In the wake of the recent COP26 climate summit, sustainability is at the forefront of many of our minds, and it is clear that consumers are looking to businesses to play their part in helping to tackle climate change.
But what are the most significant challenges facing manufactures at the moment?
Skill shortages and the new expectations of a modern workforceOf the more than 4.6 million manufacturing jobs the industry will generate in the coming year, less than half will be filled. A staggering statistic, but undeniably true. So, why is this happening?
The expectations of a new and burgeoning workforce, and industry’s failure to meet those expectations, would seem to be the answer. This new generation would sooner remain in a job for which their skills are redundant than provide their skills to an employer who lacks the values they extol. And many are doing precisely that, creating a huge skills-shortage and industry crisis.
Good management, access to ongoing training, supporting education and a willingness to adapt to changing work practises are all key remedies. The factory whistles and clocking-in cards of former eras need not apply; indeed, a pervasive belief that such attitudes prevail deters many from entering the industry in the first place.
Here are some ways employers can find and hold onto valuable skilled workers:
- Employees should be trained to do their job and training should be ongoing.
- Work with local educators, schools, colleges and universities to ensure robust in-house or public courses are available to train new and old skills.
- Employees who feel valued, respected and needed will respond with loyalty and effort.
- Keep challenging your employees; give them a reason to grow and learn.
- Meet mistakes and problems with understanding and support.
- Show gratitude for the time, effort and ability of your employees.
- Ensure workers always have everything they need to do the job you expect them to do.
New tech, keeping up with the Jones’In a world racing at breakneck speed toward the Next Big Thing, keeping up with technology can sometimes be an uphill struggle. But for manufacturers, staying one step ahead of the curve may spell the difference between success and failure.
There are several things you can do:
- Use a business consulting firm who specialize in technology. They will help you select the right technology for your needs and can provide ongoing IT support.
- Future proof your business by installing the necessary wiring, electrical outlets and other peripherals you could potentially need in years to come. Again, use a business consulting firm where necessary, this time with expertise in electronic networks.
- Train employees with new technology and use the latest version software and hardware. Possessing the latest technology may be pointless if your employees can only unlock 50% of its potential.
- Research how your business can use and connect with the Internet of Things (IoT), Enterprise Resource Planning technology, automation systems like artificial intelligence (AI) and software systems specifically designed for your industry. Such concepts can seem daunting now but will soon be commonplace. Don’t get left behind!
CybercrimeThe threat posed by online crime is now inextricably connected to the need for data protection. Information stored on servers with poor security not only places individuals at risk of exposure to cybercrime but leaves the companies and corporations linked to that data potentially liable. Businesses found to be at fault can face devastating legal action and crippling fines likely to leave their accounts and reputation in tatters.
Tackling cybersecurity should be paramount for any manufacturer whose business is in any way connected to data resource management.
Start by getting up to speed on the 2018 Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), legislation designed to regulate how data is processed, stored and used.
Every employee in your company must legally be aware of GDPR. Visit eugdpr.org for more details.
Even if your business only uses the most basic of internet connectivity (email and internet), install anti-virus and anti-malware software on all devices. Regularly scan systems and be circumspect about the software you download and install.
The most significant challenge associated with cybersecurity is the ever-changing nature of the threat itself, so stay on top of the latest cybersecurity news. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a good resource, with guidelines for risk assessment frameworks and a data-focused approach to security.
Rise of the RobotThe world of AI has evolved at an almost exponential rate over the past few years and looks set to evolve even further in years to come.
Manufacturers who fail to recognise this ‘rise of the robot’ can expect to be left in the dust compared with those who embrace the new technology.
AI algorithms now operate independently across vast swathes of the internet and the Internet of Things (IoT), much of their chatter and activity entirely independent of human influence. But AI also pertains to robotics whose systems are capable of both learning and adapting. Many such systems already operate in factories and homes around the world.
Alexa, the famous Google AI and Apple’s Siri are effectively crude forerunners to a much more advanced and intelligent system likely to emerge over the course of the next five to ten years. These next gen AIs will utilise advances in quantum computing and revolutionise the way businesses operate both on and offline.
For now you can explore the challenges faced by AI and incorporate existing technology into the manufacturing process. Research recent uses by looking at the way AI is currently integrated and consider incorporating Artificial Intelligence into your own manufacturing process.
Managing currency volatilityFor manufacturing businesses with import/export costs to manage, volatility in the currency market can present a significant challenge.
With exchange rates often moving dramatically in response to things like Brexit or the US-China trade dispute, invoices can end up costing more than expected, or the return on goods sold can be lower than forecast.
This makes budgeting effectively and controlling cash flow really difficult. In a capricious world of ever-changing political turmoil and economic instability the need to stay on top of currency movements has never been more important.
Here are some simple steps you can take to stay abreast of exchange rate movements and protect your currency transfers from sudden shifts.
- Employ the services of a currency transfer specialist.
- Sign up to receive regular market updates straight to your inbox.
- Explore the tools offered by a currency provider (forward contracts, for example, allow you to fix an exchange rate for up to a year before making a transfer, while rate alerts notify you by text or email when the market moves to your desired rate).
Whether you’re a small business or a sprawling multi-national corporation, you’re likely to face at least one of these challenges at some point in the coming year. Preparation, awareness and the implementation of practical solutions are all key to meeting each challenge head-on.
Currencies Direct is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange and international payment services. Since we were formed in 1996, we've maintained our focus on providing innovative foreign exchange and international currency transfer services to corporations of all sizes, online sellers and private individuals. We have also expanded our services to provide dynamic and pioneering "business to business" solutions to help companies, tier 2/3 banks and other non-bank financial institutions to process their international payments. Our headquarters are in the City of London (United Kingdom) and we have operations in continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Currencies Direct is jointly owned by private equity firms Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital.