How can manufacturers ensure the successful delivery of their complex projects under conditions of increasing uncertainty and a lack of required human resources? The solution lies in intelligent project and resource management. Read the article to gain insight into the specifics of manufacturing project management and learn useful recommendations on the effective orchestration of projects in the industry.

Specifics of Project Management for Manufacturing Companies

The manufacturing environment deals with creating physical products, which in turn embraces a variety of processes that should be properly managed. These processes also require human and material resources that should be utilized and administered intelligently to make sure products are created on time and within the approved budget.

To understand the specific character of the manufacturing projects, let’s take a look at the industry’s particular challenges that have a direct impact on manufacturing project management.

Increased use of technologies and related risks

Industry 4.0 is no longer a buzzword, it’s become an imperative for manufacturers to remain competitive. This involves the application of advanced technologies (digital twin, Industrial IoT, AI, etc.), which require additional costs, time to get a handle on them, and can be accompanied by risks and uncertainty.

A lack of human resources

It’s hard to mention an industry that isn’t affected by workforce shortage these days. This is mostly explained by the rapidly changing technology landscape and an insufficient number of people capable of dealing with these technologies, the competition for a digital workforce between industries as well as workers’ aging. As a result, a lack of resources has been an ongoing challenge for the manufacturing industry.

Sustainability requirements

Sustainability involves electrification and decarbonization efforts that in turn require investments and can essentially increase the product costs. Also, leveraging innovative technologies is always somewhat risky, as it may require more time to master them and it can be difficult to predict the project outcome.

Increasing demand for products

Following the COVID-19 pandemic’s decrease in demand, the manufacturing industry is currently experiencing its growth. Meeting the increasing demand under conditions of ongoing resource shortage is a challenge for manufacturing project management.

Uncertainty

There are various sources of uncertainty in manufacturing: inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, geopolitical tensions, changing market demands, and even the latest technology adoption. These uncertainties make it difficult to plan projects and predict their outcomes and may lead to unexpected situations during the production process.

Quick product delivery

To remain competitive in the market with the increased demand for products, manufacturers should reduce their projects’ lead time and deliver products as quickly as possible. This challenge is complexified by the demand for the high quality of delivered products and a lack of human resources.

Read more: Top 5 Manufacturing Trends for 2024: What’s New?

Therefore, manufacturers need to deliver more products with a limited number of human resources in a highly uncertain and risky environment. Read the next section to find out how the implementation of project management can help them meet these needs.

Why Manufacturing Companies Need Project Management

The benefits of project management for manufacturing companies are as follows.

  • Better visibility of the manufacturing processes.

As project management is impossible without regular progress and performance tracking, manufacturers can get regular updates on the state of their projects and utilization of resources. Additionally, this minimizes the chance of deviating from the project schedule, going over the budget, and delaying the delivery of a product. 

  • Effective risk management.

Risk management being an integral part of project management involves predicting all possible risk-bearing events and planning responses to them. This aims to reduce the chances of their negative consequences on the project flow and product delivery.

  • More efficient utilization of resources.

Project management goes hand in hand with resource and budget management. Together with regular monitoring of all project-related processes, this makes it possible to timely spot and eliminate bottlenecks and optimize utilization of an organization’s resources.

  • Optimization of production costs.

Project management allows for detecting and eliminating inefficiencies, managing risks and projects’ timelines, which along with wise resource management helps optimize costs and avoid extra expenditures.

Therefore, the advantages of project management in manufacturing are obvious: it helps optimize the production processes and utilization of available resources; contributes to improved product quality, reduced costs, and delivering products on time and within the project budget. 

Of course, project management isn’t a silver bullet that will improve the manufacturing process on its own. Read the next section to find out the prerequisites for the effective project management process in the manufacturing industry.

5 Tips for Manufacturing Project Managers

Plan projects thoroughly

Despite that manufacturers deal with numerous uncertainties, proper planning is the backbone of the smooth project flow and achieving desired outcomes. First of all, you should define the project timelines (its duration) and the key project milestones. Note that planning task completion dates is ineffective because some tasks can take more or less time, but it’s much more important to focus on milestones and the project completion date. Secondly, creating a detailed plan will allow you to understand what resources you’ll require for the execution of projects along with corresponding costs.

