Manufacturing Operations Development: Traditional Approaches Drive Success

January 29, 2020 Casey Nighbor

Businesses and their leaders consistently look to capitalize on the newest ideas and hottest trends, often investing heavily in campaigns and initiatives built on little more than gimmicks doomed to failure. On the other hand, strategies involving successful utilization of economic concepts outlined by economists and mathematicians going back to Adam Smith explain numerous business triumphs of the last 20 years, such as that of Progressive Insurance. Smith argued for the positive consequences of self-interest and Progressive dominated its industry by competing more successfully, because it simply provided a better product at a lower cost than its competitors did.

While risk, when driven by the self-interest inherent to turning a profit, can lead to financial reward, it is important to remember calculated planning is simply more likely to succeed than flashy gimmicks. Such is often the case when initiatives are built upon proven, traditional approaches to manufacturing operations development. Another example involves the theories of John Nash, who updated Smith by arguing businesses can benefit by balancing competition and cooperation. For example, carmakers around the world have been courting ride sharing and technology companies in multiple bids to corner the up and coming driverless vehicle market.

Knowing how to go about putting economic theory into practice to drive ROI at your company can be challenging. As such, below we highlight how businesses have put these traditional approaches into practice and how you stand to benefit from implementing such manufacturing operations development.

Success Through Innovation

Maximizing efficiency in your manufacturing processes is one way to get a leg up on your competitors. Harley-Davidson, for example, consolidated 42 aging factory buildings into a single modern plant in York, Pennsylvania, as part of a plan to implement a new flexible and responsive production cycle, which was reduced from 21 days to 6 hours. Also, in the five years following their new plant’s opening, Harley-Davidson reduced their injury rate by 91 percent. This may or may not have been intentional, but it’s fully possible to dramatically improve safety while increasing productivity. Who doesn’t want a happier workforce, meeting their goals, while working safer jobs?

Finding a way to increase the efficiency of their production process not only allowed this classic American company to serve its bottom line, but the improvements also made Harley-Davidson better able to provide its customers with the quality product they desired. The key to implementing changes comes down to manufacturing operations using every tool at their disposal to identify all possible avenues of improvement and then creating and putting in place a realistic plan made up of achievable benchmarks.

Another, newer concept being adapted to the corporate business model by companies as disparate as Samsung and Facebook is a variant on crowdsourcing. Called “open innovation,” it is essentially an invitation for individuals to submit new plans and concepts to an online database managed centrally by a company. But how would you get people to part with potentially lucrative ideas, especially in an age when everyone wants to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg?

In one example, General Electric uses online design competitions as a means to recruit new talent, in a job market where corporations find the skills gap harder to fill than ever before. GE’s Geniuslink provided a means for this older company to update its brand by embracing a new, exciting approach to innovation, while sourcing and utilizing fresh, young talent. Simultaneously, GE was able to partner with a wide variety of other well-known corporations to solve complex problems on the cutting edge of technology, which brings us to our next topic.

Success Through Strategic Partnership

Whether your strategic partnership makes immediate sense or the potential benefits seem a bit less obvious, aligning with another business presents a myriad of opportunities. If implemented properly, strategic partnerships introduce a measure of flexibility into the complex milieu that is today’s online, as well as unplugged, marketplace. This flexibility can be considered a bridge linking the tried and true business practices of the past to the volatility of the present and sharing the risk and future rewards, so all parties involved benefit.

The simplest and most straightforward means by which your manufacturing operation can benefit from strategic partnership is via the exchange of technology and production processes. Sharing proven proprietary technology will allow your company to save money and time otherwise wasted on costly development and implementation of untested methods, that hold no certainty of delivering. Partnership also allows your company to benefit by learning from the experiences of others, allowing you to adopt what works while minimizing mistakes and reducing implementation time to the bare minimum.

Let’s not forget manufacturing is in no way immune to the worldwide changes sweeping workplaces in general and the manufacturing sector specifically. Both production methodology, and the underlying changes inherent to technological advancement, are forcing manufacturing companies and their facilities to adapt to new challenges such as the implications of as many as five generations working together. The company with which you partner may have already implemented effective and efficient strategies to deal with this and other difficulties.

An additional benefit of strategic partnership is fast-tracking, or being able to eliminate, the vetting process you follow when contracting with vendors. Taking advantage of upswings in demand by increasing production requires the kind of flexibility necessary to rapidly expand your labor force regardless of the particular industry you are in. Your strategic partner will no doubt have already established relationships with a range of companies to which they’ve outsourced difficult responsibilities, such as staffing your facilities with a contingent workforce.

Finally, tight markets can make it more difficult for your products to stand out ahead of your competitors’. When attracting business by lowering prices is also impossible, competitive advantage, in the form of a partnership that minimizes production costs, will maximize product quality and allow you to focus on how best to serve your customers. Such an advantage, can be the difference between success and failure. Ultimately, directly associating the two company’s products by partnering can significantly improve the visibility of your brand, the strength of which rests upon its recognizability and what people think once they’ve recognized it. Being recognized for the wrong reasons is the only thing worse than not being recognized at all.

Now that you have learned the value of traditional economic approaches for manufacturing operations development, from cutting edge innovation to corporate strategic partnership, use the Staff Management | SMX staffing model assessment tool to determine which model will best serve your needs.

About the Author

About Casey: Content marketing manager, frequently reading, aspiring chef, failed plant mom, connoisseur of tater tots, beauty products and airplane food.

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