English manufacturers told 2014 is the ‘time to deliver’

Posted on 16 Apr 2014 by Tim Brown

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) is urging English manufacturers to captialise on the industrial resurgence in 2014 and has released a ten-point action plan to help manage growth effectively, boost efficiencies, reduce waste and increase sales.

Having spent the last decade assisting thousands of companies across the country, the business support organisation believes this year could be an ideal opportunity for firms to drive exports and take advantage of ‘reshoring’.

MAS has tapped into its team of specialist advisors to come up with a range of useful tips, which focus on financial strategy, developing new products, increasing the skills of your staff and aligning your supply chain.

“Our latest MAS Barometer suggests more than three quarters of manufacturers (76%) are expecting to boost sales between now and August 2014 so the appetite for expansion is clearly there,” explained David Caddle, Area Director at MAS.

“OEMs increasing volumes rapidly can sometimes lead to issues in the supply chain and, whilst we all want manufacturers to take advantage of the opportunity, we’re also keen that they plan on managing this growth.

“Our role is to provide on-the-ground support to companies through our 80-strong team of advisors. This could be through simple advice and guidance from our helpline (0845 658 9600), a free manufacturing review or by attending our workshops that look to tackle key issues affecting industry.”

He continued: “We also have funding available to deliver in-depth improvement projects that shape strategy, create new products, reduce waste and strengthen supply chains.

The MAS ten-point action (in full):

1.  Benchmark your performance – You might think you know how you’re doing, but do you really?  Ask your key customers to assess your strengths and weaknesses.  Look at engaging in factory visits and relevant industry award schemes, such as The Manufacturer of the Year Awards.

2.  Decide on your company’s key objectives – You can’t focus on everything.  Decide on your growth strategy and concentrate on 3 or 4 key objectives for the rest of 2014.

3.  Take a strategic look at your finances – Inevitably, growth requires more cash.  Capital equipment, factory move or expansion, recruitment and training… where will your money be coming fromStrip out any inefficiencies in your processes and free up cash/resources for new investment.  Make sure you are linked in to all the sources of finance and local grant funding available to you.

4.  Align your supply chain to improve customer service – In order to grow, you need confidence that your current suppliers are capable and committed to meeting your demands.  Would it make business sense to bring elements of outsourced production back to the UK, opting for a local supplier approach?  Work together with your suppliers to reduce bottlenecks that influence the end user. You might also consider an upgrade to your ERP or CRM systems to assist with this. Visit www.erpconnect.co.uk for more information.

5.  Develop your leadership capabilities – