Streamlining Operations in an Automotive Company

Streamlining Operations in an Automotive Company

Streamlining Operations in an Automotive Company 700 500 Xcelpros Team

By the Numbers

  • 10.5 millionThe projected sales of fully electric and electric/gas hybrid passenger vehicles in 2022 worldwide. China accounts for nearly 6 million followed by Europe at 30 percent with the U.S. in third.
  • 6.5 million and less than 4 millionThe number of these vehicles sold in 2021 and 2020.
  • 75 percentThe anticipated increase in zero emissions delivery van and truck sales in 2022.
  • 2000,000The production cap per manufacturer for a full $7,500 credit per vehicle. As of Jan. 19, Tesla and GM had already hit it. Toyota, Ford and possibly Nissan may also reach the cap this year.
  • Less than 1 millionThe total number of electric passenger vehicles sold worldwide in 2015.


Automobile manufacturers and the thousands of people who supply and service them daily are amid three simultaneous revolutions. Each one of these revolutions by itself is set to be a significant disruptor. Managing them all together will require even established companies to rethink how they do their business. Even incremental improvements to efficiency will be paramount to success.

These growing revolutions include:

  1. 1.The rise of Electric cars
  2. 2.The development of autonomous and connected vehicles
  3. 3.The growth of Digital mobility

The rapid adoption and sales of electric vehicles will only increase as gasoline prices continue to rise, thanks partly to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2022.

As computer controls become increasingly commonplace—backup cameras, for example, have been a required safety feature in all new American-made cars since May 1, 2018—computerized versions are replacing mechanical linkages and parts.

A 2019 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concluded that while ‘rear cameras alone reduced collision rates by only 5 percent, combining a camera with rear parking sensors reduced the backup collision rate by 42 percent, and adding automatic rear braking to the camera and parking sensors lowered the collision rate by 78 percent.Hagerty stated

These autonomous controls are now becoming commonplace. One study shows backup cameras in the Honda Fit LX. Its base model had a list price of $16,190 in August, 2020.

So what do these numbers mean for companies in the automotive industry, especially operations managers?

They mean the former way of running a shop isn’t going to cut it any longer.

Diversifying the Supply Chain

Improving operations management in the automotive industry requires focusing on ways to streamline operations and improve efficiency. A critical area is supply chain management. Today, that means building a supply chain that looks radically different than it did ten years ago.

Ongoing supply chain nightmares leftover from Covid-19 still impact every industry, including consumer electronics. These days that includes cars, not just computers.

Quoting a U.S. Department of Commerce study, the median inventory of computer chips consumers held, including automakers, fell from 40 days in 2019 to less than 5 in 2021.

“If a COVID outbreak, a natural disaster or political instability disrupts a foreign semiconductor facility for even just a few weeks, it has the potential to shut down a manufacturing facility in the US, putting American workers and their families at risk,” the report noted, a danger that isn’t lost on car companies,” Cnet states.

The ramifications, especially for electric car manufacturers, means an inability to meet demands. Projected shortfalls for some major automakers, in large part due to the chip shortage, include:

  • 1.25 million vehicles: Ford’s shortfall last year
  • 1.15 million vehicles: Volkswagen’s shortfall
  • 1.1 million vehicles: the shortfalls for GM and Toyota

Relying on a single supplier or vendor for a key part is no longer viable. Car manufacturers need a supply chain that is robust and has alternative suppliers for all critical parts, including computer chips.

Lacking critical parts in any industry, not just the automotive, can put the brakes on production.

Learn how you can streamline the operations of an automotive company

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The Car Manufacturing Process

The car manufacturing process includes stamping sheet metal components for each vehicle’s side frames, doors, hood, and roof. A gasoline vehicle’s engine, transmission, and gearbox are key pre-assembled components. In an electric car, they are much simpler motors.

The Tesla Model 3 electric cars use one or two centrally-mounted drive units. Each drive unit has a three-phase electric motor, inverter electronics, reduction gears and open differential that drives a pair of wheels in a simple arrangement. Vehicles with two drive units have one in front and one in back, providing all-wheel drive. Tesla’s Model S/X Plaid uses three traction motors: one for the front and one for each rear wheel.

These differences can cause logistical headaches for automotive supply chain, warehouse, and vendor managers, especially when using individual software packages.

Automation in Automobile Manufacturing

“There is very little in the assembly line or supply chain that is not fully optimized, and even less left to gain,” one business insider states when speaking about automating the automobile industry.

According to this article, U.S. automakers buy one of every two industrial robots sold globally. The robots handle everything from welding to assembly and painting on the production floor. Their computerized “cousins” are also common in sales, handling customer queries in finance company call centers, scheduling service appointments, sending alerts and running diagnostics.

All of this automation consumes and creates one product: data. “A self-driven car produces about 1 GB of data per second,” this article states.

Managers do their best trying to make sense of this information to ensure their supply chain delivers what is needed, when and to the right location. They are also responding to inquiries from sales, letting warehouse managers know what products are coming in and going out.

The only effective way to manage this deluge of data is by working with a supply chain management software product designed from the ground up for data integration.

Using Software for Data Integration

Modular software designed with data integration reduces bottlenecks and speeds decision-making. How? By taking information from multiple points—the inventory of computer chips in the warehouse, the number of outstanding electric vehicle orders, vendor deals on a specific paint color, the number of available skilled technicians for key assembly steps—and presenting it as a uniform whole.

A modular, secure cloud-based system can provide insights to business leaders by processing information in close to real-time. It can help explain where supply meets demand. What key components are critically low in store, and which are adequately stocked?

Using technology tied to these modular software components prevents automobile decision-makers from pushing products they can’t produce while letting them use business intelligence to respond to changing demands.

Final Thoughts

The days of car makers cranking out gas-guzzling giants are already over. Electric vehicles are quickly becoming the new kings of the road. Taking advantage of the new technology requires stepping up your supply chain management software so you can respond to change when it happens.

