From simulation to reality: Five key considerations for CIOs

By Mikko Urho, CEO of Visual Components
Mikko Urho, CEO of Visual Components, says pressure is mounting on CIOs to find ways of delivering continued innovation and digital transformation

Last year proved tumultuous for many industries, not least the manufacturing sector. The energy crisis and rising material costs have contributed to organisations exploring cost-cutting measures to ensure continued profitability.

However, such measures have cost businesses in other ways. Almost seven in ten (69%) manufacturing decision makers agree their sustainability strategy has been restricted due to a squeeze on expenditure, according to research by Visual Components.

As progress stalls, companies risk turning customers away, especially given two-fifths of European consumers say sustainability is crucial to them.

With IT projects coming to a standstill, pressure is mounting on CIOs to find a way to deliver on continued innovation and digital transformation. This year, they’ll need to keep the following five trends at the forefront of their minds to ensure they continue to support their organisation’s goals.

1. The CIO role will evolve

The CIO’s core responsibilities were previously focused on providing technology to help the business. While that still rings true today, many are also operating as a strategic advisor, business partner and business model enabler. Moving forward, they’ll need to take active leadership in not only identifying technology solutions that benefit employees, but also help to upskill them is using these platforms.

Expanding the talents of employees is paramount to plugging the digital skills gap. Only 54% of Europeans between the ages of 16 and 74 possess at least basic digital skills. CIOs have a responsibility to impart knowledge and help inspire the new generation of digital natives.

2. ​​​​​​​Sustainability must stay on the agenda

CIOs are now emerging as key figures in the drive towards sustainability and implementation of ESG initiatives. Major weather events occurring across the globe have raised awareness of the effects of climate change on the planet. Organisations have subsequently complied with voluntary regulations and frameworks, but more regulators are now requiring disclosures for non-financial metrics.

CIOs should explore how simulation technology can lead to a reduction in waste and optimisation of floor layouts. Beyond the factory floor, wider use of the technology in colleague and client communications can encourage remote meetings and reduce the need for car or plane travel, helping to reduce carbon emissions.

3. Humans must take centre stage in production process

Employees are looking to benefit from higher wages, flexible hours, career progression opportunities and workplace wellbeing initiatives.

Research shows 65% of UK-based employees want to feel a strong sense of belonging at work – and HR departments won’t be the only functions with a responsibility to support their workers. While CIOs have traditionally been focused on technology integrations and their business benefits, they will need to help support people with the right solutions.

Simulation software will help build the capabilities of current workers in optimising manufacturing environments. It can also match the expectations of digitally savvy employees entering the workplace. With one in five workers saying they are extremely or very likely to switch employers at some point over the coming year, integration will help stem the tide of resignations from the industry.

4. Supply chains will require greater resiliency

Just as manufacturers had pivoted to deal with Covid-related lockdowns and blocked shipping lanes, recent operations have been scuppered by material component shortages, rising prices and military conflict.

Where materials must be imported from remote locations, CIOs will need to help prepare the wider business for inevitable supply chain disruptions.

The adoption of simulation tools can improve production flexibility and agility, while the implementation of lean or small batch production can serve to suit available resources. Semi-finished products, or sub-assemblies, can be customised later in the manufacturing process. Robot offline programming (OLP) can enable the rapid implementation of robots to work on small batches when required.

5. Reshoring strategies will need to be accounted for

Organisations are exploring reshoring as a way of dealing with cost pressures, global port congestion and an overreliance on offshore facilities.

According to Visual Components data, almost four in 10 (38%) manufacturers are planning to reshore operations back to their country of origin. CIOs will need to ensure the right technology is in place to enable increased production capacity on site.

Simulation software can scale to meet these demands and devise potential scenarios where incoming materials and components will increase in volume. A virtual sandbox environment provides employees with the ability to test any number of potential eventualities in a risk-free setting, before applying these learnings to the real factory floor.

Becoming business champions

Sustainability, human needs, the supply chain and new production strategies are just some of the key areas that CIOs cannot neglect in 2023. However, rather than being weighed down by expectation, simulation software can elevate CIOs to be business champions. With this technology in place, they can take the lead in encouraging employees to achieve new efficiencies in the production process, acquire new responsibilities and encourage innovation.

Mikko Urho is the CEO of Visual Components


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