legacy system lets you balance against the cost and complexity of making a lasting change.

Once you have captured and classified your technical portfolio, get started. Consider retraining and refocusing previously furloughed employees, allowing them to own this change, which will set the business up for future flexibility and growth. This investment happens today, and further delay exposes the business to avoidable risk.