A modern, modular enterprise resource planning (ERP) package has more than enough under the hood to help your automotive-related company keep running smoothly.

Five Steps to Transforming Manufacturing Operations

Five Steps to Transforming Manufacturing Operations

Five Steps to Transforming Manufacturing Operations 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Lasting effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continue to disrupt numerous manufacturing operations as the year draws to a close. Companies not only surviving, but thriving were those already undergoing a digital transformation to their manufacturing operations.

“Digital transformation is the transformation of business, industrial products, operations, value chains and services that are enabled through the augmentation of people, knowledge and workplaces through the expanded use of digital technologies. It’s about the people in the workplaces, the processes, the technologies and services,” Janice Abel wrote in an ARC Advisory Group blog post.

Today, digital transformation is all about rethinking the way your company functions. Is it a series of departments that act like independent nations, each competing for scarce resources and seldom sharing information? Or is your company a unified operation where department names are merely labels and the data created by one is open and accessible to all?

At the end of the day, digital transformation in manufacturing is all about enhancing customer service. Taking good care of your customers leads to more sales, better growth opportunities and higher profits. Achieving that goal requires breaking down barriers and ensuring free-flowing information between all employeesF.

Sharing this data in a timely fashion requires a manufacturing execution system (MES) and a manufacturing operations management (MOM) process. MES is computer software, while MOM may be software or an overarching process. An MES helps track raw material consumption during production. A material resource planning (MRP) package helps you prepare your production inventory.

According to an ARC survey, most manufacturers deploy MES solutions to connect the information in different silos and plants. While there is some visibility, data silos remain even though artificial intelligence (AI), machine intelligence (MI) and other digital methods are being used to varying degrees.

Driving Digital Transformation

Ongoing supply chain disruptions are having a huge impact on manufacturing companies. When questioned about the resilience of their manufacturing and supply chains, the overwhelming response was “not very,” according to a recent blog by Forbes.

Forbes posted some response numbers from the Fictiv 2021 State of Manufacturing Report about existing supply chains:

  • 94% of respondents had some concerns
  • 55% worry that increasing digital operations increases security risks
  • 47% state that supply chain management overhead costs are too high
  • 42% believe that working with global markets creates intellectual property risks
  • 31% think that lack of visibility into operations creates risks and uncertainty

The Fictiv report quoted by Forbes concluded: “The way we manage supply chains and manufacture goods has been forever altered.

Cost overruns were a key concern for 81 percent of recipients while 55 percent were worried about information technology security with their current supply chain.

“Whatever the issue, it’s clear the old way of operating is no longer optimal,” Forbes states. Using digital methods to manage manufacturing has essentially replaced the older methods, at least according to this survey.

  • 95% of respondents believe digitally transforming their manufacturing operations is essential to their company’s future
  • 91% of respondents reported an increase in digital transformation spending
  • 77% defined their digital spending boost as “dramatic” or “significant.”

A Different Perspective

Digital technology enhances productivity, reduces costs and boosts innovation. Manufacturing companies that pay careful attention to their data are able to use it more efficiently to help find and develop new revenue streams.

Figure: 1 How the Internet of Things (IoT) is integrated with Operating Technology (OT)

How the Internet of Things (IoT) is integrated with Operating Technology

At its core, the currency of automation, optimization and profound transformation can help turn new business models into an “as a service” economy, I-scoop suggests.

Many companies transform their manufacturing operations by using the internet of things (IoT) coupled with operational technology (OT) and automation on the production floor. IoT sensors in many devices let computer programs track data as each potential product makes its way through the production process.

Mechanical engineers are able to maintain equipment to more refined levels of precision. Software engineers are using the data provided to reduce waste and find new ways of boosting efficiency. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software uses the data to ensure machines are scheduled efficiently. The ERP software helps ensure a near continuous flow of material, even when humans aren’t present.

Learn more about the impact of digital transformation on manufacturing operations.

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Roadmap to Your Digital Transformation

The first step for companies yet to embark on their digital transformation is creating a roadmap. Without understanding what direction you want your business to go and how to get there, any results are likely to be far less than desired.

At a bare minimum, formulating a plan ahead of time helps:

  • Set priorities
  • Manage change
  • Identify and allocate resources

A well thought-out roadmap can help plan your entire journey, or identify problems and new opportunities as you work towards your goal.

Major steps in creating a digital manufacturing roadmap include:

1.Clearly define and help your company’s current position and its digital strategy. Stating concrete, achievable goals and then communicating them with partners, employees and clients helps everyone understand what they need to do so that everyone benefits.

2.Defining your financial baseline. Making demands of whatever system you choose to go with, only to balk at the resulting price, is no benefit to anyone. Having a plan to only move to the next digital manufacturing transformation phase when you reach specific financial goals makes financial sense and motivates to reach those incremental goals.

3.Ensuring internal Agile processes are ready to go. Breaking your production process into smaller chunks lets you create products and services faster by having processes run concurrently instead of sequentially.

4.Assessing your technology and talent. Understanding what equipment you need, and what skills are required to operate it, lets you start training existing staff or adding new employees ahead of time. Having people who know what they are doing as you implement each phase ensures your digital transformation proceeds smoothly.

5.Choosing the right digital transformation partner. Having a partner experienced in your industry means they’re likely familiar with any problems you may face. Having seen them before, they already know what solutions work and what is a waste of your money. The right partner can also help you set short- and medium-term goals, ensuring your transformation is progressing according to plan.

Final Thoughts

Embarking on a new digital transformation pays numerous benefits in the long run. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to rapidly respond to customer requests for new or unique products, resulting in more efficient MAAS (manufacturing as a service).

The most important thing to remember when looking to complete your transformation is the need for a detailed roadmap and ensuring you have a digital transformation partner who understands your industry and can help you overcome any hurdles along the way.

Challenge of Manufacturing Transformations

The Challenges of Manufacturing Transformations

The Challenges of Manufacturing Transformations 700 500 Xcelpros Team


“Cutthroat and quick.” Those two words sum up the state of the modern manufacturing industry. Customers want the lowest possible prices, abandoning long-term relationships to save money. They also want their products and they want them Now. It makes no difference to some companies that the containers that move their goods are stuck on a freightliner offshore: the client wants their goods this instant.

So how can an older company known for producing quality merchandise compete with the upstarts? The answer is by digitally transforming its operations.

Key parts of this transformation involve:

  • Automation
  • The Internet of Things
  • Using AI (artificial intelligence)
  • Upgraded equipment
  • Enhanced cybersecurity
  • An emphasis on “going green

The good news is each of these challenges can be overcome, leading to a company that is leaner, greener and in terms of the competition, meaner. The bad news is doing it requires planning, forethought and a willingness to disrupt the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.

There are three key components for a successful digital transformation:

  1. 1.A change champion to push, prod, cajole, criticize and even complain to keep the project moving on track.
  2. 2.A trained consultant, one experienced in performing similar upheavals at other companies in the same or related industries.
  3. 3.A suite of products that can be customized to meet your specific needs.

1.Change Champions Drive Innovation

One of the reasons why some businesses fail when attempting to modernize is mindset: leadership is unwilling to abandon the old ways, not only of doing business, but of thinking. A change champion who has the authority to drive modernization is a key player in bringing any company from the 20th Century into the always-changing 21st.

Often described as “a mono-maniac with a mission,” change champions are the people who ensure new technology gets adopted. They work-hopefully with the support of top management-to drag their company forward.

“A good champion is passionate about their cause or change. They are staunch, zealous, and even fanatic. A great champion is emotional, irrational, irreverent, impatient and unreasonable. They want the change – no matter how big – to happen this week, this month, or certainly by the end of this quarter. To an impassioned change champion, the sky is often falling and the situation is desperately urgent,” Innovation Management states.

Overcoming management inertia is one challenge facing digital transformation in manufacturing. This is critical because AcqNotes looked at several studies and concluded that the failure rate of software projects range between 50 percent – 80 percent.

Causes of failure include:

  • Lack of user participation
  • Changing requirements
  • Unrealistic or unarticulated project goals
  • Poor communication among customers, developers, and users
  • Poor Project Management
  • Stakeholder politics
  • Lack of Stakeholder involvement

Some of the worst software acquisition practices include:

  • Using schedule compression to justify new technology on a time-critical project
  • Expecting to recover more than 10 percent schedule slip without a reduction in delivered functionality
  • Putting items out of project control on the critical path
  • Planning to achieve more than 10 percent improvement from observed past performance
  • Burying as much of the project complexity as possible in the software as opposed to the hardware
  • Conducting critical system engineering tasks without software expertise
  • Believing that formal reviews alone will provide an accurate picture of the project
  • Expecting that the productivity of a formal review is directly proportional to the number of attendees above five

Effective change champions working with top management backing-president, board level and/or owner-can overcome these hurdles.

Change Champions work with consultants experienced in helping manufacturers adopt a digital mindset. Knowledgeable consultants with a good track record for installing well-known, proven enterprise resource planning (ERP) products like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance can help change champions in their goal to convince naysayers to the project.

2.Digital Transformation Consultants

Before looking at the role of a consultant, examine one of many definitions for digital transformation.

Figure: 1Digital transformation for manufacturing

Digital transformation for manufacturing

“Digital Transformation is the profound transformation of business and organizational activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of a mix of digital technologies and their accelerating impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way, with present and future shifts in mind,” several websites state.

Digital transformation for manufacturing has several important-and ultimately, profitable-benefits.

They include:

  • Greater efficiency through streamlined processes and decisions
  • Improved productivity as automation lets skilled workers spend their time and attention on critical, rather than mundane, tasks
  • Insights letting executives understand why projects failed and how they can succeed the next time
  • Enhanced customer service aimed at a global, 24/7/365 audience
  • Finding competitive advantages where they may not have existed before

Once Change Champions help executives understand what a digital transformation is and what it can do, the next key step is hiring a consultant to help them plot a course. A lack of any plan, or even deviating from the plan is a recipe for disaster.

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A digital transformation consultant’s role is helping an organization understand how it can achieve its medium and long-term goals, ultimately becoming more profitable by using technology to implement strategic changes. Common steps taken by consultants, such as the technology strategists and road mappers, begins with:

  1. 1.Assessing each customer’s current position and its needs.
  2. 2.Developing implementation strategies specific for each client company.
  3. 3.Convincing management and staff that while change is always hard, their lives will be easier and more productive in the long run.
  4. 4.Working with the firm to ensure the implementation meets the company’s goals, offering advice and potential fixes for any roadblocks that appear.
  5. 5.After the implementation is complete, they review what happened. What went right? What didn’t go as planned? How can we learn from any failures in this phase to make the next phase smoother?

3.The Software

Whichever software package suggested by consultants that the company accepts, must be:

  • An industry leader
  • Safe and secure from digital threats
  • Easy for employees to use
  • Expandable when growth occurs
  • Customizable to meet company-specific needs
  • Flexible to meet the needs of a changing world economy, one currently suffering major supply chain disruptions
  • Able to be implemented in stages that allow the company to keep operating during the installation

Microsoft Dynamics 365 checks all of these boxes. Built on Microsoft’s Azure platform, it offers flexibility by having individual modules such as Sales, Finance and Supply Chain Management that can be installed as needed. More than just easy to use, D365 offers a familiar look and feel with most administrative staffers using Office 365. Security is built-in both through extra layers in the Azure platform and in Microsoft’s cloud architecture. D365 is also easily expandable, letting the software expand as the company grows.

The Bottom Line

Overcoming the challenges of a digital transformation in manufacturing requires having a Change Champion with the power to keep the company on track. It requires trained, experienced consultants that help the company understand what it wants to do and how to achieve its medium and long-term goals. And it requires software that can meet a company’s needs today, tomorrow and in the foreseeable future.

How Sustainable Operations Helps Manufacturers Grow

How Sustainable Operations Helps Manufacturers Grow

How Sustainable Operations Helps Manufacturers Grow 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Every business leader has heard the term “sustainable manufacturing,” but not all know that practicing methods that help the environment can also grow their business.

“Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources,” the United States Environmental Protection Agency states. These same practices enhance employee, community and product safety in part by producing less waste that pollutes the air, water and soil.

According to the EPA, companies that use a methodical, planned approach to sustainable manufacturing processes:

  • Increase operational efficiency by reducing costs and waste
  • Respond to or reach new customers and increase competitive advantage
  • Protect and strengthen brand and reputation and build public trust
  • Build long-term business viability and success
  • Respond to regulatory constraints and opportunities

Fostering Growth

These environmentally friendly sustainable manufacturing practices help companies grow by reducing production costs long term. For example, instead of paying thousands of dollars each month to an electric company to light and cool a 300,000 square-foot manufacturing plant, consider covering a flat roof with efficient solar panels.

The average payback time for a home solar electric installation (industrial estimates were not available) is roughly 6-10 years, though it varies depending on the climate and other factors. Solar panels also tend to last 25-40 years meaning roughly three-quarters of their useful lives is spent generating free electricity. The most recent designs are much more efficient, producing more power in a smaller size, than those made 10 years ago. The result is greater efficiency, allowing manufacturing facilities to cover less of their roofs while producing as much or more power than the older models.

Production plants can also reduce their massive electrical bills with skylights. The waterproof domed coverings help illuminate work areas, reducing the need of electric lighting. Extended exterior shelves can reduce sunlight, cutting cooling costs.

Figure: 1 Sustainable Manufacturing – a Big Picture

Sustainable Manufacturing - a Big Picture

Turning Trash Into Treasure

Other sustainable methods look at ways to reduce waste, especially by converting some “trash” into new products or using it for new methods.

One website alone lists 35 artful ways homeowners can recycle wooden pallets. These new uses include making tables, bed frames, stairs, mounting frames for heavy electronic display monitors and a host of other uses. Many of these same methods work for industrial companies in terms of outfitting conference rooms and other non-work areas.

From an industrial perspective, worn pallets can be repaired, cleaned and reused. They can also be sold, recouping some of the cost. Other uses for worn pallets include chipping them, turning them into wood pellets. The pellets can then be burned, generating heat and electricity.

Get a consultation to discover more about building sustainable operations for your manufacturing company.

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Cascading Chemicals

Recycling is a large part of the sustainable “green” economy. Industrial chemicals can be recycled. They can also be reused through a process known as “industrial symbiosis,” states. One example cited uses ferric chloride, which is a byproduct of steel pickling in hydrochloric acid, to treat water.

“Frequently, recycled chemicals are not only cheaper than newly produced ones, but they also reduce resource consumption, waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon emissions through solvent recycling are 46 percent – 92 percent lower than those of new solvent production,” the website states.

When the article was written in 2019, industrial giants Siemens and Evonik were conducting research to convert the most common greenhouse gas—carbon dioxide (CO2)—into common industrial chemicals such as ethylene.

Other methods used to reduce chemical and industrial waste cited by greenbiz include swapping what might be one manufacturer’s trash with a different nearby business. That business can use these materials in its products.

Another environmentally friendly industrial method is “leasing” chemicals. In this model, a manufacturer sells the functions performed by the chemical using functional units, not the chemicals themselves.

Large manufacturers with their own wastewater treatment plants can redesign those facilities in ways that help the company turn a profit and grow. Companies interested in practicing sustainable manufacturing practices can modify existing equipment to produce energy, clean water and chemicals because, “the future of sewage is power and profits.”

The article ends with a quote made in 1848 by the former president of the London Royal College of Chemistry, R.W. Hoffmann: “In an ideal chemical factory there is, strictly speaking, no waste but only products. The better a real factory makes use of its waste, the closer it gets to its ideal, the bigger is the profit.”

Technology Can Spot Opportunities

One way a company can practice sustainable operations management is by using its data wisely. Especially in forward-thinking firms that use internet of things (IoT)-enabled devices, they have access to mountains of information.

Combining a well-thought plan with the right software lets these firms look at everything coming into their warehouse—including packaging—as potential profit sources. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) products such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 and its Supply Chain Management Module let companies of any size keep accurate track of their inventories. Add in the Integrated Chemical Management component and chemical manufacturers have an accurate label management solution that also produces safety data sheets.

By understanding the chemicals involved and working with sustainability experts, plant managers can evaluate their current conditions.

Executives interested in sustainable production and consumption—and being more competitive—will want to ask questions similar to these: What current waste products and materials can we use for secondary purposes or repackage and sell to someone in a different industry? Can we reuse packing materials we receive to pad and protect outgoing shipments? Are we using our raw materials effectively or are there ways we can become more efficient? How much power do our plants use? Are there affordable ways of reducing that consumption while also generating some of our own power all while meeting our long-term business goals?

Asking questions like these, and then using powerful software to find the answers, help innovative firms generate more money. That in turn can use sustainable practices to fuel growth.

The Bottom Line

Sustainable manufacturing involves looking at everything a company has, from a different angle. More office employees are working from home, freeing up space. Can we use that space for a different purpose instead of looking at empty desks? Can we move items around and expand our production facilities or our warehouse without having to build or buy new facilities?

Operations managers wanting to fuel growth by reducing power consumption can use ERP software to find ways to save money and new ways to make money. All it takes is a little outside the box long-range thinking.

