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Manufacturing Strategies for Weathering a Natural Disaster

Written by Michael Clark
August 10, 2015

Manufacturers need tools to prepare for any business obstacle.

Manufacturers need tools to prepare for any business obstacle.

Natural disasters that have taken place over the last few years have highlighted the need for real-time data in a global economy. Solutions to manufacturer supply chain logistics management problems are solved through diversification and unified information systems.

How Natural Disasters Affect Manufacturers

Manufacturers cannot rely on approximations and poor communication from material suppliers when emergencies strike. In recent times, companies have turned to enterprise software solutions and mobile technologies to keep their processes ready for any event.

Strategy Business Magazine examined how manufacturers in Japan responded to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. Companies that were able to weather the setbacks created by the disasters credited their success to diversification. These businesses were run in such a way that the manufacturing was not contingent on a single location. Real-time reporting was necessary from multiple facilities to communicate which areas had suffered damage and which buildings were unaffected and able to continue operations.

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Distribution was the major issue for most Japanese manufacturers. Multiple companies found themselves with bottlenecked inventories they had to store and find buyers for once business resumed. Certain companies started to implement warehouse automation software for better inventory control after the disasters so they would be prepared for future incidents.

Receiving materials for manufacturing is another issue. Spend Matters suggested companies that are prepared for natural disasters may suffer because of actions from suppliers that are not. Diversification is not always an option for production plants trying to limit costs. A manufacturer may depend on a limited number of suppliers – if any one of them is hit by disaster, operations could be severely affected. Companies should communicate with their material partners to ensure there is a disaster plan in place.

Using Data to Prepare for Natural Disasters

A company-wide software system provides visibility during times of normal operation and when obstacles occur. The Silicon Valley Business Journal reported new software specifically designed to aid manufacturers during times of emergency is now available. The flexible solution monitors the flow of components and products and reduces the risk of delayed deliveries. It can be accessed through company computers or shop floor mobile devices.

Manufacturing facilities and warehouses need mobile enterprise applications to prepare for natural disasters. Implementing the proper mobile data collection solutions provides company ERP systems with the real-time data they need for complete organization visibility. Warehouse workers equipped with barcode scanners deliver real-time details on each piece of merchandise in inventory and updates on supplier shipments. Manufacturing employees need reporting tools that are convenient and able to keep up with the speed of operations. Manufacturers can make the data visible for partners or vendors so they are all working off the same platform.

If a company is diversified, each facility needs to be working with access to real-time data across the business. The RFgen white paper titled “Solving the Remote Warehouse Dilemma with High Availability Distributed Solutions” explained how multiple factories and warehouse locations can create IT issues if they are not using uniform information systems. RFgen’s high availability mobile solutions can overcome the challenges associated with managing remote warehouses. Manufacturers must find a strategy for supply chain logistics management that is flexible, reduces complexities and responds to changes so they are ready for any problems that occur.