The Importance of Flexible Manufacturing in Uncertain Times

Posted: 23 April 2020 | | No comments yet

The coronavirus pandemic threatens one of the biggest disruptions in recent history to supply chains, staffing, and demand.

Flexible Manufacturing in Uncertain Times

A staggering 53.1% of manufacturers are anticipating a negative impact on their operations in the coming months (NAM, 2020).

The coronavirus pandemic threatens one of the biggest disruptions in recent history to supply chains, staffing, and demand. Across the world, manufacturers are rising to the challenge to keep their employees and their communities safe and healthy.

The COVID-19 coronavirus is not only taking a toll on the health of employees – resulting in absences and lost productivity – but also on production processes and procedures.

How can manufacturing companies deal with this crisis? In times of uncertainty, flexibility is a key part of the solution for many companies.

1. Production flexibility.
Ramping up production and converting new production lines to produce products that are needed and in-demand (face masks and hand sanitizer for example).

2. Staggered shifts.
Factories are staggering shifts on the shop floor to help compensate for higher-than-normal absences. Simultaneously, workers are being separated and required to keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from their colleagues.

3. Temporary workforce.
Hiring a temporary ad-hoc workforce for a period of time might be a good idea to help manage overstressed tasks in the short term. This helps address the additional workload caused by absences and higher demand for certain products.

4. Flexible teams.
Due to the looming recession, many companies might have to work through the aftermath of the crisis with flexible workers and a reduced headcount in order to keep their factories humming.

5. Reskilling & redeployment of existing employees.
Many companies are reskilling and upskilling their existing workforce to perform new or different tasks within the company, outside of their normal duties. These people already know how the facilities work and don’t need to be taught the basics.

Flexibility in manufacturing means that companies need to either create new processes and procedures or reinvent old ones for a group of constantly changing employees. You know that onboarding every temporary or reskilled worker takes a lot of time and resources. Thankfully, on-the-job training with digital work instructions might be the solution to this new flexible and uncertain reality.

As Charles Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

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