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  January 7th, 2021 | Written by

The New Normal in Manufacturing – A Digitized Future

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  • For manufacturers, the new normal is an opportunity to address short-term challenges and lay the groundwork for future.
  • Manufacturers have rapidly deployed technologies that have better positioned them in the new normal.

We can learn a lot from history. In the face of a global pandemic that has upended the business world, the measures taken in the short-term will lead to significant shifts that will last for decades.

We saw how the Great Depression dramatically changed the role of government within financial markets. Likewise, how the Great Recession of 2007-08 created a shift in value from ownership to experiences.

The global pandemic has already introduced and accelerated several trends that will likely become entrenched into our daily lives for years to come. We see a virtual shift happening with consumer trends like work-from-home, video communication, online purchasing, e-learning, streaming services, and more taking hold.

This is the new normal in which we live, work, and trade. And it’s here to stay. For manufacturers, the new normal is an opportunity to address short-term challenges and lay the groundwork for future resilience.

Acceleration of Industry 4.0

COVID-19 created immediate challenges for manufacturers.

1. Consumer demand shocks in both volume and variety of manufactured goods

2. Workforce shifts with social distancing regulations, hygiene mandates, and employee health-related absences

3. Supply chain fragility resulting in raw material and finished good shortages, impacts to just-in-time production processes, and stockouts

To address these short-term issues, manufacturers undertook various initiatives to build supply chain resiliencies to improve visibility, diversify their supply chains through reshoring, and deploying innovative technologies.

It’s fair to say that the pandemic is the catalyst that pushed the smart factory vision (Industry 4.0) forward faster.

Manufacturers are now able to gain a competitive advantage by adapting and building on this new normal. According to Bain & Company, “For companies willing to take the right actions during this critical recovery phase: the rewards may prove transformative, propelling them into the ranks of true performance leaders.”

The Future of Manufacturing Looks Digitized

A McKinsey survey of manufacturers found that:

-93% of manufacturing and supply-chain leaders plan to focus on the resilience of their supply chain

-39% have already implemented a nerve-center/control-tower approach to increase end-to-end transparency in their supply chain

-A quarter are fast-tracking automation programs to address worker shortages

-90% plan to invest in talent for digitization

As manufacturers look to advance their long-term strategies of building supply chain resiliency, reshoring production, introducing new distribution strategies, and implementing Industry 4.0 technologies, the key to success will be creating a digital muscle.

Supply chain resiliency – manufacturers must establish end-to-end visibility of the supply chain to improve resiliency. Enhanced visibility is made possible through technology, such as manufacturing execution systems, that can deliver network agility and visibility, digital collaboration, insights for decision-making, and team empowerment.

Reshoring – to reshore production, effective inventory management and supply chain tools that provide tracking and authentication are necessary. Automation of manufacturing processes will also be essential to make reshoring economical and attract technology-savvy workers.

New Distribution Strategies – direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategies have proven valuable during the pandemic. While it will take a cultural change to implement D2C in manufacturing, it will also require integrating technology systems, such as warehouse management systems and manufacturing execution systems.

Industry 4.0 technologies – manufacturers have rapidly deployed technologies that have better positioned them in the new normal. These technologies include 5G connectivity, IoT sensors, advanced automation, AI-powered analytics, and robotics solutions. With many of these rollouts completed in record time, manufacturers need to keep their eye on the big picture and look to further optimize these systems to increase efficiencies and transform capabilities across the supply chain.

A Partner for Your Digital Journey

At Generix Group North America, we are experts in creating efficiencies across the entire supply chain. With over 20 years of experience and a global team of 600+ experts, our series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite can help build the resilience and visibility your organization needs across your manufacturing operations and supply chain.

Our solutions are in use around the world by more than 6,000 customers and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.

You can also read our eBook, Manufacturing and the New Normal: Moving Forward from 2020, to learn more about how digitization will prepare your manufacturing organization for the future.


Doug Mefford has more than 25 years experience in the Supply Chain industry.  His diverse background includes roles across many operational functions, from inventory control to operational leadership within an Omni Channel distribution operation.  Additionally, within the software space he has held roles including quality and business analyst, design lead and product management.  He brings his cross functional experience in supply chain operations and software product delivery to bear in helping define the direction for Generix Group North America’s Solochain WMS. Prior to his time at Generix, Mefford was the operations manager for the Dallas Cowboys for eight years, overseeing their warehouse operations, retail distribution, silk screen manufacturing and direct-to-consumer order fulfillment. Doug studied at Northern Illinois University, and is greatly involved in the Illinois Special Olympics