During these tough economic times, manufacturers worldwide are more than ever relying on IT to ensure that they survive for the upturn.
New research by research and advisory firm IDC noted that manufacturers are currently re-assessing how they are doing their business and focusing on "operational efficiencies." The research on IDC Manufacturing Insights noted that the economic crisis is bringing out the best in companies.
The study was conducted Europe-wide last April 2009 and included operations managers (50 per cent of respondents), CEOs (25 per cent), and supply chain managers (25 per cent).
It noted that in order to compete successfully, manufacturers must focus on "operational excellence" where operations support the business strategies of the company.
"The current economic situation is forcing manufacturers to reassess their business strategies, processes, and practices. Operations must support the business strategy change, and to compete successfully, manufacturers should focus on operational excellence," said Pierfrancesco Manenti, Europe, Middle East and Africa research director at IDC Manufacturing Insights. "Operational excellence is by no means a new concept, but in the current economic environment, it is essential, both to short-term survival and to building a platform to take advantage of the expected upturn."
While waiting for the economic situation to improve, the study noted that manufacturers are fostering innovation which was otherwise a low priority during "normal business conditions". Manufacturers see the downturn as an opportunity to restructure their businesses "through product innovation and closer relationships with key customers", the IDC statement read.
Another shift in the way manufacturers operate in difficult times is their recognition of the role of IT. The study noted that 40 per cent of business managers consider IT as significant in bringing about operational excellence. The report noted that this as a change in attitude among manufacturers which did not think much of IT during normal times.
One of the critical IT applications that manufacturers need in these critical times is manufacturing intelligence, or the efficient use of data. Fifty per cent of survey respondents said this is the most important IT application they need to achieve operational excellence. The study noted that most manufacturers already have lots of data available within the organisation. Yet not many know how to use these to their advantage.
The IDC Manufacturing Insights report, titled 'Business Strategy: Achieving Operational Excellence Today to Take Advantage of the Expected Upturn', provides a five-step guide to achieving operational excellence.