Technology Record - Issue 24: Spring 2022

104 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E Manufacturing has adapted to unprecedented disruption since the industry last met face-to-face at Hannover Messe in 2019. During that time, companies already on their digital transformation journeys proved much better equipped to deal with the challenges than those that were further behind. As a result, manufacturers across the industry have accelerated their investment in enabling agile factories, supporting hybrid teams, delivering always-on services and building resilient supply chains – all while improving sustainability. Microsoft is bringing together the tools and expertise to help them reach those goals. “All the capabilities manufacturers need exist today across Microsoft and our partner ecosystem,” says Colin Masson, global industry marketing director of manufacturing at Microsoft. “With Cloud for Manufacturing we’re bringing those resources together to eliminate any seams between the technologies and accelerate the deployment of targeted solutions.” This convergence of transformation resources is timely, as recent events have highlighted that agile manufacturing extends across shop floors, supply chains, customers’ premises and even into employees’ homes. For instance, according to research from the latest Microsoft Work Trend Index, about half of the industry’s frontline workers say labour shortages and supply chain disruptions make it difficult to do their jobs. But many also think that new technologies bring opportunities for the industry and that advanced tools could reduce on-the-job stress. “Manufacturers have had to keep up with changing markets while navigating supply chain disruption,” says Masson. “Factories are now making things they didn’t make before, or they’ve have had to adapt their processes because they couldn’t get certain parts or raw materials – and they need to keep the shop floor up to speed with the latest bill of materials and work instructions. At the same time, manufacturers already faced the challenge of bridging the skills gap, and they’ve had to find more creative ways to support frontline workers on the factory floor. Above all, they need to ensure workers’ safety, connect on-site staff with remote expertise and supervision, and rapidly deploy new tools that can augment workforce skills. All of this has intensified the human lens on agile factory investments. Alongside industrial internet of things, human-machine interface and manufacturing execution system technology, manufacturers are BY J ACQU I GR I F F I THS Agile As manufacturers prepare to meet again at Hannover Messe 2022, Microsoft’s Colin Masson discusses the role of the agile factory in shaping the industry’s future evolution