Innovation is Helping Chemical Companies Grow Into Giants

Innovation is Helping Chemical Companies Grow Into Giants

Innovation is Helping Chemical Companies Grow Into Giants 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Innovation in business often means introducing something new. It’s common for companies to introduce new ways of looking at how they operate. They take a new and different view of their supply chain. They gather ideas from employees on ways to boost sales. Benefits of innovation include:

  • Boosting productivity
  • Reducing costs
  • Being more competitive
  • Boosting brand value
  • Establishing new partners and business relationships
  • Improving profitability

There are many ways to help companies grow. Using newer digital technology is one method.

Companies that fail to innovate, preferring to use methods that were successful 10 or 20 years ago, can quickly fall behind those seeking to enhance their business. Companies that fail to innovate can expect to:

  • Lose market share
  • Reduce productivity
  • Become less efficient
  • See key staff members leave
  • Watch as margins and profits shrink

From a marketing perspective, the expression “building a better mousetrap” applies to them. This failure to innovate is not a good idea when your customers want medicines that will help them live longer, healthier, happier lives.

By the Numbers

Capital spending in the chemical industry is expected to increase in 2021 and 2022 after a sharp drop in 2020.

  • -17.6%: 2020 chemical industry capital spending
  • +11.9%: 2021 chemical industry spending is expected to reach $30.6 billion this year
  • +3.7%: 2022’s estimated increased in chemical industry capital spending

Is your company willing to invest in its growth?

Figure: 1Chemical Industry Growth Projection

Chemical Industry Growth Projection

Using Technology for Growth

Combining big data with artificial intelligence, such as that built into Microsoft Dynamics 365, helps turn digital innovation in the chemical industry into growth.

Growth happens faster when a company has data from reliable automatic sensors, not manually prepared spreadsheets. After analyzing the data for specific information, company leaders can create and adapt growth strategies.

A 2018 Connected Small Businesses in the United States report by Deloitte found, “relative to businesses that have low levels of digital engagement, digitally advanced small businesses realized significant benefits.” These benefits include:

  • Generating twice as much revenue per employee
  • Up to four times growth over previous year revenue
  • Being nearly three times as likely to create new jobs over the previous year with an employment growth rate more than six times as high
  • Being three times more like to have exported products in the past year

“Despite these potential gains, 80 percent of US small businesses aren’t taking full advantage of digital tools such as data analytics and more sophisticated online tools,” Deloitte stated.

Innovation is a Process

Another term for innovation is change. Effective change—effective innovation—requires planning. Look at the marketplace: What are the giant companies in your market doing? How did they grow? What innovations did they take?

Look within your company and identify opportunities for innovation. Consider using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to connect laboratory and production devices.

Analyze the competition and then compare what the top companies are doing to how yours operates. What are some of the market trends—using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is one—that can help your company get ahead of the competition?

Evaluate the business climate. In the chemical industry, this means studying regulations such as those from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Look at your customers and end consumers. Talk to them. Ask them what kinds of products they want. What does your research forecast will be in demand in five years? In ten years? Is your company positioned to supply those innovative medicines now? Will it be able to meet expected demands when they occur?

Note: See this infographic for a brief look at Organizational Change Management as it applies to upgrading to a modern ERP.

Digital tools are key elements in the new technologies fueling chemical industry growth.

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Digital Tools for Innovation

Five key tools are sparking digital innovation in the chemical industry:

  1. 1.The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  2. 2.Big Data Analytics
  3. 3.Mobile Solutions
  4. 4.Cloud Storage
  5. 5.Cybersecurity

Sensors that observe, record and transmit data in real time are available. Using them lets chemical industry leaders understand how their machines and staff are performing. When those sensors are connected to the internal network and then to the Internet, that data becomes available to anyone, anywhere at any time. For example, a production run in China can be monitored by workers in Chicago.

IIoT sensors create a lot of data leading to the term “big data.” Having a lot of numbers showing production runs and quality levels does not help a chemical or pharmaceutical company grow. Analyzing the data to find nuggets of useful information shows where improvements can occur. Having computer software that examines the data and tells executives what it means can help them spot trends that, when corrected, lead to more efficient operations.

Accessing that data and those trends is one thing when it happens in an office. Getting an alert on the production shop floor, though, can save an expensive batch of product. For example, being notified that an ingredient is running low or a machine will overheat can let workers using mobile devices fix these issues. They can resolve these issues before they become expensive problems.

Even though production floor employees are monitoring machines, their IIoT sensors are still producing large quantities of data. The sheer data volume may easily overwhelm a local computer network. Having a cloud computing connection eliminates that storage issue.

Using banks of interconnected servers, cloud service providers store data securely. Cloud service providers can transfer data from one warehouse-sized server farm to another storage location. They have the highly-trained staff and equipment needed to protect your data from hackers.

One security method not used by many small and medium businesses is Microsoft’s Azure industrial platform. It has its own in-depth methods of keeping your secrets safe from the competition.

Using these technological innovations effectively requires a platform and a team who understands what they want: an ERP installed by an experienced company.

Use a Systems Integrator with industry and transformation experience

A Microsoft Direct Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP), Systems Integrator (SI) and Microsoft Certified Partner for Microsoft System Dynamics. Dynamics 365 with ERP implementation skills, and an ERP that integrates, is scalable and provides accurate insights, together can move a company in the right direction.

Using Microsoft Dynamics 365 products such as Finance and Supply Chain or Business Central, The right technology can help turn SMBs into giants. Or an industry solution, in particular, is aimed at the chemical industry such as Integrated Chemical Management. ICM and other scalable Microsoft products let firms take advantage of digital products.

Having the right subject matter experts who are adept at helping companies transition from legacy ERPs and silo-based systems also makes the transformation simpler. At the end of the day a modern digital platform helps move your workforce into a productive and efficient environment.


Small companies wanting to grow into giants should waste no time taking advantage of modern technology. Recent innovations such as IIoT, AI, cloud computing and updated ERPs let forward-thinking companies move seamlessly into the future. These organizations are able to move ahead while competitors using siloed systems are left in the dust.

