Facteon People: IT & The Modern Manufacturer

Facteon recently made the decision to bring our IT support function in-house. This has been driven by a need to view the effective implementation and ongoing strategic management of IT systems as a source of competitive advantage for both Facteon and the manufacturers we work alongside. Here, Brendon discusses the role of IT for the modern manufacturer in 2021.

How has the way businesses view IT changed over the past five years?

There has been a definite shift in how IT is viewed as a business function. The thinking has progressed. About ten years ago, businesses needed to have an IT team to protect against the inconvenience and loss of data that can occur due to a computer breakdown. Today, the thinking is centered on the ways in which IT systems can be deployed to accommodate flexible work practices and teams across different locations.

Software as a Service products, such as Zoom, played a central role in enabling work to continue during the pandemic. The traditional ways of working, shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues, was turned upside down as we all retreated to our makeshift home offices. I was pleasantly surprised by the adaptability of both business systems and their people.

What has changed in the world of manufacturing to drive manufacturers to now see IT systems as core to their success?

Ultimately, IT has allowed businesses to do business better. We’ve seen the rise of 3D printing. This allowed for significant improvements in how we manufacture. The ability to prototype parts prior to actioning full scale production saves manufacturers time and money.

Another significant advancement which has changed how manufacturers operate is Industrial IoT (IIoT). While the deployment of sensors for data collection is nothing new, the ways in which this data is now used is evolving.

We’ve seen the rise of predictive maintenance with manufacturers now able to access machine data and insights anywhere, anytime by Cloud-based manufacturing systems. The move from handwritten lists and spreadsheets to advanced IIoT systems has allowed manufacturers to work smarter. The potential for errors around data entry are significantly reduced. The lag between data being captured and recorded in a maintenance system is eliminated. The ability to act on insights in real time has empowered manufacturers to intervene on manufacturing trends rapidly. Rather than simply allowing businesses to continue as usual, IT systems drive incremental improvements in how manufacturers operate on a daily basis.

What is the biggest obstacle holding manufacturers back from reaching their potential through effective use of IT systems?

The initial cost investment required to successfully implement an effective IT suite can deter manufacturers from implementing IT systems with the potential to change their operations. I suggest manufacturers focus on the incremental improvements that can be achieved through an effective IT system implementation. The real value of an implementation lies in the improvements seen at a cross-business level. IT systems often have the potential to change how your business operates for the better through enabling improved connectivity, the seamless flow of accurate information and a streamlining of business processes.

If the focus is placed on actioning an IT implementation that allows you to do business better, it’s easier to justify the initial investment.

What advice do you offer to manufacturers facing resistance in relation to new IT system integration?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught many of us that we are far more adaptable than we thought.

Prior to the pandemic, working from home and flexible working practices were far less common. Perhaps due to concerns around productivity, connectivity and the impacts on the wider team.

As the pandemic forced us all to adapt rapidly to a work from home model on a business-wide scale, many businesses found themselves using a range of IT systems for the first time, such as Zoom and Microsoft’s SharePoint, for example. This has demonstrated to us all that these systems do have the power to allow businesses to continue operating, even under challenging and unprecedented circumstances.

My advice to businesses is to embrace this change.

Manufacturers are continually striving to keep pace with the needs of their consumers. In parallel, keep pace with the evolving needs of your employees. While shifting to a solely work from home model may not work for your business, I encourage businesses to remember the learnings from our time working from home. Your people showed you what they’re capable of when backed by strong IT systems, they can do business from anywhere.

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