ROI

Peter Bigelow

Solving the age-old dilemma between design and manufacturing.

Developing a new product or process – or even aggressively refining them – is a juggle of “wants” and “needs.” As manufacturers in an industry that constantly pushes the envelopes of performance, real estate, and – yes! – cost, our industry is precisely where the rubber meets the road in reconciling needs and wants.

Manufacturing is a curious profession that often relies on older equipment, processes and employee skills to produce cutting-edge “new” products. The catalyst is, of course, people: people who design and people who take those designs and make functioning product. As smart, talented, dedicated and thoughtful as these people may be, however, they often fail to communicate the needs vs. the wants.

Indeed, it can be hard to know what’s on the other side of the hill.

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Read more: When What You Want Isn’t What You Need

Peter Bigelow

Dealing with the emotional toll of the pandemic.

Stagnation is a devastating condition for any business. No enterprise chooses to be stagnant, and rarely does anyone within notice when inertia begins. Still, the effect can launch a downward spiral that can cripple companies, even in the most dynamic industries.

Stagnation has many causes, which can take a long time to do damage. Most common are simple things, such as when a company slows or stops development of new products or capabilities, or when it takes existing customers for granted while not working to develop new ones. Most common is when management stops investing in needed equipment or workers to make the bottom line look better, quarter after quarter. Each of these decisions are made, consciously or not, by management. And while the intentions may have been good, over time they become the root cause of stagnation and can bring a vibrant company to its knees.

Yet stagnation can occur despite management’s best efforts to maintain a focused, engaged and vibrant business. Sometimes external events create an environment that must be dealt with. In the meantime, corporate progress falls by the wayside. Covid-19 is just such an event.

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Read more: Is Covid Stagnating Your Workplace? Here’s What to Do

Peter Bigelow

Now, just how many people can we move off the floor?

This past year was most unusual, distracting and challenging, and many of those distractions and challenges appear they will remain with us well into the first half of the year. As industry begins to focus on post-pandemic planning, however, much has been learned over the past year that can and is being applied to planning for the future.

Possibly the most significant thing learned is technology can – and does – work! A generation of manufacturing and technology leaders knew little of platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, etc. Through baptism by fire, we have become believers in virtual interaction, its effectiveness and value. Equally significant is the realization that for many business functions, including those in manufacturing, remote working – aka working from home – works and offers much more flexibility than the traditional structured workplace.

Manufacturers have by necessity reconfigured shop floors to accommodate social distancing, cleaning protocols, and all that has gone with the Covid pandemic. Adding space between production lines can accommodate social distancing. But while effective, it has proven costly. Splitting shifts is another tactic. Employees may be willing today to change schedules to keep a job; however, it is not ideal in the long term. Meanwhile, in the office environment social distancing is accomplished via interactive technology. Further, many claim the efficiency and flexibility from employees working remotely and communicating virtually has been significantly better than they imagined. The office environment success and flexibility from harnessing virtual communication technology has not gone unnoticed by the manufacturing manager.

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Read more: Revealed: Technology Really Works!

Peter Bigelow

Businesses can’t plan for everything, but with the right prep they can adapt.

December is finally here. Mercy knows it seems to have taken forever to bring this most unusual year to a close. I keep pondering the question customers inevitably ask during a supplier audit: What contingencies are in place for “unforeseen and unthinkable” disasters and events? If anyone had asked me a couple years ago to come up with a plan to deal with a global pandemic I would have thought them to be crazy for asking. And yet, that was 2020!

The one takeaway from this crazy year is you can never plan for everything. Paradoxically, good planning makes it easier to deal with the unimaginable.

Business planning takes numerous forms. Most people think first of the financial budget planning, usually led by finance and account staffs. Visions of building a budget, whether bottom-up or top-down, as a tool to measure specific activities against comes to mind. This type of planning revolves around predicting core operating activities that are repeatable, predictable and highly measureable. While important, if not essential, for the operations folk to run the “business as usual,” that budget is only one aspect of planning.

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Read more: Preparing Your Company for Disaster

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