Manufacturing AUTOMATION

The importance of agility

October 30, 2020
By Emir Dobraca

Brought to you by Alithya

How a modern supply chain and data-first strategy can keep your organization afloat in a crisis

Manufacturers need a modern supply chain and business strategies that put data first. Photo: courtesy Alithya

Agility is one of the most important elements in the success of a manufacturing organization. In 2020, the flexibility of manufacturing companies has been put to the test with unexpected demand of necessities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies who want to be successful need to be prepared for the known and the unknown. Consumer demand patterns are difficult to predict, and today’s rapidly changing demand patterns quickly reveal those who are equipped for the surges and declines and those who are not. Those who are able to think ahead and are prepared to act quickly stay afloat in a sea of uncertainty.

Research by McKinsey and the Harvard Business School found that companies that had launched agile transformations pre-COVID-19 performed better and moved faster post-COVID-19 than those that had not. Organizations with agile business processes were able to pivot quickly when faced with new challenges, such as shortages of raw materials, price fluctuations and transportation hurdles.

They were better equipped to communicate with customers when there were stock-outs, production delays or shipping changes, which led to increased customer satisfaction. They were also better able to respond to customer demands and release new products into the market, pivoting production and inventory to meet rapidly changing needs.


So what does an agile organization actually look like? In manufacturing, it means having a modern supply chain and business strategies that put data first. It means investing in technology that will create an integrated system with one single source of information.

A modern supply chain allows an organization to maintain visibility through their sourcing of raw materials all the way to the final product deliveries. In a post COVID-19 world, manufacturers will need to explore different ways to sell and place their products with end consumers.

For example, this process may have historically been through distributors, but now may be via e-commerce – selling directly to the end consumer. It’s no secret that people’s shopping habits are changing and manufacturers must be able to pivot accordingly. Having supply chain flexibility and visibility will allow manufacturers to pivot quickly as the landscape of consumer demand changes.

Three ways having a modern supply chain can help

The key to supply chain flexibility is taking advantage of a modern ERP system. With recent technology advancements that are baked into today’s options, you’ll uncover opportunities for automation, integrating with third-party systems, building and deploying mobile apps, and more. You gain the opportunity to improve your business from the inside out by streamlining processes and improving visibility into operations.

  1. Automating Business Processes – Automation reduces inefficiencies and drives greater productivity. This is especially true with procurement and sourcing workflows.
  2. Integration with Third-Party Systems – It’s likely that even a modern ERP system won’t fit every need, but a good system will be able to integrate with outside technology and keep the data flowing seamlessly.
  3. Scalable Web and Mobile Client Apps – A modern technology solution will offer ways to build and deploy web and mobile apps your clients can use to better access information or data.

Putting data first

Your organization is probably already collecting data in its various technology systems and built-in IoT devices that have been added through the years, but what are you doing with all of it?

As industry trends and a global health crisis force companies to reevaluate their business strategies, many are realizing that data will play a key role in determining their success. If you have to wait days for your reports, your organization is not putting data first.

By the time the information has been sourced across your many disparate systems, the data acquired is no longer actionable or accurate. It’s just a historical look back in time, with no insight into how a company can pivot and change their trajectory to meet established business goals.

The first step in becoming a data-first organization is to implement systems, typically an ERP solution, that can collect information from all your different business departments and compile it to become the one source of truth for your organization. From vendors and raw materials costs, to production and transportation, to all your financial information, getting a clear picture of your business means collecting all your data in one place.

Next, consider the ways that technology can help you make sense of all your data. All the information collected can be overwhelming for business leaders without the right dashboards and actionable insights that include predictive analytics.

All the data from IoT devices and sensors throughout a company’s production facility can be quickly analyzed with AI, and suggested actions can be given to the right employees quickly or corrective signals sent to the right resources.

If the data is consolidated into a single source, structured properly, quick analysis and insights are possible. But if business applications and the data they collect is siloed, the analytics and insights that business leaders want won’t be achievable.

Staying agile means keeping accurate, updated data at the front of your decision-making process, and having supply chain visibility that can help you pivot your operations quickly. Are your current systems up to the task?

Emir Dobraca specializes in technology solutions for process manufacturers at Alithya, with over 10 years of experience helping companies begin their digital transformation. He knows the unique challenges that face manufacturers, like regulatory requirements, quality control and traceability, and helps companies harness digital solutions to meet their goals.

Founded in 1992, Alithya counts on 2,000 professionals in Canada, the United States and Europe. Alithya’s integrated offering is based on four pillars of expertise: strategy services, application services, enterprise solutions and data and analytics. Alithya’s Microsoft practice covers a wide array of capabilities, including Dynamics, Azure, IoT, AI, business and advanced analytics, digital solutions, application development and architecture. Contact

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