Plan for uncertainties and risks

Remember that project plans should not be deterministic as if nothing is going to change during the work on a project. As manufacturers deal with risks and uncertainties, project managers should pay the closest attention to risk analysis and create a detailed risk management plan with responses for all potential risks. Also, it’s essential to prepare for uncertainties — e.g., include time and capacity buffers in your estimates. In this case, these events won’t ruin the workflow and there will be no risks for delaying the delivery of the product and/or spending extra costs.

Read more: Fighting Uncertainty in Organizations, Including Matrix Ones

Apply a flexible approach to project management

Under conditions of high uncertainty, applying deterministic project management methodology like Waterfall may lead to ruining the project flow. A lot of things may change repeatedly during the project, so the approach to dealing with manufacturing projects should be flexible enough. At the same time, it can be tempting to apply Agile with its flexibility, frequent value delivery, quick time to market, and intense interaction with clients. However, focusing solely on Agile has its pitfalls, e.g., a lack of long-term planning is one of the biggest ones. With continuous iterations, it can be impossible to predict when the final version of the product will be completed. So, the best solution will be using a hybrid approach, i.e., combining two or more methodologies and making the most of each of them depending on a project’s needs. By the way, applying hybrid approaches is one of the project management trends of 2024.

Read more: 6 Current Trends in Project Management [2024]: What to Prepare for?

Plan resources’ capacity in advance

Under conditions of a limited number of human resources involved in numerous projects, resource capacity planning is the first thing that should be done before starting a project. This will allow project managers to assess a project’s feasibility, identify resource shortages if any, and take measures to fill the gap between resource demand and supply. Otherwise, there’s a high risk of the inability to complete the required orders, miss the project’s due date, and go over the budget.

Monitor the state of the projects’ health

As the manufacturing industry is facing the demand for faster product delivery, companies should make efforts to eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies and keep every project on track. This will ensure smooth project flow and team members’ productivity. For this reason, it’s essential to monitor performance but do this in the right way. As a rule, project and portfolio managers track performance at the project level. But it’s much more important to start from the resource level. Bottlenecks appear on the resource level, and if you monitor only the project progress, you won’t be able to spot the root causes of issues. Instead, monitoring team performance on a regular basis will give you a chance to detect bottlenecks early on and avoid their negative consequences for the project level.

Read more: Tracking Performance: Switching from Project to Resource Level

Use the right project management tool

Implementing the above-mentioned tips will be challenging without the assistance of advanced software tools. Let’s explore some capabilities of Epicflow, an AI-powered multi-project resource management solution, as an example of a powerful tool that contributes to the successful orchestration of manufacturing projects.

Effective resource management

Epicflow’s unique approach aims to achieve resources’ efficiency thanks to preventing and eliminating bottlenecks, correct prioritization, and intelligent resource allocation. In addition, the tool allows for material resources’ management. Intelligent management of human and material resources lets manufacturing companies complete more projects with the same resources thanks to their optimization and reorganization of the workflow. In addition, Epicflow helps plan resources’ capacity and in such a way ensures proper staffing of future projects.

Performance analysis

Epicflow makes it possible to track both resource performance and the progress of projects, which allows you to assess project teams’ efficiency and detect bottlenecks if any. In particular, you can review resource groups’ output in relation to their capacity and see what projects or tasks overload your resources.

Data-driven decision-making

In a highly risky and uncertain environment, it’s essential to make reasonable decisions. Epicflow makes the decision-making process data-driven: its What-if Analysis feature allows you to simulate various scenarios, analyze their impact, and come up with the best possible solution. You can use this feature to test the most effective way to resolve bottlenecks or check how it’s better to respond to risks.

Visibility into the whole project portfolio

Manufacturing projects are often complex and costly, so it’s critically important to stay up to date with the state of the project environment. In Epicflow, you can keep track of all projects in the Pipeline and see their states at a glance as they are marked with corresponding colors.

Therefore, Epicflow perfectly meets the needs of complex project management in manufacturing industry allowing manufacturing companies to optimize their costs, achieve resources’ efficiency, quality control, and competitiveness. Contact our experts to learn more about Epicflow’s capabilities that help organizations achieve their project goals and our own project management principles for the seamless delivery of manufacturing projects.