Paths and Choices

Manufacturers must pivot quickly.

I’m writing this article on April 16, 2020. The news is riveting. More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs. Uncle Sam just made unrequested and greatly needed deposits in countless bank accounts. Many Americans are physically, spiritually and emotionally exhausted, working countless hours. And many others sit at home, warding off panic attacks, wonder how they will pay the bills and wishing they had work.

Manufacturers face the same disparity. According to analysts, manufacturing output declined 28% in March. And if you happen to one of the many companies suddenly without enough employees and sales, you need to pivot and pivot quickly to survive.

As cooler heads begin to prevail, examine your business for opportunities for changes in protocols, products, and processes. Here are some ideas:

Protocols

Safety and compliance with local and federal guidelines are the first areas of business that have to be examined. Do you have an HR company, trade association or legal team advising you on the requirements? Do you have effective means of communicating with employees quickly? How about an IT company advising you on communication protocols? Don’t let the news determine your protocols – make sure business decisions are based on facts. The messages we hear online are conflicting and change so quickly!

Products

What products could you make where there is demand? What industries should you expand into? What contacts do you have in those companies? And how can you market to them right now? This crisis is creating demand not only for medical supplies and personal protective equipment but for many other products. How could you make your products “smart” and widen your customer base? Can you add remote monitoring, RIFD tracking or other technology to your products to make it less people-dependent?

Processes

What technologies will give you better insights into your supply chain, your machine usage, your operations? Should you be outsourcing? When times were busy, IoT monitoring may have sounded like a good idea, but not an urgent one. Now, when there is slack – time – forward-thinking companies are investing in training and implementing technology. The factory of tomorrow will collect data automatically everywhere possible. This data will drive all business decisions. Now is the time to look at your processes and think “what can be automated?” and “How much money could this save me?” This is all work which administrative people can do from home, researching, watching demos and thinking. Give them the time to think and be creative. It’s your people’s creativity which will rescue your company.

Manufacturers are notorious for struggling with change management. The very nature of the necessary quality systems, ISO standards and workflows hinder rapid change. Companies that are well-established especially struggle to motivate change and get buy-in at all levels. Now that everything is unsettled, people are willing to change.

  • It’s time to train.
  • It’s time to invest in technology.
  • It’s time to question everything.
  • It’s time to listen to the most outrageous ideas.

 Those that do will not only weather this storm but come out stronger!

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