Resilience is key for manufacturers to stay afloat amid pandemic


Ranking 22nd on the 2020 FM Global Resilience Index, Singapore has proven to be an agile base for advanced manufacturing.

The tumultuous year has resulted in a massive shift in the manufacturing industry and being resilient is a key consideration for manufacturers to stay afloat.

The continuous upskilling and reskilling of talent in the manufacturing industry has helped maintain its agility throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the country restarts the economy, maintaining the resiliency of plants and processes, in addition to empowering and safeguarding people, will be key to recovery.

Rethinking traditional lean manufacturing

Adopting technologies across manufacturing and factory processes will accelerate innovation and, more importantly, boost resilience of the manufacturing industry.

Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, the past year also led to opportunities to build business models based on financial and operational flexibility enabled by digital technology.

Investing in the right technologies and strengthening the supply chain by having multiple reliable sources will enable them to achieve these results in addition to gaining greater transparency, flexibility, long-term productivity and efficiency in a dynamic and evolving market.

The aim is to build resilience into the supply chain without compromising efficiency or adding complexity for procurement specialists and engineers.

Customers must be able to access products through value-added sourcing and the convenience of eSolutions to help them better control direct and indirect procurement costs.

This will help them better manage their spending and simplify their internal systems.

Unprecedented problems for supply chains

The importance of robust supply chains was highlighted when the pandemic caused delays and uncertainties in production demand.

For example, customers in semiconductor production were faced with inventory piling up from incoming scheduled deliveries based on pre-pandemic forecasts.

Managing shipments posed serious challenges to manufacturers - materials continued to arrive but deliveries were not leaving warehouses. It was an unprecedented situation.

With a distribution centre located in Singapore and expanded logistics capabilities, we were able to support semiconductor companies planning their inventory and to accommodate erratic changes in their production schedule.

We also stayed on top of buffer inventory in case of an increase in demand to ensure we can deliver to their site and give the customer the best possible lead time.

This protects them against uncertainties and provides better flexibility to their operations.

The importance of investing in people

The pandemic has made obvious the importance of investing in people and relationships with key stakeholders: employees, business partners, suppliers and customers.

Helping customers source critical components and products that will propel them further on their digital transformation and innovation journey, while keeping people safe, is an important aspect of the industrial environment.

One way is to integrate Industrial Internet of Things and automated machines to factory floors and to enable in-factory logistics and production scheduling to achieve smart manufacturing. Companies can also provide workers protective workwear and personal protective equipment as well as improve site safety by installing traffic management and crowd control equipment.

Artificial intelligence-driven automation will also speed-up processes.

The task of lining up materials needed for production can be delegated to machines.

This will limit the number of persons on-site to allow physical distancing and reduce manual labour for employees, who will have more time for strategic work across factory floors.

Having healthy and highly engaged employees will push businesses to be more proactive and better anticipate customer needs.

The writer is the general manager of RS Components (Singapore), a global omnichannel solutions partner for industrial customers and suppliers