Disruption Drives Adaptability and Innovation in Manufacturing

Disruption Drives Adaptability and Innovation in Manufacturing
Disruption Drives Adaptability and Innovation in Manufacturing

As senior vice president for DELMIAworks (formerly IQMS), Cheri Williams spearheaded the delivery of implementation services and training for its manufacturing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution system (MES) software. Now, following her promotion to CEO, Williams is leading DELMIAworks into its next stage of growth as part of the Dassault Systèmes family.

Williams brings to her role nearly three decades of experience in enterprise software leadership roles, as well as experience in the manufacturing sector. She also has been a speaker at “Women in Technology” forums where she collaborated on leadership and growth ideas with other software industry leaders.

Recently, we had an opportunity to talk with Williams about the shifts in manufacturing she was seeing prior to the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 on DELMIAworks’ customers, and how the company has adapted to support their needs.

You have been working with DELMIAworks customers for nearly four years. What changes have you seen over that time?

Prior to the disruption of COVID-19, we were seeing three key trends with our customer base. One is more automation, mostly in production and process monitoring, so that portion of our solution has seen an uptick. The second is an increase in the regulatory compliance requirements facing our customers. We’ve been able to help them provide the kind of complete records of production required to meet these regulatory demands. The third is that we’re seeing a broader mix of manufacturers. Traditionally, most of our customers have been in plastics and plastic injection molding, but we’re seeing  more customers in metal fabrication, food and beverage, medical devices, electronics, and other industries.

How has COVID-19 affected your customers?

At first, it felt like everything contracted, but then we soon realized that our customer base is very resilient. Their front-end office workers, who were using the ERP system, were able to do all their work remotely and keep their operations going. We also saw a lot of our customers start retooling their businesses to be more relevant to what was going on in the marketplace. They weren’t giving up their core business, but they were supplementing it by producing COVID-19 critical items, such as masks, rapid test kits, and personal protective equipment.
The other aspect, as you can imagine, is that manufacturers in the medical device sector are coming to us because they can’t keep up with demand. They are looking for rapid deployment and don’t have six months or a year to set-up a full ERP and MES implementation. They’re asking, "What is the core application we can get up and running like that to impact our business immediately?"

What measures has your company taken to support these customers?

For manufacturers that need to ramp up immediately, we take a core set of our platform that runs their business end-to-end, and get it up and running for them as quickly as possible—so within a short period of time they are benefitting from the core solution. At any point, thereafter, in a second phase, they can add advanced functions to help continue supporting the demands of their businesses. This is something I continue to challenge our team, to help our customers get value out of the solution quickly, and build a solution foundation that is capable of supporting the customer’s future needs.
We also have an initiative we call, "Business Must Go On," which seems to be the attitude that we are seeing manufacturers adopting. We saw our customers’ resiliency, and we began thinking, "How do we support these manufacturers?"  So, as a business, we revamped our processes—everything from our sales demos to our implementation methodology, to our training and our technical support people—so that we could meet our customers’ needs while being 100% virtual.
We’ve had customers that were underway in implementing our solution, getting ready to go live, but we were no longer able to go on-site. We’re not physically able to sit there with them, so now we’re using creative solutions to keep their implementation and their business moving forward. Our team has not only been creative with GoToMeeting for training and demonstrations; they also are testing the use of devices, such as GoPros to be able to see their shop floor and observe the customer’s processes remotely. We all have had to become resilient and creative during these unusual circumstances.

What lessons have you learned this past year?

Probably one of the biggest things that we and our customers have both learned is getting comfortable with remote operations and support. Kudos to our manufacturers who were ingrained with having totally onsite operations and are successfully continuing to run their business with minimal people on the shop floor and a more remote workforce. Kudos also to our internal team for providing templates and finding creative ways to provide remote over-the-shoulder training and support.
We’ve also come to realize that manufacturing will continue to be strong through 2021, even with this COVID-19 situation. For the next several months, we will continue to see this shifting dynamic in terms of what manufacturers are producing and how they're able to operate their businesses. Having an ERP or MES solution has become increasingly important as they think about how to best manage their business and production floor in uncertain times. The ability to quickly change, adapt and execute is what the current environment demands. We have the mindset and ability to stand side-by-side in support of our customers as we both maneuver through these challenging times.

Delmiaworks is part of Dassault Systèmes, which defines itself as “the 3DEXPERIENCE Company” that wants to be a global hub for all levels of manufacturing solutions.

About The Author

Renee Basset is the Chief Editor of automation.com.

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