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According to a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, about 78% of manufacturers expected COVID-19 to have a financial impact, 53% said they expected an overall impact on operations, and just over 35% said they expected supply chain disruptions. Combined with the 41 percent decrease in workforce productivity, project managers’ role in supporting the manufacturing industry has become more important. Project managers can assist manufacturers with process improvements and automation, supply chain management, and initiatives to maximize Return on Investment (ROI).

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Manufacturing automation

To remain competitive between 2007 and 2009, America made the shift to the “experience economy” and a reliance on off-shore production. But COVID-19 has put pressure on countries around the world to become more self-reliant with domestic manufacturing. Panic-buying and demand for essential products and foods have increased, adding additional urgency. Like other industries, manufacturers were caught in the battle against the pandemic and were unable to produce necessities and keep up with demand.

SEE: Big data’s role in COVID-19 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

While skilled labor will still be needed, automation will be essential to revitalize domestic manufacturing in the future. Manufacturing processes will need to be streamlined; project managers can play a key role in manufacturing automation projects by evaluating, selecting, and executing initiatives that increase output while lowering costs. Project managers can help companies implement Manufacturing Operations Transformation (MOT), which minimizes manual operations and maximizes the physical throughput, or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) that increase operational efficiency through core application functionality.

Supply-chain management

Labor shortages continue to affect productivity and timely delivery of items to customers. Part of quickly getting manufactured products to customers involves limiting business disruptions and keeping to schedules. This involves developing more certainty around your logistics and supply chain processes and resourcing. Project managers are experts at helping companies plan and allocate resources and address logistical needs. They know how to effectively allocate and time the production of supplies and equipment to meet customer demands and address potential bottlenecks before they become an issue. Scheduling delivery of products using Agile methodologies falls well within the scope of a project manager’s role.

SEE: Inside UPS: The logistics company’s never-ending digital transformation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Return on investment

Every manufacturer aims to increase their ROI by establishing and monitoring indirect, labor, and extended costs. A report by Deloitte, explains that while it is easy to set these types of cost-based targets, the implementation of your initiatives will ultimately define your success. Project managers can help manufacturers with implementing a cost-saving program that extends beyond a structured approach and methodology. The report outlines four key success factors that project managers can include in successful implementations:

  1. Actionable initiatives are identified that consider an organization’s “agility” that focuses on bite-sized initiatives and longer-term cross-functional initiatives.
  2. A cost program command center with a dedicated cost-reduction team that monitors costs and benefits realization, and handles corrective measures.
  3. A fact-based, data-driven approach that accurately details the current state cost base, sets clear targets and timelines, identifies deliverables, and is accountable.
  4. Stakeholder ownership whereby stakeholders become owners of cost-saving initiatives with a focus on the benefits to the business from day one.

In partnership with the manufacturing industry, project managers can play a pivotal role in production transformation through manufacturing automation, supply chain management, and improving ROI.