The New Future For Mid-Market Manufacturing
March 8, 2018 | Andrea Olson
There are changes on the horizon for mid-market manufacturers. Many will say they’re already here. From proposed federal budget cuts, to transformations in advanced technologies, to the talent war, manufacturers are starting to feel the pressure.
This is a new time in the age of manufacturing, and the changes are even more impactful to the success or failure of companies since the industrial revolution. Deemed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” this era is pressuring organizations to reshape the way they do business, from the front office to the shop floor.
Being competitive doesn’t simply reside in having the best quality product or on-time delivery. These elements are required to simply be in the consideration set. Organizations have to examine how they operate and engage customers in a way that is more proactive, service-oriented and technology driven. Gone are the days of business by handshake—it’s now about how your company can help make the customer’s job easier, simpler, faster and more cost-effective.
While many manufacturers are still looking at the “back-of-the-house” operations to address these challenges, through lean operations, process simplification and streamlined supply chains, there’s a bigger untapped opportunity in the “front-of-the-house.” Modernizing communications infrastructure. Building and implementing a technology stack. Creating a culture of innovation. Embracing and investing in a marketing strategy.
Why are these elements so important? First and foremost, customers are now seeking more than a product that fits their requirements. Since the advent of online purchasing, customers can find a product in an instant and have it delivered in only a day or two. The need to differentiate in an entirely new way is required to compete. Becoming a more service-oriented and customer-centric organization, rather than a widget maker.
This mentality and behavior starts with culture—shaping an organization around the customer rather than the product. It also requires advanced technology to move processes from paper to digital, enabling the organization to function more efficiently, respond more quickly, and utilize automation, data and insights to be proactive to customer needs rather than reactive. This also enables organizations to acquire and retain younger talent, as too many manufacturers still use technologies that existed before millennials were even born.
It requires marketing to play a strong part in shaping the customer engagement, rather than being a department that simply coordinates tradeshows and maintains the website. Most importantly, it’s about creating and implementing a strategy that’s designed to not simply examine new markets, audiences or product lines, but new and innovative ways to help customers accomplish their goals.
We all know the old saying that a customer doesn’t want to buy a drill, they want to make a hole. Today’s manufacturers need to examine their front-of-the-house operations not only to be more competitive, but to be culturally and strategically prepared to leverage new technologies—from 3D Printing to IoT Automation—as a strategic advantage. Because if you’re operating like a dinosaur, you’ll become extinct like one.
Note: A new book, “No Disruptions: The New Future For Mid-Market Manufacturing,” tackles these issues and provides real world, actionable approaches to addressing them. Author Andrea Olson, a customer-facing operational strategy consultant, dives into the ways manufacturers can create uncontested differentiation and a competitive advantage through operational and cultural modernization.