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How Manufacturers Can Navigate Supply Chain Challenges

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As the global supply chain, worker shortage and wage inflation challenges many had hoped were transitory dig in their heels, manufacturers everywhere are wondering how best to get around them.

Panelists at “Successfully Navigating Current Supply Chain Disruptions,” a webinar hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Institute, Manufacturing Leadership Council and professional services firm PwC, sought to answer that question.

We rounded up the speakers’ top tips for manufacturers seeking to sustainably and profitably maneuver the several sizable hurdles they still face going into 2022.

  • Break down siloes. Now that manufacturers are having to replace traditional supply chain models, changing their company operations to have staff work across siloes is more important than ever, said PwC Partner Debjit Banerjee.
  • Expect disruption. If it taught us nothing else, COVID-19 conveyed the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. Going forward, manufacturers would do well to not just plan for the possibility of disruption, but to assume it will come. To that end, preplanned “differentiated customer service” and disruption drills should become the norm, Banerjee said.
  • Advance your supply chain planning. Increasingly, Nexteer Automotive, a global maker of steering and driveline components, is focusing on advanced supply chain planning, programs that help predict shipments, supply and demand for smoother operations, said Nexteer Automotive Vice President of Global Manufacturing Operations Dennis Hoeg. With it, “decisions can be made smarter, earlier.”
  • Automate. Manufacturers should consider automating repetitive “transaction” work and reserving their employees for analytical tasks that only humans can do, according to Hoeg.
  • Balance agility and resilience. Before the pandemic, “we were working on a strategy that was based on agility,” said Rockwell Automation Chief Supply Chain Officer Ernest Nicolas Jr. “Through the pandemic … we had to reprioritize. We had to take a step back to balance agility and resilience.” Manufacturers that want a better agility-resilience balance can do so “through data, process and technology” enablement, according to Nicolas.
  • “Relentlessly prioritize.” Nicolas so believes in this advice that he ended his presentation with it. “There’s so much going on right now; we want to be certain we manage our priorities,” he said. “So, there’s a lot we’re saying ‘not now’ to …. but it’s not a matter of ‘no.’ It’s a matter of, ‘We’ve got to get these things finished so we can lay the foundation’” in this new normal.
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