Manufacturers can increase competitiveness using IT

The past few sluggish years left some people wondering about the manufacturing sector’s future, but in 2012, the industry bounced back in full force.

Manufacturing exports reached $143 billion over the past 12 months, a 6.1 percent year-over-year increase. Not only that, but the sector on top of four straight months of growth. Firms are also hiring again at rates they haven’t seen in years, to the point that there actually aren’t enough qualified candidates to go around.

As the manufacturing landscape becomes increasingly competitive, companies are expected to perform tasks faster and more accurately than ever before. This has put a strain on several traditional practices – particularly those relating to IT – which has trouble keep up with modern-day expectations.

IT will be key to sustained success

Now more than ever, advanced IT will be imperative for manufacturers to experience continued success.

A recent Gartner study ranked every industry by the strength of the relationship between IT practices and business success. The manufacturing sector (automotive, computers, telecommunications and electronics) made the top 10.

There are a number of ways in which advanced IT will provide manufacturers with a competitive advantage going forward, including:

Data protection:

A recent Verizon report revealed that nearly 20 percent of data breaches in 2012 resulted from state-sponsored cybercriminals aiming to steal intellectual property from American firms, while a separate study from Symantec found that the manufacturing industry was the most sought-after sector of targeted attacks. IT practices will be vital to thwart the dangers being brought about by increasingly complex systems and supply chains.

Preventing downtime:

More operations are automated which places an added emphasis on maintaining uptime. Therefore, avoiding outages will be essential at preventing the possibility of lost revenue.

Identifying qualified employees:

While several industries are suffering from too few jobs, the manufacturing sector is having the opposite problem. In 2011, 5 percent of available positions (or 600,000 jobs total) were left vacant because firms could not locate candidates with the necessary skill sets. At the same time, more job seekers, including 37 percent of Millennials, prioritize new technology when looking for a place to work. IT solutions can help both with finding prospective employees and meeting their needs.

The manufacturing industry isn’t showing signs of slowing down. By implementing the right IT practices, companies can stay one step ahead.

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