agile manufacturers increase amidst pandemic

Manufacturing are businesses becoming predictive, adaptive, and responsive as a result of improvements made following 18 months of disruption, lockdowns, and shortages

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, 59 percent of manufacturing executives characterized their company’s production operation as ‘highly agile’ or ‘extremely agile’. By means of improvements to internal data collection, sharing, and analysis, along with better communication and collaboration, this number of agile manufacturers has increased significantly to 74 percent.

These improvements and more are explored in a major new report published by The Manufacturer and HSO.

The 2021 Manufacturing Agility Assessment reported that only 2 percent of executives think their organizations have ‘little to no’ manufacturing agility, and 63 percent believe that becoming continuously more responsive is a board-level priority.

Other key findings:

  • 75 percent of manufacturing decision makers assert that sourcing raw materials and/or component parts was the business area most affected by the pandemic.
  • In order to moderate the impact of the pandemic, the most frequent approaches included a combination of accelerating investment in strategic areassuch as product development, and pausing building or infrastructure investment.
  • 71 percent of manufacturers surveyed intend to establish more local production and supplier networks
  • Most digital approaches have a strategic focus on becoming more data-ledautomating processes (admin and physical) and improved planning and/or scheduling
  • COVID-19 has resulted in 84 percent of manufacturers interacting with their customers more frequently via digital tools, and 50 percent are using social media platforms for market research and marketing
  • Additionally, 55 percent of Manufacturers now have more open and collaborative relationships with suppliers
  • 69 percent of manufacturers aim to become more environmentally sustainable over the coming 12 to 24 months, and 63 percent intend to increase their manufacturing agility further
  • However, Recruiting, retaining and “upskilling” staff is the primary growth barrier for manufacturers, followed by global economic conditions and a lack of digital connectivity

These findings clearly indicate that manufacturers are prioritizing automation, actionable intelligence and flexible scheduling much more than before.

It also reveals how industrial businesses are building stronger, deeper connections with their consumers. Similar adaptations have occurred with supplier interactions, with many manufacturers eager to maximize the advantages provided by more effective supply chain management.

Henry Anson, Managing Director of The Manufacturer, said, “Agile manufacturing involves engaging with every business area and stakeholders at every level. Being so multifaceted makes achieving it a complex proposition, but it’s a journey many have started in earnest.

“As this report shows, manufacturers have taken substantial strides towards dismantling the barriers separating parts of their own organization, and I expect the integration of customer and supplier into their moving operations to be a major focus forward.”

Encouragingly, manufacturers are embracing reshoring– the transfer of business operations back to their original country.

71 percent of the surveyed decision makers indicated that their business was planning to create additional local supply chains, with a further 27 percent preparing to move certain production processes in-house. This is in addition to the 15 percent who have already reshored some production, and the many manufacturers who have already started working with local suppliers.

The strategic objectives for the next year or two maintain this optimism. The majority of manufacturers are moving becoming more environmentally sustainable, toward a goal supported by further investment in their people, premises and processes.

Mark Breeden, an HSO Senior Account Manager, said, “Virtual collaboration, service reporting, machine learning and cognitive services are changing the way technology is impacting our working life. Twelve months ago, Teams was a group of people playing sport together. Not anymore. It is now known as a tool which enables people to collaborate. Yet, one thing is missing in this fast-paced world. Investments, whether short or long-term, need to have user adoption at the center.

“With the cost benefit of using technology to support Enterprise Asset Management and even Field Service now a given, the issue has become whether your workforce can adapt to adopt, will they be able to accept change and support it?”

Anson continued: “Being able to predict and adapt relies as much on adopting the right mindset and creating cultures of innovation as it does using technology and data. Decision makers need to understand the technological and cultural barriers that prevent their organization from becoming more agile in unison, and act to address them. In a world of heightened competition and evermore demanding customers, the imperative has never been greater.”


HSO commissioned the 2021 MANUFACTURING AGILITY ASSESSMENT, which was created from a survey of senior manufacturing professionals in May and June 2021 by The Manufacturer. In the context of the survey, an ‘agile’ organization is:

  • connected (staff, customers, processes and technology),
  • acts swiftly and decisively, and
  • responds proactively to challenges as well as opportunities.

Want to learn more about the benefits of an agile organization?

Download this reportthen watch HSO’s latest video to see how we and Microsoft can help you unify your data and operations across the value chain, from factory floor to customer’s door. With solutions powered by Microsoft Azure and Dynamics 365, You can optimize your supply chain with real-time visibility into relationships with customers, partners, and suppliers, improving ROI and reducing time to market.

Leave a Comment