Agility is the key to growth for any business, but it becomes the mainstay of survival during a crisis like the current one. The pandemic has proved it because companies that pivoted quickly and made swift decisions emerged as real winners. Agility became the most critical survival factor for manufacturers in particular. It kept them going amid the guidelines of lockdowns and social distancing. It was also the biggest challenge they faced because it is hard to imagine an industrial unit full of heavy equipment making swift transitions in its systems and processes.
Business agility takes a unique meaning in the context of manufacturing, a domain that works very differently from corporate organizations. It isn’t only about the scope and speed of changes it adopts. It is also about communicating effectively across dispersed operations amid disruptions. Thankfully, the industry regularly deals with disruptions such as supply chain issues, shifting market dynamics, and sudden regulatory changes. So adapting is in its nature, but the challenge is a tad greater in such unprecedented times. You can go the extra mile by taking the right steps to drive manufacturing agility. Let us explain them in detail.
Anticipate market needs and offer solutions
Agility is all about projecting needs and responding with marketable goods and services. Right now, it means addressing the immediate needs of customers because they are evolving more rapidly than ever. Countless manufacturers did it quickly by changing their core offerings. For example, automotive manufacturers switched up from producing automobiles to ventilators and medical equipment, which were the need of the hour. Similarly, consumer goods industries focused on the production of essentials like hand sanitizers and PPEs. The faster you can offer solutions, the better chances you have to survive, sustain, and thrive in the toughest situations.
Encourage the adoption of an agile mindset for the workforce
Manufacturing is a labor-intensive domain, and the possibility of swift transitions depends greatly on team cooperation. If you want your business to be agile, you have to ensure that your workforce can match the current production needs at any point. The right mindset will drive maximum efficiency and productivity even during a crisis. It boils down to their willingness and ability to adapt when needed. Training is the first step that can make your employees ready for the adoption of an agile mindset. It enables you to scale the manpower up and down quickly and implement a flexible work schedule as well. If you plan to get new employees on board, look for ones with the right mindset because they can influence others.
Bring agility in processes
Ensure that the processes are flexible and scalable, just like your workforce. It will help the unit to address market demands in real-time and maintain its competitive edge. Technologies like rapid prototyping can bring immense improvement to the production process. It can curb errors and speed up production by creating models faster. While adopting cutting-edge improvements is vital, you must also review your internal operations. Look for bottlenecks, and plan for resolving them as fast as possible. You must also have a strategy to handle change management because employee adoption is the cornerstone of success.
Invest in digital technologies
The most important aspect of manufacturing agility is going digital. It boils down to investing in the right technologies that drive efficiency for production and supply chain. Even as digital transformation requires a hefty investment, it pays for itself. For example, automation is the best technology to embrace right now because it reduces the dependence on the human workforce. You can operate your plan with fewer people on the floor, which is the need during the era of social distancing. Predictive analytics can help with minimizing the impact of disruptions. You have an idea of an impending breakdown, enabling you to act quickly and take preventive measures on time.
Share information in real-time
Going agile is also about good communication within the organizations and with your consumers as well. People expect answers right now, and they expect them quickly. Consumers need to know about the health and safety measures manufacturers are taking during the production process. Employees want to understand the new workplace practices, while stakeholders require an overview of the changing strategies. Sharing accurate information in real-time with all of them boosts the trust and credibility of your business. Strive to be transparent and make information highly accessible for everyone who expects to know things.
Prioritize end-to-end visibility
Manufacturing operations are complex because there are countless processes, departments, and people to handle. External collaborations with vendors and contractors make things even more complicated. End-to-end visibility sets you up for making well-informed, timely decisions that drive agility. Build a system that provides a 360-degree picture of operations and value chain, covering all processes, departments, contractors, and partners. You require a unified system that brings together the full spectrum of solutions used by your company. These include your ERP, supply chain management, after-market service, and more.
Lead from the bottom up
Adapting to a fast-changing scenario requires insights from the front lines. If business leaders overlook the perspectives and ideas of workers, they can miss out on a lot. People who are in the thick of operations can offer valuable inputs on the challenges that need attention. Further, they can also bring actionable and innovative ideas to the table. Taking care of both aspects empowers leaders to set a pace for real agility. Ensure that information flows freely and broadly at all levels so that you can lead from the bottom up. A direct pipeline with the workers at grassroots levels enables you to lead better and take your company ahead even during tough times.
Manufacturing agility is hard to achieve, but you can still do it with the right steps and strategies. Once you establish them, it becomes easier to adapt and evolve rapidly according to the changing circumstances. While it may take some effort and investment to implement these measures, they are worthwhile because they help you identify and seize opportunities at the earliest.