Xcelpros specializes in deploying these on-premise, cloud and mobility solutions. For more information contact us!

The Road to Success Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365

Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations

Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations 700 500 Xcelpros Team

Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations

Based on a wonderful piece from our friends at McKinsey, describing the effort needed by businesses moving forward after COVID disruptions. A reminder that businesses able to maintain a certain level of speed during the transition can create a significant long-term advantage.

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Migrating to the cloud through lift and shift

Migrating to the cloud through lift and shift

Migrating to the cloud through lift and shift 700 500 Xcelpros Team


Most businesses had never heard of cloud computing before Google CEO Eric Schmidt introduced the term on Aug. 9, 2006 even though it originated in the 1960s. During an industry conference, Schmidt was talking about the potential of network-based computing. “It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing,” Schmidt said.

Now, more than 15 years after the term “cloud computing” was born, the numbers show its effectiveness. A report from Hostingtribunal states:

  • 94% of enterprises (i.e., companies with more than 1,000 employees) are already using a cloud service
  • 66% of enterprises already have a central cloud team or cloud center of excellence
  • 50% of enterprises spend more than $1.2 million each year on cloud services
  • 30% of all IT budgets went to cloud computing in 2018
  • By 2025, data stored in cloud centers is expected to top 100 zettabytes (i.e., 100 trillion gigabytes)

A majority of these end-users prefer to “lift and shift” their applications into dispersed cloud server banks. Lift and shift gained prominence in the early days of cloud computing when organizations used this approach to shadow on-premise applications into the cloud.

Lift and shift is a common and simple first step toward embracing the power of cloud.

In simple terms, lift and shift means moving an application without changing the workload framework or software architecture from the existing hardware and operating system when it moves to the cloud. It is essentially rehosting your software on someone else’s distributed computing network. This approach helps companies save time, money and resources required to redesign the applications.

In this article we will touch upon the merits of the lift and shift approach and in the process find out whether moving to the cloud is worth it?

Advantages of Using Lift and Shift

The lift and shift approach is designed to help companies wanting to explore cloud computing without replacing their current software. This method is cost effective, rapid and has higher acceptance from its users because the functionality of the application remains the same.

Advantages of the lift and shift approach include:

  • Application familiarity – Moving an existing application to the cloud means the functioning and usability of the application to end users does not change.
  • Low migration costs – The program is not modified, eliminating the need and cost of rearchitecting the application.
  • Faster deployment – Since there is no need to rebuild the application, speed of delivery is higher compared to building an app from scratch.

For example, consider a Plant Manager in charge of Production Scheduling. This person has a lot to do. They need to maximize their productivity. When the company is expanding and needs to scale up its software, some form of cloud computing—public, hybrid, private or multi-cloud—is the more efficient method than doing it on-site. Replacing an existing program with a newer, unfamiliar one is likely to be met with resistance from staff unwilling to learn new methods of performing the same tasks.

Lifting a familiar program from in-house computers and shifting it to remote servers reduces the fear of change while balancing the need for agility and scalability. According to a 2018 study by IDC, 66% of the end users preferred to lift and shift their production scheduling application to the cloud for higher efficiency compared to 33% who favored keeping it on-premise.

Figure: 1Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) perceive lift and shift.

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) perceive lift and shift.

How do Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) perceive lift and shift?

When IDC conducted its 2018 survey, 45% of independent service vendor customers preferred the lift and shift cloud migration method for moving business applications. Combined with cloud computing, 69% of end customers understand the positive implications of using cloud-based software. These include agility, scalability, cost effectiveness, efficiency and others.

Is Cloud Computing Worth the Cost?

The most important reason to move company software to the cloud, even at an initial infrastructure as a service (IaaS) level, is cost reduction. Companies save money by lowering hardware maintenance for servers, adding computing power and virtual machines plus the expense of managing the infrastructure on-site.

Using managed services can significantly lower a company’s operating costs, directly impacting its bottom line.

In terms of actual savings, the combined benefit of minimal hardware support, higher efficiency, better manageability of resources could result in a 20 – 30 % average savings on virtual machine (VM) resource configuration alone.

Upgrading an existing application on the cloud provides an integrated platform. Other resources—such as Microsoft’s ecosystem—can be leveraged, adding agility and improving speed by up to 33%. Savings can be much higher.

For example, a multinational insurer was able to save 80% on the cost of a specific development testing environment in an application suite by lifting and shifting it to the cloud. Achieving similar results demands meticulous planning and the ability to gauge savings beyond dollar value. The wider definition of savings must also include intangibles such as the value of time and money from the faster rollout of products enabled by new cloud-enabled capabilities.

Why Microsoft Azure is best suited to lift and shift your applications

There are many cloud computing platforms to choose from. Organizations looking to adopt a cloud model need to ensure everything works correctly after the move. This means interdependencies that exists between applications, data in the system and the workload continue to function even though they are now remote.

Microsoft has a transparent lift and shift process that give you a heads-up on the cost estimates before a company makes the decision to migrate. Microsoft offers a cost calculator that assesses all dependencies and variables involved in the lift and shift process. It helps better assess the migration from a complexity and cost perspective. After analyzing your requirements and determining the effort involved in the lift and shift process, the calculator determines the cost and sequence required in migrating to Azure.

Microsoft’s Azure Migrate can help plan your cloud migration with ease, ensuring you are on top of every move. The service details the mechanisms involved in the process. It provides guidance and insights to smooth your cloud journey.

Benefits of using Azure Migrate include:

  • Discovery and assessing on-premises virtual machines
  • Inbuilt dependency mapping for high-confidence discovery of multi-tier applications
  • Intelligent right sizing to Azure virtual machines
  • Compatibility reporting with guidelines for remediating potential issues
  • Integration with Azure Database Management Service for database discovery and migration

With Azure Migrate, you can be assured that your workload and application will smoothly be lifted and shifted to the cloud without any adverse impact on the business. With the right guidance and tools from Microsoft, the ROI can be maximized, while your application performs seamlessly with the highest security and reliability.


