Manufacturing at its core is about innovation, building capacity and talent, and growth. It is essential to all facets of our lives, and the past two years have pushed the industry into the spotlight as it has faced exceptional obstacles. But out of that disruption, we have seen great opportunity and witnessed manufacturers across industries rise to the challenge. Factories have pivoted to produce and deliver COVID-19 test kits and medical supplies while automotive manufacturers have tried adapting to chip shortages, and consumer product companies shifted to home delivery and curbside pick-up business models. Practically overnight, manufacturing has been propelled into a new era.
But we know there is still work to be done. That is one of the profound reasons why we are excited to join global leaders and our colleagues this week in Hannover, Germany at the world’s biggest trade show for industrial technology, Hannover Messe. We are very proud to have our valued partners like ABB, Ansys, Accenture, Avanade, AVEVA, Blue Yonder, Cognite, C3.ai, ICONICS, o9 Solutions, PwC, PROS, PTC, Rockwell Automation, Sight Machine, Tata Consultancy Services, and Tulip Interfaces at our booth to demonstrate how they are co-innovating with us to transform the industry.
As we embark on this week of innovation, we are seeing four key trends emerge including organizations empowering a more diverse workforce, including – if not – emphasizing their frontline workers, the implementation of new technologies to build agile factory environments, the reimagination of what a resilient supply chain looks like and the acceleration of sustainability.
Here we explore how these key trends are advancing the industry:
1. Empowering a diverse frontline manufacturing workforce
There are more than 427 million frontline manufacturing workers who are at the center of industrial digital transformation. The pandemic shed new light on the need to equip frontline workers with tools and solutions that accelerate sustainable growth and productivity. And we know our frontline workers are hungry for more tools. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, 63% of manufacturing frontline employees are excited about, and ready for, the job opportunities technology creates.
Today, Microsoft is introducing several product updates across Microsoft 365 designed to connect and engage frontline manufacturing workers:
- A new Updates app in Microsoft Teams lets frontline workers and managers streamline processes.
- Customers can now access Walkie Talkie in Microsoft Teams on a wide range of rugged hand-held Crosscall devices.
- The Microsoft Teams Shifts connector for Blue Yonder Workforce Management (WFM) is now generally available.
- New updates in Microsoft Viva allow customers to facilitate upskilling and learning to empower frontline workers to prepare for the future and improve safety and compliance. Learn more about these and other updates in the Microsoft 365 blog.
2. Fueling the next generation of factories with the industrial metaverse
The pandemic was a wake-up call for most, and manufacturers pivoted to accelerate their digital investments, from smart factories and IoT platforms to cloud computing and advanced analytics. In fact, 72% of manufacturers surveyed are already executing their smart factory strategies and 85% are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) as a key capability for the future, according to a manufacturing-focused IoT Signals Report, to be published in June.
To help accelerate these strategies, the Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing serves as the foundation for the “industrial metaverse,” which converges physical and digital worlds to bring the factory of the future to life through advanced technologies including IoT, AI, digital twins, mixed reality and autonomous systems. Manufacturers can use the industrial metaverse to transform the way machinery, equipment, buildings, factories and supply chains are created, operated and optimized.
Today our customers are already using industrial metaverse components to transform their operations. For example, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, one of the world’s leading robotics companies, will demonstrate how a virtual space and an actual machine can work together by utilizing digital twins. Additionally, we will show how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management can leverage robotics technology to improve the automation of warehousing functions, enabling supporting those functions, to improve warehouse productivity and overcome workforce shortages.
3. Designing more resilient supply chains
Supply chain is a topic that my team and I are focused on every day as we work with our customers to help them bring the art of possible to life in their supply chain operations. As a manufacturer ourselves, we understand the complexities of a global supply chain, and we have transformed two very complex ones of our own. We felt it was important to share our key learnings and best practices with our customers, which is one of the reasons why I am pleased to launch a new video and blog series focused on building a resilient supply chain.
At Hannover Messe, we will bring to life our latest investments and solutions that enable our customers and partners to create a more resilient supply chain. Dynamics 365 enhances end-to-end supply chain visibility, enables flexible real-time planning and optimizes and automates fulfillment by seamlessly coordinating business processes to mitigate constraints. With Microsoft Teams embedded within the Dynamics 365 supply chain portfolio, collaborating to achieve consensus with internal team members and external partners is more streamlined, and can happen in near real-time. Learn more about these and other updates from our Dynamics 365 team in this blog.
We also have a rich ecosystem of partners — including BlueYonder, o9 Solutions, aThingz, Cosmo Tech, PTC, ParkourSC, and ToolsGroup, to name just some — that offer robust supply chain solutions on the Microsoft platform. These range from digital twins across various functions and nodes of the supply chain ecosystem to real-time insights dashboards that unlock interoperability, visibility, planning and optimum execution of your supply chain. And this is the game changer on how we are helping customers do more in uncertain times.
4. Accelerating the manufacturing sustainability journey
Within manufacturing we have a tremendous opportunity to use the power of technology to achieve environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, improve sustainability and deliver long-term value for customers. As I meet with leaders around the world, one thing is clear: The path toward net zero is top of mind for everyone. Manufacturers realize the opportunity to build greater sustainability — and resilience — and we realize there is a long and critical road ahead.
Through our technology and our rich partner ecosystem, we are building a critical foundation for a sustainable future. We will feature how the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, available June 1, empowers manufacturers to accelerate their sustainability journey with solutions that unify data and enable comprehensive, integrated and increasingly automated sustainability management. Additionally, Siemens Energy and Microsoft will show how we are partnering to decarbonize countries and industries with innovative renewable energy solutions including the modernization of a power plant from BASF in Schwarzheide, Germany.
These are some of the exciting innovations happening today to help us build a stronger, more resilient and more sustainable tomorrow.
We look forward to seeing you this week at the Microsoft Booth in Hall 4 Stand E34, where you can join guided tours, speak with executives and manufacturing and supply chain experts, and discuss how Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing capabilities and solutions will be empowering intelligent manufacturing around the world.