As manufacturers, there are certain things we are all dealing with. The skills gap isn’t going away, technology is evolving faster than ever before, and the competitive nature of manufacturing is growing on a national and global scale. These are items that can keep even the smallest manufacturer up at night. As a business leader, you need to be a few steps ahead, thinking about what your business needs and what changes are relevant to your industry.
The good news is that most business fundamentals have not changed. However, this doesn't mean there are no new challenges ahead for you and your company. To have a relevant manufacturing business as time moves forward, here are a few things you should be doing.
I suggest you start by doing a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is a simple business tool that will help you identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business. Knowing your business SWOT information is key to ensuring you’re still relevant in the future.
In addition to a SWOT analysis, it is a good business practice to benchmark your company to peer businesses. This lets you see how your business stacks up to your competitors and helps you identify opportunities for improvement as well as your key differentiators. This information will help you develop strategic plans to ensure your business is successful as the future approaches.
In addition to these two basics, here are several things that will impact the way your company is doing business today and into the future:
1. Industry 4.0
Equipment sensors provide real-time data (know what is happening)
Customers and suppliers have instant access to your company (know the status of their orders and products)
Improves and increases supply chain management effectiveness (ensures everyone knows what is needed, when, and where)
2. Big data
Collecting and managing all data (machine, supply chain, and customer)
Accessing data from anywhere through the Internet
Accessing cloud computing
Driving automation, machine learning, and TPM (Total Productive Maintenance)
Accelerating speed of innovation
3. System integration
Integration of ERP (enterprise resource planning), MES (manufacturing execution system), SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), MRP (material resource planning), etc.
Data collaboration between, suppliers, customers, and you
Cloud storage and data management through SaaS (software as a service)
Data sharing and processing through cloud computing
4. KPI (key performance indicators)
Measures what is relevant
Hold KPI owners responsible
Identifies deficiencies and addresses them
Think from design to end of product life
Design for manufacturability and assembly
Use green or recycled materials
Focus on reduction of energy consumption
Use green energy technologies
Improve your process and equipment
Encourage your suppliers and customers to implement green efforts
Follow fair trade sourcing practices
Have your company positively involved within the community
6. Adapt lean manufacturing
Develop a culture of positive and continual change
Focus on waste reduction in all your processes
Drive employee engagement and empowerment
Be a leader
Adopting new technology might give you an edge for a short period of time, but your competition will catch up with you. In addition to new technology, you need to continually measure your performance and have a lean manufacturing mindset. This will ensure your company is ready for the ever-changing manufacturing industry now and into the future.