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Embracing Automation in Manufacturing Processes
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May 10, 2021 Blog

 

Authored by: Zakir Ahmed, Senior Vice President & GM – Asia Pacific & Japan at Kofax

The manufacturing industry was greatly impacted by the disruption to business processes during the pandemic. The initial progress from automating processes proved to be insufficient to address the scale of disruption, which pushed leaders to accelerate digitisation across geographically dispersed end-to-end operations and silos. A recent Kofax survey of IT decision-makers found that only 8 per cent of APAC respondents have fully automated manufacturing processes for products and services in their organisation.

Automating paper-based processes, including barcode reading, loading and unloading of products, and adopting advanced analytics capabilities can help manufacturing organisations cut costs, improve operational efficiency and gain insights to enhance customer experiences. This is also essential to ensuring employee safety and productivity in the current environment.

How Automation is Progressing in Asia Pacific

The digitalisation journey began for most manufacturing organisations with the adoption of robotic process automation (RPA), which uses software robots to automate manual processes and support employees in completing tasks. Studies have found that RPA has improved productivity, revenue, quality, speed, customer satisfaction, and market position for organisations that have taken this first step. According to GlobalData, Asia Pacific is set to lead artificial intelligence growth as COVID-19 restrictions further drive RPA deployment in the region’s manufacturing sector.

In the current environment, Asia Pacific manufacturers must build on the positive contributions of RPA investments and scale these benefits across the enterprise. This will make it possible to adapt quickly in a rapidly-changing industry and offer greater value to consumers through innovative services. An IHS Markit study shows that manufacturing sectors across the region have experienced a significant rebound since the end of 2020 with production expected to grow in line with GDP growth. Within the region, Singapore is well-positioned to lead Industry 4.0 technology adoption to support manufacturing operations including electronics, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

Outlook for Asia’s Manufacturing Sector

In Vietnam, the manufacturing and processing sector leads other sectors in foreign investment, accounting for 46 per cent of total registered investment capital in 2020. Many more countries are shifting operations to Vietnam, which will highlight inefficiencies including infrastructure bottlenecks and land shortages if manufacturers are ill-equipped to support industry growth. Automation will be necessary for manufacturing to keep up.

Many jobs in the manufacturing sector entail repetitive work, such as data collection. Indonesia, another leader in manufacturing with a strong economic backdrop, is determined to transform its Industry 4.0 economy. A Mckinsey study noted that 16 per cent of total work hours could be automated by 2030, potentially raising productivity and GDP growth to generate higher incomes for Indonesia’s workers and market opportunities for Indonesian companies.

With intelligent automation comes a scalable automation platform solution that bundles complementary, low-code and interoperable automation allowing organisations to realise the benefits of automation across the enterprise by applying the ‘best fit’ set of technologies along a workflow.

Taking the Next Step with Intelligent Automation

To take the next step in the automation journey, manufacturing organisations need a platform to streamline employee tasks, business processes and technology systems, as well as drive smarter overall operations. This will enable data to flow to relevant business units and external stakeholders. Connecting websites, portals and systems supporting supply and demand planning, order processing, inventory tracking and processing, and contract monitoring will also improve employee-customer connections and ensure high-quality experiences. Deploying an automation platform in the enterprise environment also allows IT teams to spend less time building and supporting new system integrations as the business changes and new technologies are implemented. Security and compliance issues will also be easier to detect in an automation platform.

Automating manual tasks can have massive benefits for the entire organisation. A little goes a long way in the current environment – especially in the manufacturing sector, which relies on high volume of data and the coordination of multiple processes and systems to operate seamlessly. Freeing up employees to focus on customer service and the organisation’s innovation agenda will provide critical benefits in the long term.

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