Companies unwilling to make wholesale changes to their computer software environment can still take advantage of many cloud computing benefits: they can move their existing programs to the cloud using the lift and shift method. Working with Azure Migrate allows the software and data to move with minimal impact on daily operations.

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Compliance readiness in pharmaceutical companies FDA audit regulations banner

Compliance Readiness in Pharmaceutical Companies: FDA Audit & Regulations

Compliance Readiness in Pharmaceutical Companies: FDA Audit & Regulations 700 500 Xcelpros Team


The pharmaceutical market has faced various challenges during COVID-19, including adhering to additional regulatory standards. Due to stringent FDA pharmaceutical regulations, pharma companies always need to stay upto date on their compliance tools. Many pharma manufacturers feel that following best practices and maintaining higher quality standards would turn into a hindrance to business productivity. However, with the right technology strategy , Pharma companies can employ the same standards to increase their overall productivity.

On an average, about 4,500 drugs and devices are pulled from U.S. shelves each year.Source: US FDA

Planned and unplanned FDA audits are common in the industry. Companies that don’t meticulously maintain accurate records tend to struggle when an unplanned inspection occurs. FDA inspections are needed to ensure that companies adhere to all compliance requirements. No organization should struggle to find the necessary details to justify deviations, out of spec procedures, batch approvals, and so forth. Read on more to know why Pharmaceutical companies fail FDA audits and how they can be more prepared when a random audit occurs.

Figure 1:The six systems that are CFR 21 Part 11 compliant

The six systems that are CFR 21 Part 11 compliant

Why Pharmaceutical Companies Fail FDA Audits?

An FDA audit gives Pharma companies a perspective on how well prepared they are. A forthcoming GMP audit can even serve as a driving force for long-awaited business initiatives. Hence, pre-audit preparations are all about focusing on quality issue identification and its resolution. However, FDA audits can be stressful for the Product Quality Management Officers, Quality Risk Managers, and other personnel responsible for ensuring GMP throughout the process control. As shown in Figure 1, the six systems that are CFR 21 part 11 compliant have to installed with the right processes  to record data accurately.

There are a series of factors that contribute to audit failures in pharmaceutical companies. Given below is a brief comparison of the major ones.

Figure 2:Factors Incurring Audit Failure

Factors Incurring Audit Failure

Coping up with Various Types of FDA Audits

Every Pharmaceutical company is bound by FDA regulations and can expect an audit sooner or later. These audits ensure process compliance relevant to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), good manufacturing practices (GMPs), and other regulatory criteria. FDA may conduct four different types of inspections depending on purpose and timing.

1.FDA Pre-Approval Inspections (FDA pai):A pre-approval inspection may occur after the company submits a new product to FDA. This audit intends to verify the data you have included in your application and ensure that your equipment plus facilities are appropriate for manufacturing the finished product. FDA determines the pre-approval inspection with a risk-based approach, product type, and process risk. Process risk factors in development data and whether the process is appreciably new to any you have done before.

Getting a pre-approval inspection indicates that your company meets QMS requirements and can continue with the protocol. The required rule for pre-marketing audits originate from FDA, so it is possible to prepare ahead. A pre-approval inspection’s potential outcome is that the inspectors will either recommend for or against FDA approval.

2.Routine Inspections:Companies manufacturing class II and class III products will experience a routine inspection once in a couple of years. The purpose is to ensure that everything is still running according to the prescribed protocols. These audits follow the dual-level of the Quality System Inspection Technique (QSIT).

  • Level 2 Baseline QSIT: This is very inclusive and covers almost all the quality systems, corrective and preventive actions (CAPA), design controls, management controls, and process controls. Pharma companies plan FDA inspections and prepare ahead based on previous events.
  • Level 1 Abbreviated QSIT: This is a brief inspection conducted when the company has undergone a Level 2 Baseline. A CAPA system integrated with a Quality Control and batch manufacturing system help with more meticulous preparation. Information well streamlined and available at your fingertips makes you safeguarded when a sudden inspection occurs.

The type and frequency of audits largely depend on what the auditors find. If there is any public health risk unveiled during a routine check, they would possibly conduct a follow-up or for-cause inspection.

3.Compliance Inspections:These inspections review actions undertaken by a manufacturer in response to a previous audit that resulted in a noteworthy 483 observations. FDA office issues Form 483 observations when an inspection indicates violations in good manufacturing practices (cGMP). FDA will schedule a compliance follow-up audit to check if the company has responded sufficiently and has corrected its previous violations. The FDA may record current violations and opt for future regulatory action if you fail to meet requirements. A company will be well aware of this audit if it already has 483 observations or any warning letter. It should most probably, identify the issues that the FDA had found and address them quickly. It all comes down to well-managed compliance/follow-up audits, by fixing violations and be prepared with additional information concerning inventory, batches, and quality control.

4.For-Cause Inspections:These audits are in-depth and don’t happen as often as the other three. For cause audits to investigate a particular problem reported to the FDA, such as from manufacturers (recall of products, MIDR), consumers (complaints and feedback), and even employees. Companies should expect an audit in case of any health hazard or a severe product recall. There are no set guidelines here, and the type of inspection appears to be spontaneous. Irrespective of the QSIT, the auditors have a free hand to probe into other areas and aspects of the company besides the impending issue. The best way to manage this audit is to prepare for a regular FDA inspection considering you may not receive any advance notice. A real-time QMS, up-to-date management reviews, and internal investigations can adequately serve the purpose.

