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5 Tips for Managing a Manufacturing Business

5 Tips for Managing a Manufacturing Business

Managing any business is tough. There are many different aspects to keep in mind, different hats to wear, and a whole range of things that can go wrong. Managing an incredibly complex business like a manufacturing plant is even tougher.

A manufacturing business has so many moving parts (both literally and figuratively) that it adds an extra layer of complexity for managers. Managing the people, the numbers, the resources is one thing but when you add to those the considerations accompanying the incredibly complicated and involved manufacturing process itself, managing this type of business rises to another level.

To help those in charge of managing a manufacturing business, we have compiled a list of five tips that will hopefully make the job easier and will lead managers to success. Some tips will be more specific to the manufacturing industry while others will be more general. Either way, when implemented correctly in your manufacturing business, they should help breed success. Here are five tips for managing a manufacturing business.

Hire the Right People

Manufacturing may have big machines and complicated processes but at its core, the secret to managing a successful manufacturing business is the same as it is for almost any business: hiring the right people. No amount of automation will take people entirely out of manufacturing, so whether they are on the line or up in an office monitoring a system, people are still the key.

Getting the right people for the right roles is no easy task. You have to weigh a person’s skills, experience, and personality, among other factors. In order to get the right people who fit the company culture and who will excel at the company long term, many companies are now hiring more for soft skills than hard skills.

The idea is that if you can find an employee who can communicate, who is creative, who can solve problems, and who is resilient, you can teach the hard skills needed to do the job for which you are hiring. This may not be true for every position in a manufacturing organization (some positions do need an incredible amount of skill or experience to perform) but in many cases, it can make the entire organization more successful to hire for soft skills and then train the employee.

Employ GxP

GxP, shorthand for good practices, is a set of regulations that manufacturers in heavily regulated industries must follow. Dickson notes that GxP is critical for maintaining product consistency and regulatory compliance in a number of industries that deal with sensitive products. These industries include ones such as manufacturers of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and food.

Successful manufacturing companies in these types of industries need to employ GxP as best they can and in all aspects of their business. If they don’t, several issues could follow that would significantly hinder the business’ quest to find success.

Some issues are obvious, such as fines or shutdowns based on inspections that reveal companies are not following GxP. However, less immediate issues could also spring up. Not following GxP can lead to an inferior product that is rejected by the market. It can also lead to unsafe products that could hurt consumers. Such issues can mitigate success and do lasting damage to the business.

Be Flexible

Manufacturing may seem like a space where flexibility is not good or may not even be possible. The truth is, though, that flexibility in managing a manufacturing company is a very good thing. It lets manufacturers do a better job of serving their clients’ needs and pivoting quickly when opportunity strikes.

Some areas of manufacturing are very inflexible and that will never change. For more malleable areas, though, it is important to make use of this flexibility whenever possible. This could mean shifting production to meet a tight deadline or a customer need. It might also mean using machines dedicated for one product to do something for another product.

A perfect example of this came during the pandemic of 2020. The manufacturing companies that were able to flex production to create ventilators, N95 masks, or hand sanitizer were much more profitable and successful during this time than those who couldn’t make the switch.

Utilize Technology

If you have not done so, 2020 is definitely the time to get on board with the latest technology. Manufacturing offers an incredible opportunity to implement new technology to streamline processes, utilize big data, convert to automation, and increase connectivity.

Companies are using so much cutting-edge technology in the manufacturing space today; some of it might well be a great addition to your company. Appropriate tech saves time, saves money, and can lead to better quality products.

Technologies that manufacturing companies can consider implementing in 2020 include such products as artificial intelligence, IoT, cloud computing, blockchain, and more. Don’t let your company get stuck in old ways, especially when your competition is harnessing the power of technology to succeed.

See the Big Picture

With so many complicated processes going on within a manufacturing company, it can be easy to lose focus on the day-to-day clutter of the business. Dealing with broken machines, production delays, employee issues, tight timeframes, and other factors is a necessity, but not one that should always be dealt with by the person managing the business.

Managing a manufacturing business is a big job!  The person responsible for doing that always has to keep an eye on the prize. That means prioritizing big picture stuff over the minutiae that creep in each day. It is important to pay attention to long-term equipment plans, client relationships, methods to acquire new business, and other issues that will affect your bottom line today, tomorrow, and even weeks, months, and years into the future. The day-to-day can be hard to get away from but is never completely ignored.  Manufacturing managers who have success are able to see the big picture most of the time.

Conclusion

Managing a manufacturing business is tough, maybe tougher than most businesses. In order to find success, many small and large factors need careful, constant attention. A good place to start is by following these few tips. When you hire the right people, follow GxP, adopt a flexible stance, use technology, and see the big picture, there is a good chance you will succeed where others fail.


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by Brian Perry // Brian Perry is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.