The role of data in manufacturing’s post-pandemic recovery

Having faced such a turbulent period throughout the pandemic, what can manufacturers do now to accelerate, not only their own recovery, but the industry’s too?

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in manufacturing supply chains across the globe, impacting everything from production and transportation right through to demand. As a result of lockdowns, many workers were forced to stay at home, meaning production work that could not be carried out remotely was halted. Simultaneously, travel restrictions led to the slowing of transportation and delivery of raw materials and goods. These issues caused major disruption by themselves, but coupled with changing consumer demands, panic buying, and the reduced need for certain goods, manufacturers were forced to adapt their supply chains to accommodate the impact of the pandemic, or risk falling behind the competition.

Enhancing supply chains through rapid decision making

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant steps manufacturers can take to offset the challenges brought on by COVID-19 is to use targeted analytics to gain a clear understanding of production, demand, and productivity data from across the supply chain. With oversight and understanding of data from all areas of their business, manufacturing businesses are able to identify and reduce inefficiencies, increase productivity, and make robust supply and demand plans to save on costs.

Data is also an extremely valuable resource when shared within the wider industry space and can be used to help companies compete on a global scale.

In its European Strategy for Data, published in 2020, the European Commission even went so far as to suggest a single European data space to ensure European manufacturing companies can compete with their US and Chinese counterparts, who hold a significant portion of the world’s data and are using this to their advantage. Having access to industry data, as well as internal information, places manufacturers in the best possible position for responding and reacting to external sector influences and challenges – like COVID-19 – giving businesses the knowledge they need to make more informed and quicker decisions regarding their supply chain activity.


Digital Transformation Software Technology Computer ERP System BI Data - - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Image courtesy of Depositphotos


Transforming data into tangible results

For chemical and consumer goods manufacturer Henkel, using targeted analytics has been essential in navigating the COVID-19 crisis. Using data analytics software from Tableau to rapidly build reports and access and analyse real-time data, the manufacturer has increased its operational and supply chain efficiency by more than 10%, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

However, the business has not just implemented data analytics in response to the crisis. Henkel has made sure to develop a strong data culture among its employees, and has been using Tableau to consolidate all its data since 2016 – a decision that has saved the company more than €4m in energy and cost savings alone, further emphasising that when used as part of a manufacturer’s daily operations, data is crucial for transforming ways of working and offering long-term time, cost and productivity benefits.

Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic uncovered fragilities within manufacturing supply chains. Yet, as data-led manufacturers like Henkel have demonstrated, it has been possible to increase efficiencies and make cost savings even throughout this turbulent period. If manufacturers are to accelerate their own recovery, ensuring that data is implemented as part of a well-functioning data culture will be crucial for making faster and more accurate decisions. While, for the industry as a whole, evolving beyond traditional methods and the wider adoption and sharing of data will help to place businesses in a stronger position and accelerate post-pandemic recovery.

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*Header image courtesy of Shutterstock