The Digital Connect

Almost every pharmaceutical company should comply with the FDA’s Title 21 CFR Part 11 Guidelines, commonly known as the ‘Part 11’ regulation. All records fall under this regulation when digitally stored, signed and processed as part of its business. Information security, hence, becomes significant for Part 11. All authorized users in the company require appropriate security permissions. So, managing a company’s protocols related to quality compliance can be very well achieved by digitization.

Unique usernames and passwords can provide access to user records. Moreover, this can also help monitor batch traceability with the right approvals in the warehouse. FDA audit will become straightforward when there is a record of every event in inventory with accurate time, date, and username. Electronic data further includes e-signatures, digital stamps, scans, etc. Under Part 11 compliance, these signatures must satisfy the primary & authentic cryptographic criteria abiding by a specific set of rules. The e-signatures and scans must retain an individual’s identity and the integrity of the corresponding data.

Compliance, being a perpetual process, needs continual vigilance of electronic records and signatures. Accordingly, the right digital solution for Pharma can streamline quality workflows and minimize non-compliance.

Key Takeaways

  • Pharmaceutical industries are more vulnerable to production & quality failures if a company is not proactive to handle FDA audits.
  • An effective training program ensures that SOPs and regulations are transparent to employees. The intent is to get them to prepare for an FDA audit by keeping product and quality documentation up to date.
  • Digital transformation for Pharmaceutical will hugely assist in meeting compliance criteria. It can keep pace with the increasing surge of data, make you prepared for FDA audits, and prevent the undesired consequences.

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Managing Challenges in the Chemical Industry

Three Ways to Manage Disruption in the Chemical Industry

Three Ways to Manage Disruption in the Chemical Industry 700 500 Xcelpros Team

At a Glance

  • The chemical industry has been at the forefront when it comes to dealing with disruptions as it serves a diverse range of sectors and constitutes of different attributes (such as raw materials, quality issues, geographical/ regional safety rules, financial instabilities, so forth.).
  • Currently, the impact of Covid-19 on chemical industry can be seen across the globe- disrupted supply chains, demand discrepancies, halted travel and fluctuation in petroleum prices have compelled manufacturers to deal with various chemical industry issues all at once.
  • Digitization has disrupted the chemical industry even before the pandemic started and the combined effect has been both challenging and a blessing in disguise for the chemical manufacturers.
  • Through the right tools and systems, the chemical companies can pave their path in the era of digitization and transform for a better future.

The challenges in chemical industry have been varying in nature as the industry relies on a large variety of stakeholders and is an asset-intensive sector. The past few years have been all the more challenging in chemical industry management because of the onset of Industry 4.0 and ensuing changes in IT infrastructure. However, the digitization effect also came as an opportunity for chemical manufacturing and distribution companies to leverage latest technologies to reduce time to market, optimize processes and manage supply chain challenges in the chemical industry with enhanced efficiency.

According to a 2020 survey by PwC, 42% of chemical company CEOs said they would be investing in digital operations and related technologies in the coming 12 months.

To remain on top of the digital game, companies must understand and approach chemical industry issues fully equipped with advanced technologies and comprehensive strategy. Let us have a look at some of the significant challenges in the chemical industry:

1.Managing Data in the Time of Information Abundance:One of the significant challenges of digitization in the chemical industry is an overflow of data in the sector. Top floor decision-makers are looking for ways to store, analyze and generate insights from the abundant information flow. Data analytics remains a tricky area for many chemical manufacturers. Legacy systems are still part of many manufacturers’ IT infrastructure and there are discrepancies in information flow management because different functions work in silos.

2.Overcoming the Unpredictable Nature of the Market:Market fluctuation is another major cause of chemical industry disruption. The ever-changing commodity prices put manufacturers in a sticky spot in terms of finances. Also, the impact of the covid-19 pandemic was felt in the form of demand pattern changes – there has been heavy demand globally for sanitization and hygiene products. Such fluctuations are hard to forecast, and most chemical industry management struggles to keep up with these changes.

3.The Need to Go Agile:The world is moving fast, and the manufacturing industry is looking to catch up. Chemical companies are primarily looking for ways to go agile for better delivery patterns, improved change management and measurable productivity. However, companies face different challenges when going agile such as financial constraints, resource skill management, and resistance from employees.

While the challenges are aplenty, there are ways to overcome chemical company issues. Let us have a look at how companies can manage the disruption in the chemical industry.

1.Investing in Fortifying IT Infrastructure:Chemical companies need to turn to technology as-required but a long-term roadmap is required that justifies the investment. By investing in high-end tools and systems, chemical manufacturers can ensure that their processes are automated, the data is collated and leveraged to generate insights for better business decisions, and the operations are optimized. Going for comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools with embedded BI tools can transform how chemical companies approach their operational requirement.
BASF, the global leader in chemical manufacturing, made use of the Microsoft 365 to improve the transparency and efficiency of virtual teamwork within our global family. This choice was a direct result of the company’s move towards agility.

2.Supply Chain Optimization:Another area where chemical companies can turn a corner and embrace the ongoing changes is to optimize their supply chain. Bettering stakeholder communication, facilitating real-time inventory monitoring, and avoiding stock-outs or bottlenecks by proper warehouse management are some of the steps that manufacturers need to take for a well-functioning supply chain.

Figure 1:Areas getting benefitted with ERP in chemical manufacturing

Areas getting benefitted with ERP in chemical manufacturing

3.Prioritizing Innovation:The highly disruptive digital landscape will multiply the challenges in the chemical industry. However, organizations can resolve these challenges by encouraging innovation. Chemical companies should invest in better market research, newer and more efficient production processes, and out-of-the-box customer response management initiatives. These would enhance overall productivity and also help companies in cementing their position in the volatile market.

In conclusion, disruptions are excellent catalysts to improve processes within a chemical company. Businesses can equip themselves with the latest technologies on a path to digitization.

Key Takeaways:

  • Chemical companies need to look at disruptions as opportunities to overcome challenging times.
  • Latest technologies play an imperative role in chemical manufacturing and aftermarket services as well.

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