Summer is usually a slower time for manufacturers. In fact, you’ve probably already decided to take some time off and get out of town.
Nobody will fault you for that. Everybody needs a break.
But before you go, make plans to do something else with your summer: carve out time to gain a better understanding of your business.
Spending some of your summer downtime analyzing your business could pay major dividends later when you’re too busy to stop and think about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
Here are four questions to ask about your business before you go on summer vacation.
1. What’s holding us back?
As you keep your production line moving and fill customer orders throughout the year, you must have a nagging sense of what’s preventing your business from getting to the next level.
Are you struggling to win new contracts? Take the time now to figure out why that is. Are your price points too high? Are new competitors undercutting you to win deals? And what about quality?
Or maybe you’re having trouble moving into a new market. Is it a lack of name recognition that’s dragging you down? Or, have you failed to understand the needs of a whole different breed of potential customers?
Ask yourself the tough questions now—and then make plans to answer them before business picks up again in the fall.
2. What are our biggest efficiency challenges on the shop floor?
Time and manpower wasted on the shop floor is a direct hit on your bottom line. Or to put it another way, every hour and dollar you save during production is pure profit—you don’t have to buy it or pay taxes on it.
So if you really are struggling to grow your bottom line by way of winning new contracts or moving into new markets, consider increasing your focus on shop floor efficiency. Reducing your scrap rates or minimizing machine downtime could give you the financial boost you’ve been looking for—and you’ll continue to reap these benefits even after you add new customers over time.
3. How are we measuring our progress?
There’s an old saying in business that what gets measured gets done. The obvious corollary is that what doesn’t get measured stays on the back burner forever.
If you’re not actually tracking your shop floor efficiency, scrap rates, production downtime, and so on, your first order of business should be to start measuring. Otherwise, you’ll risk running your business on educated guesses—a strategy that will prove unsustainable as key people inevitably move on and take vast amounts of institutional knowledge with them.
If you are measuring your performance, don’t rest on your laurels just yet. Ask yourself, “Has the data we’ve collected actually made any difference in our business performance?”
In other words, is your data making a brief appearance in a PowerPoint and then getting forgotten about entirely? Or are people using this data to set and achieve actionable goals?
Remember: it’s not about the amount of data we collect; it’s what we do with it that matters.
4. How are we using technology?
In the race to achieve high-minded goals such as “joining the Fourth Industrial Revolution” or “tapping into the IIoT,” some manufacturers have found themselves implementing technologies they don’t fully understand.
Any manufacturer in this day and age can be forgiven for feeling utterly bombarded by technical buzzwords. But when companies install sensors on all their machinery and then let their new production data sit in data siloes, there’s clearly a disconnect.
So, spend some of your summer downtime taking stock of:
- Which technology you’re using.
- The original business intent of purchasing this technology.
- The actual day-to-day use of this technology.
- Where your missed opportunities lie.
You may very well determine that you can get much more out of the emerging technologies you’ve already implemented, essentially achieving business improvements for free. Which means you’ll finally have a great story to tell when people ask you, “What did you do this summer?”
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