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It’s too bad “trick or treat” is just a childhood phrase and not an actual choice for manufacturers.
But instead of plastic pumpkin pails and pillowcases full of
future cavities candy, you’re left with major production problems keeping you from meeting customer demand and company goals. It’s like being stuck in a haunted house, just with fewer fake skeletons and more work-related stress.
As Halloween 2021 comes and goes (hopefully with enough treats for everyone), it’s clear that the effects of the pandemic are far from over. Skip the scary movie – regardless of your industry, these three manufacturing trends are sure to send a chill down your spine.
No matter what product you make, you’ve surely felt the repercussions of a supply chain that operates as inefficiently as Frankenstein walks. Most manufacturers simply can’t get the parts or ingredients they need to maintain consistent inventory and keep production going at a steady pace. Nor can they move enough finished product to customers.
As cargo ships crowd coastal waters waiting to unload, costs are alarmingly high. The fee for a single shipping container sent from China to the U.S. recently topped $20,000. Even if prices seem to be coming down, they aren’t dropping fast enough for anyone to feel confident in their supply chain. When 90% of traded goods are transported by the sea, the situation is scarier than any Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger mask.
On top of it all, demand has been volatile and difficult to predict. Customers of all kinds are bracing for a fall and winter without the items they’re accustomed to buying. Forget about the chip shortage in automotive for a moment and imagine what could be: a Halloween without candy? A Thanksgiving without grandma’s famous pie? A New Year’s Eve without cheap champagne? Terrifying.
If your manufacturing operations are like most, then you still haven’t found a consistent post-COVID groove. You’re dealing with supply problems. Your machines sat idle for unplanned lengths of time before jumping into overdrive. Your people (whether or not you’re fully staffed) lost their routines and are still mentally processing the last two years.
This is when mistakes happen. The pressure to deliver is higher than ever but making up for lost time by cutting corners is not an option. Quality cannot be sacrificed. With that in mind, ensure your people are working at a healthy pace. Optimize your machine usage so products are made right, not just fast. Keep the lines of communication open throughout every department so you can catch any error or warning sign as early as possible.
After all, customers are quick to express themselves publicly and you don’t want your business trending in the media for a bad reason; that could be scarier than the monster from Stranger Things. One single YouTube video showing a defect in what you made can be enough to ruin your brand, even if it was a one-in-a-million mistake. That’s why the drive for high quality shouldn’t stop when your product leaves the warehouse – it should extend to the customer experience too.
The scariest aspect of any situation is the unknown. As a kid, that meant not knowing what’s around the dark corner of the local haunted house. As an adult, it means not knowing what’s going on in your operations.
How much inventory do you have on hand at this exact moment? Which of your machines are most likely to break down in the next month? How fast could you identify the root cause of a problem if someone brought a defect to your attention?
The questions go on, and they’re hard to answer with so much uncertainty in the world. And they’re downright impossible to answer without technology. Manufacturers who rely on a strong MES, or at least implement an IIoT strategy, have a fighting chance. They’re the ones who can adapt quickly. They’re the ones who can accurately perform demand forecasting. And they’re the ones who know where their business stands on any parameter at any moment.
It’s like they’re spending Halloween watching horror movies in 8k Ultra HD while other manufacturers squint at grainy versions of the same film off a VHS tape… from their plant floor… as they work overtime to manually update their spreadsheets.
We have to call it like we see it: if the above issues were houses, then they’d be getting egged. Toilet paper would hang from their trees. Their pumpkins would be smashed on the ground next to discarded Tootsie Roll wrappers. You get the idea.
Few manufacturers are having a great time this Halloween, and we all wish we could express our frustrations like a teen up to no good in the middle of the night. But as adults – as manufacturers – there is a way to push back. Rely on technology, treat your people right, communicate honestly, and don’t cut any corners, and you’ll be on your way to a far less scary 2022.