Meeting the Needs of the New Normal: Manufacturing during Pandemic

Robin Irvine
By: Robin Irvine
Date: March 31, 2020

Meeting the Needs of the New NormalThe COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside-down, and people and organisations are trying to adapt to the current environment and potential long-range impact. Food and beverage manufacturers are quickly needing to improve processes to meet the strain of consumer panic buying and prioritize replenishment for retailer’s rapidly depleting stock.

Novel coronavirus COVID-19 is new, but the impact is not a one-time event. The world is increasingly connected, and the idea of self-quarantine to contain virus spread, and preparation and panic buying beforehand, is likely to continue. Whether impact of virus or weather-related problems, manufacturers need to be able to meet the need during buying spikes, and have processes that support innovation and faster time to market. Companies that are running on legacy systems may find it harder to change existing processes and operations to meet heightened regulations, expectations, and mandated social distancing.

A Need for Flexibility

Rigid legacy systems, many being 7-20+ years old, are past their prime, with limited technical capabilities and modifications that are expensive to maintain. Modern ERP offers advanced capabilities with options to easily connect with other systems, streamlining processes and making good data increasingly available for better results. Cloud ERP allows for secure anywhere, anytime access on a single platform, providing flexibility in where employees can work and the ability to update the supply chain to meet current and local needs.

Food and beverage manufacturers have the greater access to industry-specific systems, designed for procurement, production, planning and execution, and distribution. For example, Infor CloudSuite Food and Beverage is designed to help with batch traceability, FDA compliance, planning, and scheduling, allowing manufacturers to bring new products to market faster and meet current regulatory requirements.

ERP for food and beverage can also help ensure appropriate social distancing on the plant floor. A system that has the flexibility to schedule shifts and stagger hours to have less employees close together at once, or have the ability to easily fill gaps from workers being out sick, can ensure error-free production planning and consistent outcomes. Manufacturers also need contingency plans if the plant needs to suspend production to allow for cleaning of facilities.

Buying Behavior Shifts

Besides the items and quantities consumers are buying, there is also a shift in how they are buying. With many unable to leave their house, shoppers are switching to buy online, pick up in store, curbside pickup, or for delivery. It’s likely that following self-quarantine, many won’t go back to the store if they can help it. Retailers need to be prepared for an untick in online ordering and other alternative shopping methods. Although these options are not new, many are trying for the first time during these stay home orders.

The Human Side of Manufacturing

Flexibility is important in your technology, but equally in your leadership. Partners, employees, and customers take note of the companies that take a human approach in their response to crisis. Companies like Apple are continuing to pay hourly workers and extend leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19. Others are allowing employees to work from home.

Many manufacturers have stepped up to fulfill needs within their customer base and communities. For example, some companies have enacted free shipping policies to keep customers buying, but safely at home. Shine Distillery & Grill in Portland, Oregon, have been making hand sanitizers for their customers and anyone who walks through the door. It’s not for sale and given away to help the community. It’s also not made from their bottled spirit, but from a part of the distillation run that’s normally discarded. Finding creative solutions to new problems and being helpful to the community not only benefits the organisation but retains trust from the public.

Determining Essentials

COVID-19 is alarming, but it’s also a learning moment. For example, manufacturers should pay attention to the items where demand sky rocketed. Using business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools such as Birst or Tableau, organisations can use data to forecast demand and time-sensitive surges, so they can be prepared for when disruption occurs.

Pandemics, natural disasters, and other events cause disruption to all businesses. Proper planning, innovative approaches, and modern technology can help manufacturers meet the needs of a more connected, global world.

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