Smaller manufacturing companies rarely, if ever, have immediate and ready access to resources available to drive operational and business improvements consistently and continually. However, they respond quickly to handle ad-hoc critical situations, after which the environment returns to a state of modi operandi, that is, until the next emergency. Most manufacturers in this position are well aware of the disruptive elements of the “reactive” cycle and often accept this aspect of their company’s culture for many different reasons.
Employees up and down the hierarchy regularly complain that such environments are stressful yet rarely want to do anything about the root cause of the stress. Addressing situations that could have been critical to safety or productivity is often met with euphoria or a general sense of achievement, given that we all instinctively harbor a desire to be the ones that help “save the day” for the recognition and plaudits that may follow.
In the same way, to continue operating will spell disaster for many. Because of the last two years, the challenges facing manufacturers mean that an entirely new type of approach is required for driving operational and business improvements. Unfortunately for many smaller manufacturers, the last two years have been devastating. Many more are still struggling to maintain margins given the current flow of ongoing business and operational challenges. Some of the more significant challenges are likely to be facing manufacturers for some time to come, including:
· Supply Chain disruptions in availability and logistics, impacting the timely receipt of inbound materials and meeting customer demands.
· Optimal management of the Sales and Operational Planning process to mitigate the risks of production losses and meet customer requirements.
· The ability to recruit, retain, train, and develop employees and address the manufacturing skills shortage that is already severely affecting manufacturers large and small.
· Providing key employees with the flexibility of remote work will become a critical differentiator in recruiting and retaining employees.
· Digitalization of core manufacturing and production processes will separate the companies that will truly create competitive advantages from those that will continue to struggle. IoT and A.I is now well within reach of any organization, irrespective of its size. Digitalization addresses many of the challenges evident in today’s business environments. It is more than a little surprising to see smaller manufacturers still reticent to integrate digitalization more rapidly.
· Much like the challenge of digitalization, smaller manufacturers have not optimized opportunities available through robotics and automation. For many small manufacturers, the belief is that robotics and automation are out of reach unless you have access to significant capital budgets. As with digitalization, this is no longer true.
Unfortunately, uncertainty will continue to be an integral part of society and industry. These challenges demand a very different type of organization, which is structured to continually look for and optimize small improvement opportunities.
An organization with the right processes and management systems empowers its employees to continually identify and deliver improvement opportunities. Research and learnings captured from over 1000 small to medium-sized manufacturers have enabled us to recommend our clients utilize a simple model based on those leanings. The “Rapid Results Deployment Model” is Specifically catered to those manufacturers that do not have the luxury of time or resources to dedicate to large, time-consuming and expensive improvement initiatives. The model is deployed based on a proven approach to delivering rapid, tangible, and meaningful results in timeframes of less than 12 weeks.
More importantly, the approach ensures that the organization creates the appropriate change management processes and incorporates key metrics into its high-level management system to drive continuity and deliver an environment and culture of Continuous Improvement. Developing the skills amongst the employees to continually deliver small improvements also has the benefit of helping with recruitment and retention, as it creates more meaningful work environments, even when the work is more menial in nature. Higher levels of shopfloor engagement also drive higher levels of loyalty, reducing employee turnover - in some cases quite drastically.
As stated earlier, smaller manufacturers no longer need to feel disadvantaged against their bigger competitors. They now have access to the same technologies and methodologies to be equally well-equipped to drive strategies that advance market penetration and the development of new products and markets.