Editor’s note: The following column by Craig de Kock, president of NETSTOCK USA, is part of Modern’sOther Voices column, a series featuring ideas, opinions and insights from end-users, analysts, systems integrators and OEMs. Click here to learn about submitting a column for consideration.
The United States economy has emerged from its 11-year economic expansion and is heading into an economic slowdown. August 2019 was the first time we saw the ISM Manufacturing figures slip into contraction in three years. October’s report was 48.3 against an expectation of 49.1, indicating a contraction in the manufacturing industry (readings above 50 indicate growth).
Now is the time to tighten your belt and operate your manufacturing business as lean and cost-efficiently as possible. To navigate these waters, spend your time, energy, and money on elements in your business you can control.
First, take a look at your employees and how they utilize their time. If a recession is going to become a reality, you need to maximize your employee efficiency to a new level.
How much of your employee’s time is spent wasted on cumbersome and time-consuming tasks such as: ● Searching for information that should be readily available. For example, production coming to a grinding halt because raw materials haven’t arrived – this information should be visible to operations so they can schedule their time effectively. ● Repeatedly entering data into multiple systems ● Managing complicated formulas and data entry calculations
Overall, how much money does this cost you in resource time? Would it not be better to automate your processes? Start by reviewing each process throughout your business, identify where the bottlenecks are, and research solutions to fix these. Your end goal should be to shorten process times and increase your throughput.
Manufacturing capacity is increased to address immediate customer demand or anticipated customer demand. Let’s take a look at some ways in which you can increase efficiencies in your factory without expanding your workforce or equipment costs.
● Use your existing equipment more by adding extra shifts and longer hours. ● Outsource equipment when capacity increases. ● Invest in maintenance. Through sensor-driven monitoring, you can be alerted on maintenance issues before they become a real problem. ● Share your current workflows with your management team and get them all to collaborate to find better processes. ● If you have been using the same equipment since back when the dinosaurs were roaming, consider upgrading them to smarter machinery. You will have a better chance of getting a capital loan now before a downturn hits, and this will save you in the long run. ● When upgrading your equipment technology or your systems technology ensure that you provide the necessary training to your employees so you can see the maximum impact on your investment. ● Look at the layout of your floor. Are the machines and tools laid out to provide maximum efficiency? If not, consider re-organizing to create a smoother workflow. ● Ensure that you can access your inventory information at the push of a button. A system should be in place that can help you to manage demand, lead times, and replenishment quantities. In times of a recession, it’s even more imperative to achieve that fine line between being under or overstocked. ● Re-evaluate the classifications that you have set on your stock items. For example, items that should be classified as a non-stock item as they only leave your shelf a few times per annum. These items are taking up valuable shelf space that could be used for your fast-moving items. ● If you can free up floor space through better inventory management, you could look at renting out some of your excess floor space. ● Take a close look at your inventory wastage, identify the issues, and put processes in place to curb this. ● Your demand forecasting needs to be super accurate if you hope to run a tight ship. Having a system in place that keeps history on sales, manufacturing orders, inter-site orders and purchases mean you are better able to forecast demand. ● Having a system in place that allows you to link your raw materials and sub-assembly demand to your finished product demand will prove to be most valuable. Fluctuations at any level would allow you to take decisive action and avoid unnecessary costs. ● Never compromise on safety and quality. If you have no other alternative and have reached the limit to what you can do to safely meet customer expectations, re-negotiate your delivery times or offer a discount for the inconvenience rather than forego safety or quality.
In conclusion, in times of recession, people should stick together. Management needs to ensure that its staff morale is alive and well as it’s very easy to slip into negativity, which tends to filter through an organization like wildfire. A manufacturing floor is most productive when everyone works together towards a common goal and objective with as little conflict as possible.
These tips should help to steer your operation through the troubled waters during an economic downturn so you can emerge without too many cuts and bruises.
Get news, papers, media & research, delivered.
Stay up-to-date with news and resources you need to do your job. Research industry trends, compare companies and get market intelligence every week with Supply Chain 24/7.
Subscribe to our email newsletter and we’ll keep you up-to-date.