In manufacturing, getting as close as possible to suppliers and customers to create the most efficient and responsive processes has always been a core goal. To establish these relationships and meet the global appetite for competitively priced products, we’ve seen U.S. companies set up shop wherever they could find growing demand, inexpensive and abundant raw materials, and affordable labor. They’ve gone off-shore to China and India and near-shore to Canada and Mexico, and they would re-shore when energy and cost paradigms shifted.
But now, it’s time to next-shore. Next-shoring is a concept introduced in 2014 by McKinsey thought leaders, and it’s still about closeness to supply and demand. Manufacturers want to be as near as they can to emerging markets, innovation and talent pools. The difference now is that it’s not about moving operations geographically to achieve this closeness. It’s about reinventing the manufacturing ecosystem.
Next-shoring happens through collaboration technology. Investments in innovation hubs, digitized operations and talent development drive the movement, and they ensure that manufacturing stays in motion, always on the cutting edge. In other words, it’s no longer sufficient to react to trends; companies must now sense them, working closely with partners and employees to analyze, iterate, test and rush to market. The goal is for all parts of the organization to understand changes and opportunities simultaneously and quickly coalesce around a plan of action.
So what exactly do manufacturers need to next-shore successfully? Here are some key first steps:
Build an innovation hub: R&D is the bread and butter of innovation. And the more people collaborating, the more creative and inventive the ideas will be. Use collaboration technology platforms to draw closer to suppliers, to share competitive intelligence, interlace processes and supply chains, and develop new products for discerning customers. Collaborative Decision Environments enable centralized brainstorming, design customization and big data analysis to synthesize customer input. It makes available voice, video, content and audio tools to promote ideation and feedback. And through this technology, innovation lives everywhere—it exists within office walls, laboratories and production floors, but it also transcends them, extending to home offices, mobile devices and anywhere key contributors happen to be.
Digitize manufacturing operations: Digital systems connect R&D to production. Robotics, sensors, 3D modeling and other online technologies streamline and speed product design, helping with technical elements and communication amongst internal stakeholders. As manufacturing companies continue to evolve from labor-intensive to knowledge-driven enterprises, this digitization, especially the collaboration aspects of it, prove ever more critical. Polycom’s collaboration technologies link cross-functional teams, integrate design and operations and continually align sales and product groups to meet customer expectations.
Develop and train highly skilled talent: Collaboration technologies enable manufacturers to recruit and retain the best talent. They eliminate relocation requirements and accommodate diverse work styles, which help attract the top candidates for leadership and subject matter expert roles. Companies can use Polycom to incorporate predesigned interactive and live virtual training modules to teach workers the skills they need to excel and build long, valuable career paths. Through online knowledge sharing platforms, training can extend beyond the enterprise to include suppliers and promising future job candidates.
Next-shoring is the future of manufacturing. Its focus on rapid innovation through virtual proximity, digitized operations and highly skilled workforces promises strong relationships with customers and suppliers.
Does your company have the collaborative technology it needs to make next-shoring its business model?