The path for small business manufacturers is a challenging one. In 2019, small domestic manufacturers in the U.S. were reporting higher levels of optimism than they had for quite some time.
Then, in 2020 COVID-19 hit, which impacted every business and supply chain around the world. There were significant impacts on finances and operations for manufacturers. That was then paired with a tumultuous year politically, and with a new presidential administration, many manufacturing businesses are waiting to see how policies might change.
If you’re a small manufacturer who feels like you’re just treading water, the following are some tips that can help you along the way.
One of the most important things you can do in manufacturing is have processes and procedures that are efficient. Being faster than your competition can give you an edge.
There are different ways to reduce downtime and eliminate bottlenecks.
Maintaining your equipment is a big one.
According to Industrial Air Supplies, if you want efficient output from your industrial machinery, you should consider changing its parts regularly. It’s much better to take the time and put resources toward maintenance than it is to replace your equipment more often.
Find a parts supplier that you trust and develop an ongoing relationship with them because when your machinery is down, you’re reducing your productivity and profitability. It can also cause damage to your reputation.
Optimize Your Supply Chain
Your supply chain is integral to your manufacturing business, and your goals here should be efficiency, greater control over your inventory, and reduced operational costs.
To achieve these goals, you might want to think about software that will help you automate some elements of your supply chain and give you more centralized visibility.
Also important is making sure that you focus on building and strengthening your supplier relationships because, much like the suppliers who provide you parts for your equipment, your other suppliers can help you grow your business.
On the other hand, if you have an unreliable supplier, it creates bottlenecks, and that starts to quickly affect your customers.
You should have open lines of communication with each supplier, and you should aim to check in regularly and audit prices and other elements of your relationship.
You also have to gauge which trade-offs are worth it when it comes to your suppliers. For example, if a supplier is more dependable but more expensive, that may be worth it.
Learn Lean Inventory Best Practices
There’s a concept called lean inventory, which started in Japan. Following the 5S’s that make up lean inventory practices can change your productivity in many positive ways.
The 5S’s are:
- Seiri (Sort): Go through your workspaces to make sure there aren’t any unused items. Classify your items based on how often your employees use them, and logically group items so that they’re accessible and near to one another.
- Seiton (Straight, Set): This idea means that you always put everything back in its designated place, so employees know exactly where an item is when they need it.
- Seiso (Shine and Sweep): This concept just means that you keep workspaces clean. There shouldn’t be dirt or dust, and you should have a system for ensuring that it doesn’t accumulate. Cleaning should be done daily.
- Seiketsu (Standardize): Your bill of materials should be clear and easily readable. You can also create visual representations of operations with a Kanban system.
- Shitsuke (Sustain): This element of lean manufacturing means that once you have good practices in place, you maintain them, and you also promote a positive corporate culture that prioritizes happy employees.
Improve Your Quality
Sometimes setting yourself apart from your competition can be as easy as improving your quality. There’s a big issue of high defective rates in manufacturing, so strive to overcome that.
Make it a priority to have an action plan to improve the quality of what you produce.
Diversity Your Customers
It can help you weather challenges to have a diverse customer base. Maybe you go outside your industry, for example.
If you think about larger manufacturers, like automakers, they frequently do that.
Finally, another thing that you can make an important priority that will boost your business is investing in your employers. When you pay your employer higher wages, and you focus heavily on training and developing them, they become your most valuable investment.
You’re going to see better quality and productivity paired with less turnover.
Empower your employees and let them shine as an asset to your manufacturing business.