Trio of complexity

In the Past Challenge - Productivity and Social Standards

Given rising production costs and decreasing product prices coupled with higher customer requirements, it is only through improved industrial productivity, as well as safety and social compliance, that manufacturers can be competitive. A significant number of well-known companies have been able to achieve significant positive change by aligning the entire workforce of their organizations to common goals. Each element has well-defined roles and responsibilities and is engaged in the drive towards change. The organization invests heavily in ongoing development in order to reach their desired goals.

However, many companies still believe in a piecemeal approach, only addressing change in specific areas without aligning the entire improvement effortwhich in turn limits overall profitability. Profitability is the result of the combined performance in every department, from manufacturing to administration, from operational overheads to raw materials costs. Often a factory arbitrarily sets productivity goals as the primary objective of a sewing line since it is then easy to calculate daily revenue. Supervisors are expected to manage the lines and somehow achieve those daily totals. But only monitoring pieces at the end of the line is too late to identify problems and improve performance. There are many other deficiencies throughout the production process which can also cause problems for which sewing operators cannot compensate. This is why many companies are still struggling with financial performance.

In order to drive positive change. companies require an overall improvement strategy derived from an in-depth analysis of the entire organization. The strategy is then broken down into mini-strategies aligning every person working in the company – managers, office staff, line workers – to the company´s common goals. Unfortunately, many senior managers today simply have no strategy and focus only on disconnected incremental change.

Furthermore, over the past two decades, there have been hundreds of programs carried out in the export world aimed at workforce development, industry safety, environmental protection and other ostensibly positive objectives. In practical terms, what have all these programs actually achieved besides some increase in employee theoretical knowledge and satisfaction.

Today Challenge - Supply Chain

In addition to the un-relentless competition of the past, manufacturers everywhere must now face the challenges brought on by the unprecedented COVID-19 global crisis. It is as yet unclearwhat future sourcing practices will be and how current practices will be reshaped. But any company that expects to survive must be looking for new ways to operate and hopefully grow their businesses. This will require first significant mindset changes enabling each manufacturer to review and adjust their current supply concepts and systems in order to adapt seamlessly to future demands and recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Future Challenge - Industry 4.0 / Digital Technology

The big buzzword in tomorrow´s industry is Industry 4.0, the 4th industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 technologies offer the potential of significant gains in financial benefits and competitiveness for the company and increased wages for skilled workers. There are also challenges, not the least of which is reduced employment for general skill workers and certain manufacturing areas. This will require better use of human resources with machines taking over mundane tasks so that humans can focus on tasks requiring critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity.

This shift in turn opens up new opportunities for companies to improve and optimize their manufacturing processes and operations. In order to fully realise these potential benefits, companies transitioning to the Industry 4.0 level will require higher levels of digital literacy and the right skills in their workers. Only with the correct capabilities can companies hope to increase productivity, reduce manufacturing costs and become more innovative.