Maximise efficiencies and productivity post-Covid

by Kevin Subramani. One of the keys to business success in such unpredictable times is being able to plan effectively to manage raw materials, personnel, manufacturing, marketing.

by Kevin Subramani. The South African economy was already under massive stress during the first quarter of 2020, with manufacturing revealed as having taken the hardest knock in the Stats SA report released in early March. However, the impact of widespread shutdowns during the initial COVID-19-led lockdown for April and May 2020, have put the manufacturing sector under even more pressure, with many companies staring down the barrel of greater financial stress; or even ruin, as they struggled to take care of workforces while managing business interests too.

Now that lockdown conditions have relaxed and workers are permitted to return, manufacturers are seeking answers on how to balance optimum productivity while limiting workforces to allow for mandatory social distancing and other safety measures. All businesses are now operating in unprecedented conditions and volatile environments, with any employee infection with COVID-19 likely to lead to additional shutdowns and further obstacles on the road back to sustainability and profitability.

One of the keys to business success in such unpredictable times is being able to plan effectively to manage raw materials, personnel, manufacturing and marketing. In fact, most business leadership teams wish that they had a crystal ball of some sort to predict the future, so that they can plan systems and processes to achieve maximum efficiency, sustainability, and profitability.

While crystal balls are indeed items of myth and magic, there are tools and techniques that can help businesses and manufacturers of all sizes anticipate the varying needs of different parts of their company, in response to changing environmental and economic conditions.

Time for twinning

By way of example, predictive simulation, made possible by digital twinning technology offered by Lanner, a Royal HaskoningDHV company, allows companies to use the data that they have on hand to test multiple scenarios and validate the decisions they make – without any real-world impact. Even beyond the current need, these simulations could help businesses find ways to sweat existing assets and achieve maximum return on investment.

Digital twinning and simulation technology give manufacturers the power to test actions, outcomes, and scenarios in virtual environments before applying them in the physical factory. By tapping into their data, they can build holistic digital models of the entire production process, including development, manufacturing, and distribution – giving them a genuine competitive edge.

At a time when businesses across all sectors are compelled to develop new ways of working; testing scenarios using digital twins will give manufacturers the time and insight to push boundaries, experiment with alternative simulated scenarios, and continually analyse and improve their processes and systems.

In fact, achieving the best potential from current equipment may be as simple as getting everything to work better together. This is where the strategic use of automation is of greatest benefit. For example, working with a building information modelling (BIM) team can create digital twins of current facilities that use data to predict maintenance requirements or identify more efficient ways of working.

Predictive simulations can help manufacturers predict the impact of disruption to parts of the supply chain; simulate COVID-19 considerations into the operational model to understand its impacts, and potential mitigations; understand whether to close down or scale down specific factories; or even help make a stronger case to investors to build new facilities or scale up existing ones.

Outsiders bring big ideas

Predictive simulations provide a decision support platform, made more effective with the input of business process engineers who have the insight and experience to know which questions to ask to achieve meaningful answers.

While it is possible for the strategic planning team in an organisation to use predictive simulation software effectively, an external consultant – particularly one with insight into fourth industrial revolution technology – could challenge current models with a future-focused mindset, looking at reliability and efficiency; in addition to efficiency and speed, all through the lens of COVID-19-tinted glasses. Their experience could help create, optimise and manage production processes, using best practice insights from other industries, adding even greater value to the simulation process.

Simulations can be as far-reaching or as focused as the business requires, whether it requires insights into managing its entire supply chain, single plant logistics or just needs to optimise one particular part of a production process.

Furthermore, the affordable upfront investment in the technology and services around these simulations will provide returns on financial outlay quickly and effectively by producing meaningful data that will give businesses the tools they need to make decisions that positively influence business outcomes, reducing costs and boosting efficiencies.


Kevin Subramani is an associate director, advisory group – industry, at Royal HaskoningDHV.


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