by Joe Bisaha
Have you lost your balance? In your quest for achieving the best lean manufacturing process possible, down to every penny spent and second utilized, have you lost sight of the world around you? Have you produced the best product at the lowest cost just to find out that nobody wants to buy it?
Modern manufacturing is a bit like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving forward. Spending time to tune up your bicycle is important. It will run more smoothly and efficiently. But if you keep your eyes on the pedals, you just might lose sight of the finish line and fall off the path.
During times of economic uncertainty as we had a few years ago, minimizing costs is one way to survive. However, when you only focus on internal issues (costs, quality, and processes), you are in danger of losing sight of external realities (customer demand, consumer behavior, technology changes and global competition). Survival in a competitive, global market requires an even greater understanding of the world and your customers. Modern manufacturing necessitates a balance between lean manufacturing practices and market-focused strategies.
Lean manufacturing practices are more important than ever.
Automated processes are necessary to set the foundation to help you move toward creating real value in the market and growing revenue. Setting your focus on the marketplace requires implementing advanced manufacturing strategies that enable you to react quickly to trending market demands.
- Simplify manufacturing processes. Because manufacturers need to move more quickly than ever, it is critical to minimize production and design costs. Businesses can’t afford to implement processes with high costs and a long return on investment. Instead, manufacturers need leverage automation to cut costs and quickly deliver quality products.
- Narrow product focus. Increased competition may require changing your business strategy to focus on niche products and narrower markets. Instead of offering a broad product mix, become a nimble specialist that offers shorter lead times with higher and quality service.
- Tighten controls. In order to improve product quality as well as meet new regulations, more money may need to be spent in quality control. It is more important than ever to establish repeatable, quality production.
Lean manufacturing practices should create competitive advantages.
Manufacturers must go beyond considering the manufacturing floor and warehouse as a cost center and also should consider how their manufacturing practices can create a competitive advantage. Yes, having the lowest production costs can be an advantage, but only for so long. Eventually, competitors can, and will, catch up. However, if you establish real, sustainable advantages, you can capture and hold market share.
There are a number of opportunities for establishing a competitive advantage through your manufacturing practices.
- Learn to be flexible and agile. To enable quick response to rapid changes in the market, manufacturers need flexible skills and resources. To create agility, you need to reevaluate organizational design to improve communication and generate a quick response. Flexibility and agility will assist manufacturers in improving R&D efficiency and the pace and value of innovation. Those who fail to embrace the new reality and implement advanced manufacturing practices will be left behind.
- Expand operations. While narrowing product focus, manufacturers cannot narrow their geographic focus. You may need to consider additional distribution channels, such as e-commerce, international sales, and global production. Partnerships may be essential in order to improve time-to-market and lower costs.
- Improve customer relationships. In a competitive marketplace, customer relationships are more important than ever. You need to focus on what your customers need instead of on what you can give them. Businesses must deliver value through new product and service offerings as well as improve product reliability. After-market service and maintenance have become even more important to the revenue stream and the profitability of the company.
Integrated, cloud-based technologies keeps you in balance.
When you need to be more agile and flexible while streamlining processes, a modern ERP integrated with advanced manufacturing and warehousing tools is your answer. A modern ERP offers specialized add-ons while maintaining central data control. With a complete integrated solution, you can streamline processes, produce a superior product and improve customer satisfaction.
Advanced manufacturing and warehousing automation systems enable you to collect, store and analyze data that can be used to better manage the supply chain, enhance daily operations and improve customer relationships. Using technology like RFID, barcoding, sensors or cameras in your operations can reduce machinery downtime (as you are automatically alerted to system and machine errors), increase quality, minimize waste, and improve visibility. Today, even small to mid-sized companies can afford to implement these systems.
A strategic manufacturing model doesn’t stop at operations. It requires systems that are interconnected between departments, customers, suppliers and subcontractors to ensure free-flowing information. Mobile sales and service departments should have instant access to customer and inventory information. Product tracking data should flow smoothly throughout the entire supply chain. Integrated, mobile systems make this model possible.
Modern manufacturing technology offers tremendous opportunities for streamlining production, improving customer service and growing revenue. It just requires a little balance.
About the Author
Joe Bisaha is the founder and creator of the solutions provided by JDB Solutions Group, LLC, now in joint partnership with ONE Software Solution. Visit http://OneSoftwareSolution.com to learn more.
Reprinted from the Summer 2016 issue of Bellwether.
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