As economic growth spreads across the globe, one of the main engines of progress is manufacturing. Especially in the United States, which produces more than 18% of the world’s goods, the manufacturing sector is driving not only financial health, but also innovation. Increasingly, manufacturing companies are looking for competitive advantages which are being facilitated by business process management as a way to encourage digital transformation. Organizations that are effectively pairing agile business process management (BPM) with things like Six Sigma and other operational excellence frameworks are able to move fast to respond to market trends and customer demands.
Digital Transformation is Necessary for Manufacturing
To realize just how important manufacturing agility and innovation is to business growth, consider just how important and impactful it is to the U.S. economy:
- In 2018, manufacturing drove 12% of overall economic output, accounting for $2.3 trillion.
- Every dollar spent to develop and improve manufacturing operations contributes $1.89 in business growth to other economic sectors.
- Manufacturing in the U.S. is projected for continued growth into 2020 and beyond.
The primary benefits of digital transformation in manufacturing include better efficiency and reduced costs. Those two goals alone, once achieved at a sustainable scale, can create massive value for companies that want to differentiate themselves from competitors. Manufacturers that are employing digital transformation strategies that can immediately address a variety of use cases where innovation can deliver incremental changes in quality, performance, process management, analysis, or other aspects of operations.
Agile and Six Sigma in Manufacturing Digital Transformation?
Technology intended to support manufacturing can often look overly complex. But when agile and Six Sigma thinking is applied to it, one starts to recognize that technology is really only focused on getting the actions in the manufacturing process from point A (initiating manufacturing activity) to point B (finished product) faster, and more efficiently that was done previously.
Digital transformation enables this simplification of these processes through the application of effective BPM principles. Typically, processes handle everything involved with the development, creation, collaboration, and fulfillment of every manufactured good. BPM forces organizations to identify not just what points A and B are, but also incorporate workflow management software to determine what intermediary steps are involved in every process, and evaluate how valuable and/or important those steps are.
Manufacturing organizations have to know what’s happening at every step in every process. This includes development-related documents (many of which don’t fit standard document types, like blueprints and photographic images), compliance information, change orders, distribution tracking, parts ordering, inventory control, and a massive number of actionable steps that must be included in order to be optimized. A surprising number of manufacturers operate with a cobbled-together structures of paper-based systems and manual operations that are impediments to speed. Ad hoc processes used to manage the flow of unstructured data can create knowledge gaps which can slow processes and even prevent essential data from being part of the manufacturing continuum.
Streamlining Manufacturing Business Operations
Especially as manufacturing becomes more complex through the addition of additional content sources, suppliers, and other stakeholders, BPM is needed as a foundation to streamline every aspect of manufacturing processes. It helps eliminate organizational redundancy AND oversight, both issues which contribute to slow down of activity and confusion. These are the “enemies” that digital transformation seeks to eradicate, and an effective BPM solution like Process Director rapidly delivers an actionable framework for elements such as:
- Product development: Gone are the days when a blueprint was created and then years and years of consistent delivery of that product constituted a healthy business. Today’s planning and design requires the input of many (often many who are not internal employees) and it must be adaptable so incremental improvements can be made along the way. A BPM solution like Process Director enables collaboration, data management, and change capabilities through its lightweight, low-code application development capabilities.
- Procurement: To get the best cost efficiency, companies need an agile approach to working with vendors and suppliers. The ability to rapidly integrate with a stakeholder’s systems and share necessary data means fewer roadblocks on the way to incorporating the advantages of that vendor into your own processes.
- Production: Here again, the essence of effective manufacturing is getting from point A to point B quickly, painlessly, and with the right outcomes. However, in today’s connected world, nothing seems linear, so making that connection is a major challenge for companies that are producing goods. To overcome that, BPM can act in a way that captures data and assets, includes the necessary inputs from the right people, and ensures that all of that information is available, automated, and correctly inserted across and throughout processes.
- Distribution: Manufacturers need visibility and awareness so they can fulfill orders and plan accordingly for changes in demand. Process Director provides unique functionality in this regard through the use of its patented Process Timeline, which models workflows to anticipate capacity, demand, and activity. This predictive analysis means better notifications for stakeholders, as well as automated reassignment and rerouting at the earliest possible notice that a future milestone or deadline might be at risk.
The right mix of digital innovation with a logical BPM-focused approach means that manufacturers can build a framework to rapidly and efficiently coordinate their operations. Process Director is purpose-built with the needs of enterprises that take advantage of modern methods to operate their manufacturing with lean, agile principles. As the economy gets more complex, Process Director is helping to simply how manufacturing gets done.