“When should my company make capital investments?” “What solution can I integrate that will make the biggest impact on my bottom line?” “How do I know when to go on the offense and when to hold back?” These are the tough business strategy questions that shop owners and leaders have to ask every day. And there are few better times to pause and take stock of how your business is doing than now, as the first quarter of 2021 draws to a close.
If the beginning of the year is the perfect time to set goals, the end of Q1 is the ideal time to check in on the progress you’re making toward them – and find ways to get back on schedule when you’re falling short. In manufacturing, we’re often focused on the smallest details, but in business, it pays to think big. Here are seven of the key questions you should be asking yourself now to understand where you are, where you need to go and what you can achieve if you stay committed to sustainable growth and manufacturing excellence.
1. Would I buy this company?
Business leaders are used to being their company’s biggest cheerleaders. But when you’re examining the health of your business, it’s important to approach it with an outsider’s perspective – not a cheerleader, but a potential buyer. Someone who wanted to buy your company wouldn’t just metaphorically kick the tires before signing a check. Instead, they’d perform a thorough audit, looking at everything that impacts the company’s bottom line with a critical eye. Even if you have no intention of ever selling your business, this way of thinking is a great way to identify areas for improvement.
2. Are you accessible to your customers?
Today, both B2B and B2C customers have come to expect a frictionless online ordering experience, even in complex industries such as manufacturing. Examine the entire journey the customer takes with your company, from the initial customer contact to final part delivery, to identify – and eliminate – any difficulties your customers face in working with you. Most of all, make sure your customers can find you in the first place. It won’t matter if you have an online storefront that sends jobs straight to top-tier INTEGREX i-H machines if none of your potential customers know about your business or its manufacturing capabilities.
3. Do you get it right the first time, every time?
No matter the industry and no matter the shop size, every manufacturing professional understands that operational excellence is critical to staying competitive. This is especially true for industries where high-mix/low-volume environments are becoming more common – and there’s no room for error when producing one-off or two-off parts on demand. Any gap in your quality control processes should be one of the first targets of any improvement effort.
4. Can you be flexible enough to meet tomorrow’s challenges too?
Extremely optimized high-volume production will always be a part of the manufacturing industry, but for most shops today, flexibility is more important than ever before. As job lot sizes shrink and part complexity grows, optimizing individual processes becomes less important than bringing together the machine tools, automation systems and software solutions that give your operators and engineers the versatility required to meet a new production challenge every day.
5. Are you giving your operators the tools for success?
Of course, operators and engineers are harder to come by than they used to be thanks to the skills gap. The manufacturing know-how that sustains many shops may soon disappear as veteran machinists retire, and companies that aren’t ready to pick up the slack will struggle. Today’s new engineers will need training and support to turn them into tomorrow’s skilled operators, and conversational programming solutions like MAZATROL help fill in the expertise gaps in the present while serving as a tool that will help keep your production more flexible for years to come.
6. Are you ready to take advantage of opportunities?
In manufacturing, it’s easy to focus on defensive measures; risk aversion is natural in a business where minor mistakes can quickly result in ruinous downtime. This is a good way to weather bad times, but playing a defensive game is a big mistake when business starts to pick back up. For example, many companies are starting to reexamine their supply lines and reshore work that was previously done overseas. You need the production flexibility required to respond aggressively to new opportunities – and always keep yourself fully aware of what’s going on in your industry, so you know when opportunities exist in the first place.
7. Have you got your priorities straight?
In fact, while significant demographic changes and a volatile global market on the cusp of a post-pandemic recovery put shops in a tough spot for the start of 2021, the pent-up demand many see on the horizon will give businesses endless opportunities – if they’re smart about preparing for them. Now is the perfect time to invest in your core competencies, building a foundation for future growth and expanding your capabilities in the present simultaneously. In other words, figure out what your company does best, and make it a priority to do it even better so you can get a big head start on the competition.
Ready to take the next step? Contact Mazak today to find out how we can help you identify the manufacturing solutions that will make the biggest impact on your business’ bottom line.