Understanding the Latest Supply Chain, Smart Manufacturing, and Workforce Management Trends

Oct 6, 2022 8:40:21 AM . Julia Walsh

Webalo reviews the key takeaways from the Gartner supply chain symposium/expo in June and September 2022, highlighting how  manufacturers can advance their supply chain optimization, smart manufacturing, and workforce management! 

The pandemic created a “tech boom” in manufacturing supply chains, which led to the rapid adoption of technology. As things settle, gaps are emerging in technology strategies, and Gartner’s supply chain symposium events had industry leaders and experts assess the status quo and establish a way forward. 

Creating a more resilient operation with a larger risk appetite and a more human-centric work structure is extremely important going forward. The worker frontline does not only need to have a say in enterprise technology adoptions; they also need to be a focal point for performance augmentation and organizational improvement.  

Organizations will need to rethink their hyper-automation strategies and understand that change needs to be well-considered and well-executed, which requires support, understanding, and effort from the frontline and other management tiers within global supply chains. Let’s examine the key highlights and trends from Gartner’s symposium through the lens of workforce digitization and enterprise optimization. 

Supply Chain Trends:

Supply chains are taking a more central role in organizations, and this has increased the amount of value creation we expect from them. 

Gartner predicts that by 2026 more than 50% of organizations will compete as collaborative digital ecosystems. In fact, 74% of supply chain leaders expect to support new business models by the end of 2022. Reducing employee cognitive overload and creating a new employee value proposition is a top priority for leaders.

Figure 1- Source: Gartner

New business models will rely on supply chains to move enterprises from operational excellence to commercial innovation, from location-centric to human-centric work design, and from real-time analytics to real-time decision execution, as depicted in Figure 1. Given increasing market volatility, 60% of enterprises expect supply chains to make consistent and accurate decisions in real-time.

Regarding the state of global disruptions and the art and science of dealing with them, Gartner states that 68% of supply chain leaders say they have not been ready for constant high-risk events and have only been reactive at best. 57% of respondents from the board of directors survey indicated that they are increasing their risk appetite. Expanding partner ecosystems and executing ecosystem orchestration epically for high-risk areas is seen as a priority. 

Webalo Insights- Creating a supply chain ecosystem that is capable of real-time decisions depends on the way an enterprise’s technology stack is structured. The heart of an operation, which in most cases is a manufacturing plant or a network of manufacturing plants, is often left outside the loop. This hinders supply chain visibility and agility and slows decision-making speeds. 

Figure 2- Source: Webalo Inc.

Webalo connects shop floor and frontline events to the broader supply chain and integrates with the enterprise technology stack. When this happens, visibility into the supply chain increases, and this helps supply chain personnel make better, more accurate decisions in real time..  

Since the platform allows workers to create their own apps, it is in line with the human-centric approach advocated by Gartner and allows for innovation possibilities through tighter collaboration and better process insights.  

Smart Manufacturing and Workforce Management Trends:

Gartner explains that developing the digital acumen of the frontline workforce and empowering them with the right tools is a major driving force in smart manufacturing. Companies are reconsidering the adoption of digital tech en masse as a strategy to hyper-automate operations. Funding models for smart technology are being reconfigured to be more affordable and risk-free in order to expedite adoption at the local site level across global organizations.  

Figure 3- Source: Gartner

Empowering the workforce is an obvious priority, and the way to do so is by providing them with accessible technology and intelligence. Anything that helps them understand their tasks better and make better decisions at work is a way of giving them more autonomy and accountability while improving their digital acumen.  

According to Gartner, work flexibility, both on teams and individually, makes workers more effective by 18%. In manufacturing, this translates to solutions that create a mobile workforce capable of collaborating beyond functional lines to deliver better results. Furthermore, 77% of candidates say it is very important that their employer provides opportunities to learn skills that will make them more broadly employable. This would mean not only enabling them to use digital tools but also configuring these tools in a way that helps them do more and learn more at the same time.


Figure 4- Source: Gartner

A major challenge to attaining smart manufacturing is organizational and manufacturing network complexity, and the other critical hurdle is a lack of budget. As solutions, Gartner prescribes developing an operating model to fit the network strategy and creating a simplified network design.

Webalo Insights- Manufacturing companies need to realize that digital transformation is a journey and not a step change, which means that technology needs to enable the change and the change needs to be well managed, especially from a workforce perspective. Webalo begins by digitizing workflows and forms. This enables workers to quickly adapt to the changes since tasks are also enabled on mobile devices and operating systems that they are already familiar with (refer to Figure 5).

Figure 5- Source: Webalo Inc.

Next in the journey comes the digitization of workflows and events, which not only helps speed up containment and CAPA actions but also enables real-time, collaborative decision-making within the manufacturing network. Finally, as the ultimate stage, the entire value delivery process is digitized and the platform is integrated with all enterprise applications. This helps deliver the supply chain visibility and real-time decision-making capability cited as key trends by Gartner.

Webalo enables citizen development and citizen analytics by allowing the frontline workforce to design task-specific apps that help them execute their jobs and gather data. This data, when put into context by the platform’s analytical tools,  becomes the actionable intelligence required for better decisions. From a funding standpoint, Webalo advocates for lighthouse deployment, which delivers faster results since the whole operation uses the platform. Since results are obtained faster, ROI is also faster.   

Final Thoughts:

Based on the trends discussed at the Gartner events, it is evident that smart manufacturing is directly dependent on workforce empowerment. When this philosophy of empowering the frontline extends to the supply chain, it creates the flexibility and speed needed to deal with the uncertainty and disruptions that punctuate today’s global markets.

Webalo is a frontline workforce digitization and enterprise optimization platform that is geared toward this new vision of smart manufacturing and puts workers first both in terms of platform operation and in terms of performance optimization. It fills in the gap between the shop floor and enterprise applications like MES and ERP and creates a platform that decimates data silos and improves collaboration and real-time decision-making. Manufacturers struggling to get results even after investments in complex automation and enterprise applications must seriously consider Webalo as a partner.