The global pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the manufacturing sector, with businesses of all sizes shutting down operations and facing uncertain futures. With the possibility of another economic recession on the horizon, companies will need to be nimble and adaptable to survive.
Being able to adapt to a changing landscape quickly is one area where small manufacturers can have an advantage over their larger counterparts. The ability to be agile and respond rapidly to customer demands can help small businesses stay afloat when times are tough.
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Below, let’s take a look at some of the areas small manufacturers need to focus on to make it through the next few years.
Small manufacturers often have very narrow product ranges and customer bases. This can leave them vulnerable to economic downturns as they rely on just a few products or sectors for their income.
Diversifying doesn’t mean that you have to start producing new products that you know nothing about, but perhaps certain components you manufacture can be used in different industries that you don’t currently cater to.
In case you’re only selling locally, you may want to look into expanding to international markets. This can multiply your customer base, spread your risks, and greatly boost your revenue.
Business-to-business (B2B) manufacturing has been around for ages. Still, direct-to-consumer (D2C) manufacturing is becoming increasingly popular, as customers are more interested in knowing where their products come from and how they’re made. D2C manufacturing can help small businesses reach new markets and connect with their customers on a more personal level.
By diversifying, you can spread your risk in case certain industry sectors or products experience a larger downturn. This will help ensure that your business can weather any economic storms that may come its way.
One of the best ways for small manufacturers to improve their bottom line is by implementing lean manufacturing principles. Lean manufacturing is all about eliminating waste and inefficiencies in the production process.
This can help small businesses reduce their production costs while also increasing their output. Additionally, by streamlining their operations, small manufacturers can free up time and resources that can be reinvested back into the business.
There are a number of ways to implement lean manufacturing principles, but some of the most common methods include:
- Just-In-Time (JIT) production is a manufacturing technique that involves the production of goods only as needed to minimize waste and inventory costs.
- Kaizen events are short, focused improvement activities involving all team members working together to identify and solve problems.
- Value stream mapping is a tool used to create a visual representation of the steps involved in a manufacturing process to identify areas where improvements can be made.
To see if lean manufacturing is right for your small business, you can consult with a manufacturing expert who can assess your specific needs and requirements. However, if you’re looking to get started on your own, there are plenty of resources available online. You can start with the Fundamentals of Lean Business Planning by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Automation and technology
In order to compete with larger manufacturers, small businesses need to invest in automation and other advanced technologies. This will help them improve their efficiency and productivity while also reducing their labor costs. Additionally, small manufacturers can develop a competitive edge over their larger rivals by investing in newer technologies.
Small businesses often rely on spreadsheets to track and manage their day-to-day operations. Spreadsheets are free, and these may do the trick as you’re just starting up. However, as the business grows, it will quickly outgrow the abilities of these tools. To keep up with the competition, small businesses can implement software to take care of time-consuming and repetitive tasks.
One such tool is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. ERP software helps businesses manage their day-to-day tasks like inventory, manufacturing processes, finances, and much more.
ERP systems are also easily scalable, so as your business grows, the software can grow with you. With manufacturing ERP like Katana, you can integrate your favorite business tools to manage everything from a centralized platform. This also eliminates the need to manually copy data between different platforms, greatly reducing human errors and the time needed for admin tasks.
Small businesses often overlook the importance of marketing and think that they can’t compete with larger manufacturers who have much bigger budgets. However, this isn’t always the case.
While it’s true that large corporations spend millions on 30-second ads during the Super Bowl, there are a number of cost-effective marketing strategies that small manufacturers can use to reach their target markets. Additionally, with the rise of digital marketing, it’s easier than ever for small businesses to connect with their customers online.
Some effective marketing strategies for small manufacturers include content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing. By creating compelling content and optimizing their website for search engines, small businesses can attract new visitors to their sites. And by engaging with their audience on social media, they can build relationships and trust with potential customers.
Invest in your workforce
Your employees are your most valuable asset, and investing in their development is crucial for the long-term success of your business.
One way to do this is by offering training and development opportunities. This can help employees learn new skills and stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends. Additionally, by offering incentives like bonuses or profit sharing, you can motivate employees to work harder and be more productive.
Investing in your workforce will not only help improve employee morale but can also help increase productivity and profits. In fact, studies have shown that businesses that invest in employee development experience higher levels of growth than those that don’t.
By following these tips, small manufacturers can position themselves for success in the years ahead. While there are many challenges that businesses of all sizes face, by focusing on these five areas, you can give your small manufacturing business the best chance of success.
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