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5 Keys To Navigate Disruptions in Manufacturing

September 8, 2023
By Ron CrabtreeSeptember 8, 2023

Two employees work on a laptop to overcome disruptions in manufacturing

If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that disruptions in manufacturing are inevitable. Most are not as significant as a global pandemic or an unfortunately-located broken down ship, but your company will face disruptions.

As we never know what those disruptions will be, we can't plan for a specific one. What we can do is build resilience so that we are ready for whatever might happen. Here are five key tips to consider:

Learning From Disruptions

Treat all disruptions in manufacturing as learning opportunities. You can draw some insight from everything that happens (including everything that happens to other people). For example, if you have a supply chain issue, then use it to highlight where you have supply chain bottlenecks. You can then adjust the suppliers you use to reduce future risk. Using local suppliers, for example, can help insulate you from global disruptions, but relying on them entirely increases your risk from a more local event, such as a hurricane.

If the market shifts, then you need to be ready to learn from it and shift accordingly so you don't get left behind. Use each disruption to continuously improve your risk management.

Risk Management Strategies

You can't just wait for something to go wrong. You also need to develop proactive risk management strategies. This means identifying, assessing, and mitigating risk before it happens. One issue with this is that we tend to be very close to our own situation. You are probably not noticing risk that is created by the things you have always done. As a result, you are vulnerable to disruptions in manufacturing.

Having an external audit or hiring an interim executive to take a look helps get around this by bringing a fresh set of expert eyes to your risk management. An outsider will see things you missed. Once risks are identified work on strategies, such as diversifying your supply chain or improving your software, to reduce them.

Agile Supply Chains

As already mentioned, global supply chains are vulnerable to major events or disasters on the other side of the world. Local suppliers might be impacted by more local events. An agile supply chain is one that can switch to a new "route" whenever there is a break in the chain. This can be harder for smaller companies to achieve.

However, designing an agile supply chain helps you adapt to unexpected events faster. While you may not be able to avoid some delays to customers, you can reduce them significantly. Any time you are out of (or unable to manufacture) something, there is a risk of your customer switching suppliers...and they may not come back. Agility is how you reduce this.

Technology as a Resilience Enabler

Modern technology helps support resilience, most especially through advanced analytics. Big data can help you spot patterns that the human eye will miss (although it should not be relied on as a source of advice). Automation reduces costs and improves agility. Digitalization allows you to store data in multiple places, meaning that one incident is not going to result in the loss of key records.

Using technology appropriately supports your company's resilience. Moving away from legacy software helps too. Storing key data in the cloud means that it is backed up in several places and is much less likely to be lost. Ensuring that office employees can work from home also reduces disruptions. A weather event that makes travel unsafe may still affect those who have to be in the warehouse or the factory, but it can have a much lower impact on administration.

Building a Culture of Resilience

Your employees are the true heart of your business. Building a culture of resilience means bringing everyone in on it. It means taking input from senior people regardless of specialty. Your employees also need to be trained in cross-functional collaboration so they can work with each other without being trapped in "silos." Finally, you need to do scenario planning to help everyone prepare for an emergency.

Building a culture of resilience also means training your employees to be flexible and adaptable.

Resilience is what keeps you going when other people falter. Learning from mistakes, improving risk management, building an agile supply chain, using the right technology, and nurturing a culture of resilience can all make a difference. They can keep you from losing customers during inevitable disruptions.

Ensuring your operational excellence is a challenge, but hiring a MetaExpert can help. They can bring in a fresh perspective to improve risk management and help you learn from the mistakes of others. Contact MetaPro today.

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About Ron Crabtree

Ron Crabtree, President of MetaOps, Inc., is an organizational transformation coach/trainer, operational excellence (OpEx) adjunct facilitator at Villanova University, Lean and Six Sigma (LSS) speaker, author and thought leader in business process improvement/re-engineering (BPI/BPR). He is a consultant to private industry and government agencies in supply chain management, design of experiments (DOE), statistical process control (SPC), advanced quality systems (AQS), program evaluation review technique (PERT), enterprise resource planning (ERP), demand flow, theory of constraints, organizational change management, and value stream/process mapping and management. Ron has a BA in Management and Organizational Development, is a Master LSS Black Belt, and is Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM), Integrated Resource Management (CIRM), and Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) by American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS). If you are an executive and would like to chat with Ron about anything related to business process improvement and operational excellence, please get on his calendar here: http://bit.ly/ExecutiveChat

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