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5 Things That Keep Most Manufacturers Up at Night

5 Things That Keep Most Manufacturers Up at Night

Even in the modern digital age, in which virtually every product or service seems to exist in a virtual state, the backbone of society still rests on manufacturing. Without manufacturing, we have no cars, no computers, no washers or dryers, and no machinery to build the countless other machines we depend on for modern life.

With so much dependent on manufacturing, you’d think manufacturers have it pretty easy, but you’d be wrong. The truth is that companies that create products are almost always on the verge of some kind of existential crisis. Rare is the manufacturer that isn’t worried about the future in some form or fashion.

Here is a brief breakdown of the five things that are likely to be keeping most manufacturers up at night (and what they do in order to get some sleep):

Shipping

You’ve successfully assembled a product, congratulations! Now you have to get it to the consumer. This involves shipping of some sort, typically freight, and managing the costs of shipping is something every manufacturer must face sooner or later. While everyone is on the hunt for cheap freight shipping, finding an option that doesn’t lead to inferior service requires a certain skill.

In order to worry less about the agony of reliable shipping, manufacturers turn to experts who make it their mission to do that job for them. Such professionals are known as freight consultants and can break down the options for manufacturers, giving them the chance to scrutinize the pros and cons of each possibility. They also make it easier for manufacturers to seamlessly shift from one carrier to the next in the event they wish to switch.

Safety

Most manufacturing involves heavy machinery that requires one or more people to operate. Properly optimized safety training is essential for reducing the chances of serious injury or worse from occurring on the factory floor. However, maintaining existing safety training protocol isn’t enough.

Near-accidents are likely to occur in greater numbers than actual ones. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to be aware of these brushes with disaster when they happen. What’s more, manufacturers need to develop a proactive protocol for making sure such an incident doesn’t have a chance of happening again. This is the only way a manufacturer can find his or herself worrying less about the safety of their employees.

Macroeconomics

Many people have the mistaken belief that things they see on the news don’t affect them. Most manufacturers wind up learning the hard way that macroeconomic decisions made by politicians and other powerful figures can and will impact their operations in a serious and meaningful way.

Take the recent tit-for-tat trade war going on between the United States and much of the rest of the world. While the American steel industry itself might feel good about imposing tariffs on Chinese steel, the same cannot be said for the hundreds of manufacturers located in the U.S. which depend on low-cost imported steel to make their products in a cost-effective manner. With this in mind, it’s imperative for manufacturers to keep an eye on current events, particularly at the macroeconomic level, to better understand in advance the impact it may have on their business.

Upgrades

s we get older, time seems to go by faster. What five years felt like in our 20s feels more like two when we’re in our 50s. It’s therefore no surprise that many manufacturers resist the most recent call by their support staff and outside analysts to make upgrades to their systems.

While installing touchscreen monitors and syncing machines together via offsite remote monitoring was an expensive and extensive endeavor that still seems pretty spiffy five years onward, these systems are themselves likely to already be aging and in need of replacement. In short, the simple truth is manufacturers have a responsibility to their business to stay on top of upgrades and to avoid the denial they so often find themselves in when being told these changes are needed.

Competition

When asked what thoughts were racing through his mind as he sat on the launchpad, astronaut John Glenn famously quipped “I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of 2 million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”

While more of a humorous comment than a practical observation, this quote serves to explain the pressure on manufacturers to produce top of the line machinery at the lowest price point possible. The inability to provide the most competitive option to your market may mean missing out on major opportunities, but cutting corners will burn bridges that are unlikely to ever be rebuilt. It’s a tightrope few dare to walk, but those who do and make it on the other side are the first to tell you they’re glad they took the first step.

Manufacturing remains the single most significant element in the modern economy. With that said, there is plenty for manufacturers to worry about when the lights go out. How they manage to deal with those worries is what makes a manufacturer into a success.


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

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.