How to increase agility & stay productive while maintaining social distancing


Since the introduction of the UK’s tough nationwide lockdown measures on 23 March in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of employees across the UK have swapped the day-to-day of office life for workdays spent working remotely from the comfort of their homes.

For some businesses, the transition to this ‘new normal’ has been a smooth one involving nothing more than setting up a new home desk space and working from a laptop.

However, for others, the transition has had its challenges.

The term remote working is not one that often goes hand in hand with sectors such as manufacturing where much of the day-to-day work is reliant on being onsite.

But, with social distancing measures likely to last at least for the rest of this year, and with experts predicting remote working will be here to stay even after lockdown measures have been lifted, it’s clear to see the time has never been more pertinent for those working within the manufacturing sector to start working through their previous reservations or risk getting left behind.

When it comes to working remotely, it goes without saying that a great home desk set-up is essential, but for those working in manufacturing, ensuring they remain efficient and productive requires more.

Having access to key data to make informed business decisions, coupled with ensuring there are robust levels of data security, can be challenging indeed. After all, the home infrastructure is a hacker’s dream.

Last year alone 60% of UK manufacturers stated that they had fallen victim to cybercrime, with a third of businesses stating that cyber breaches resulted in financial loss or disruption to business – and that’s without widespread remote working measures in place. Add to that the fact that the manufacturing sector was the fifth most targeted sector by hackers in 2019, and it starts to paint a clear picture of why so many within the manufacturing world have been reluctant to adopt remote working into their strategies in the past.

But times have certainly changed. With advances in tech now making it easier for teams to access their data quickly and easily and keep an eye on the goings on of the factory floor while working remotely, it will allow for a smoother transition when factories reopen. We’re likely to see this soon as a raft of announcements from the likes of Ford and others highlight that many factories are scheduled to reopen again in May.

Advances in cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are one welcome innovation ensuring important data stays up to date and out of reach of hackers.

Cloud-based ERP systems store critical information including employee information, financials, stock levels, production schedules, purchasing and essential production data that can be accessible from any place at any time by key employees. However, as that data is stored on the cloud rather than housed on individual user laptops, it means it is backed up by several offsite servers that are protected 24/7, eliminating the risk of theft and data breaches.

Providing team leaders with real-time cost and status updates so they can run the business effectively regardless of where they are, it allows teams to automate routine tasks providing real-time updates of key changes on the factory floor so they can make well-informed decisions.

Where in the past, production managers may have relied on manually updating data on paper-based spreadsheets through Excel, or being physically on the factory floor to see the processes in action, now using tools such as ERP solutions, production managers are given full visibility of production through one central tool.

In addition, any information that employees enter is instantly visible by those who need it, ensuring joined-up and effective management decision-making.

The current pandemic has meant big changes for so many businesses across a range of sectors but one of the biggest impacts have been for manufacturers. Some have found themselves having to scale back operations and furloughing staff, while for others it has meant diversifying their offering and switching to the production of ventilators or medical PPE. And then there are those manufacturers who have experienced a boom as a result of increased demand for essential goods.

As a result, the ability to adapt and become more agile has never been more important for UK manufacturers as they’re faced with the challenge of how to scale up or down as required, while ensuring their staff stay safe yet productive.

By helping teams forecast the resources needed at each stage of production, teams using ERP solutions can ensure they are aligning finances with production levels to ensure that, at a time when so many businesses are cash-strapped, they’re not overspending.

In addition, having data stored digitally rather than on manually updated Excel spreadsheets means that influxes in orders and increased levels of data are automatically updated and easily accessible, saving time, money and reducing the chance of user error.

Only time will tell how long the UK lockdown measures will last, but one thing’s for sure, manufacturers who survive and thrive will likely have introduced new ways of working which have digitised and automated more processes and provided secure on-site and remote access to live data. These functions may previously have been ‘nice to have’ but as agility becomes an increasingly powerful currency for businesses who need to adjust rapidly to dynamic demands; new ways of working may prove to be an essential requirement.


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