The manufacturing industry entered 2023 amidst continued uncertainty. Ongoing challenges, including inflation, skills gaps, recalls and hybrid-work adjustments continue to persist. The effects of market turbulence are particularly felt by manufacturers, as they continually search for solutions that bolster resilience and streamline efficiency. Leveraging technologies that ease the burden of supply chain disruptions is vital in navigating the future confidently.
Supply Chain Disruptions Continue to Challenge Manufacturers
The challenges that manufacturers are facing this year may be here for the long haul. This is most prominently seen when it comes to labor shortages and inflation impacts on recalls. According to a report by Deloitte, 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could remain unfilled between now and 2030. Additionally, the report reveals that, in its survey of over 800 U.S. manufacturers, 36% believe it is harder to secure the right talent today than it was in 2018. When you couple these factors with rising inflation and material costs, process and product quality are sure to suffer.
Analysis done by Sedgwick has found that by the end of 2022’s Q3, 1.22 billion units were involved in recalls across the five industries tracked in the index, breaking the previous record of 1.20 billion. The increase is due largely to recall unit size for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries – which increased by more than 500%. Spikes have largely been driven by the combination of a lack of skilled labor entering the workforce and outdated siloed practices. These practices increase the likelihood of a costly error that can ruin reputation, sales and, eventually, a manufacturers bottom-line.
With rapidly shifting and unpredictable times both at present and on the horizon, effective, full-scale visibility and quality control infrastructures are more critical than ever. Embracing integrated technologies eases the burden on staff and adds layers of checks and balances. With the right processes, manufacturers can ensure consistent quality control standards, meet regulatory requirements and fulfill demand – even amidst unpredictable schedules and labor shortages.
Warehouse Management Systems’ Visible Strength
Technology enables manufacturers to fight back against disruption and stabilize their workflows despite internal and external challenges. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) manage the operations of a warehouse or distribution center for inbound, outbound, and inventory management processes. WMS track finished goods and raw materials throughout their entire journey within a facility – from the moment inventory is received and weighed, through when it gets quality control tested and added to production, finished, stored and shipped out the door. With increased emphasis on visibility and quality control, WMS reduces risk from raw materials to shipping finished products.
WMS can be used to maintain rigorous quality control standards, introduce new labeling and packaging strategies, and enforce scalable and repeatable processes that cannot be bypassed by employees. It gives organizations better visibility and control by incorporating quality checkpoints that guarantee specifications and compliance criteria are satisfied consistently – even if the entire process must be halted in the middle of production. A tight integration between your WMS and enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology not only affords agility and flexibility but delivers increased visibility over key processes to improve workflow efficiency and uphold quality standards.
Agility is a core necessity across the manufacturing space, especially as the residual effects of the pandemic - and the permanent changes it’s driven, continue to evolve. In areas particularly susceptible to recall, manufacturers need solutions that help them address problems quickly and effectively to stay on track and avoid costly and damaging disruptions. Having insight into inventory, location, purchases and services ensures that deadlines are met safely, and waste is kept to a minimum. This helps to protect manufacturers as well as consumers, who will be empowered to shop confidently without having to continually worry about empty shelves.
For example, Bergin Fruit and Nut Company, whose product mix included 60% packaged items and 40% bulk items, used WMS to maintain rigorous quality control standards while nearly half of its bulk business transitioned to other product lines, introducing new labeling and packaging strategies in the process. Bergin ultimately shifted its product mix to 90% packaged items while adhering to shelf life and quality requirements, turning a pandemic-induced challenge into a new path to success. This level of agility ensured continued value amidst adversity.
Investing in Technology for the Future
As manufacturers continue to work through industry challenges, strategic investments in technology remain paramount. It can be tempting to reduce investing in times of economic downturn, but failing to remain competitive technologically can in fact lead to a host of future problems and increased costs. Embracing solutions such as WMS provide manufacturers with a competitive advantage as they look to recruit the next wave of talent, as well as retain them, as they continue to grow and upskill. Investing in technology that improves the workflow and product can pay dividends both in the present and future.