How to Solve for Skill and Scale Before Moving Production Closer to Demand
| By: Lior Susan, co-CEO
The global supply chain was hit hard in the last few years and still hasn’t fully recovered; the cost of materials is continuously rising today, and new ‘Made in America’ legislation is influencing and incentivizing a shift in where production takes place. These changes are ushering in a new age of manufacturing, with many large manufacturers reconsidering where they make goods and how they move them. As they look to reshore or nearshore, they’ll first need to tackle two significant challenges: the cost of labor and trained labor availability, otherwise known as “skill and scale.”
How to solve for ‘skill and scale’
Technology, for the first time in the history, can help manufacturers move production closer to home (or closer to where demand is) and solve for skill and scale in a way that’s not overly dependent on people.
The key ingredient for success in any smart facility is intelligent automation. This, coupled with the right talent, is how manufacturers make the promise of reshoring and nearshoring a reality; it’s how they offset the labor-cost arbitrage of moving production home, and it’s how they maximize outputs.
- Create smart factories with intelligent automation: We’ll see the industry continue to move from human-centric manufacturing to fully automated, machine-centric manufacturing, but in the meantime, companies will deploy hybrid solutions—a combination of people and intelligent machines. Intelligent, scalable solutions such as Bright Machines Microfactories, which leverage software, machine learning, computer vision, and robotics, allow companies to take a more flexible approach to production. They can adjust input/output based on changing demand levels in the region they’re serving; they can make changes to the line without having to swap out equipment, and they can easily and quickly program lines to accommodate different assembly tasks.
- Attract new talent, uplevel existing talent: Manufacturers need to implement programs that train workers how to tackle new, exciting technologies for today’s complex production environment as well. Reskilling and upskilling opportunities can not only advance the careers of those individuals but can directly benefit the company through continued innovation. For an industry that’s struggling to retain strong workers and attract fresh talent, this is the solution.
Embracing the new age of manufacturing
With the skill and scale challenges solved, manufacturers will reap the benefits of moving production closer to home, with each benefit waterfalling into another one.
- Increased protection and control: In some regions, reshoring increases intellectual property protection and control. Manufacturers can more easily know exactly what’s going in the product, which can be difficult with overseas production. This is something most manufacturers – in fact, most brands – are being asked about today, too.
- Build to order: When there’s proximity to the end customer, manufacturing will naturally become “build to order” rather than “build to stock.” The numerous, time-intensive steps associated with the global supply chain have previously trapped manufacturers into making poor forecasting choices that often lead to either too much or too little product. With inherently flexible systems like the Microfactory, manufacturers can produce based on local or regional demand, which shortens the lead time, and can make changes to the product based on market response.
- Sustainable production: A localized supply chain, paired with smart factories, reduces air pollution, produces higher yields, and creates less waste. All manufacturers should be looking to adopt more sustainable practices today, and reshoring or nearshoring will undoubtedly contribute to eco-conscious initiatives and goals.
Those who can successfully navigate the requirements of skill and scale first, and then move production closer to home will be poised for long-term success in an industry that’s rapidly changing (and for good reason). When manufacturers embrace this new age of manufacturing, they will improve their company, our economy, and the environment.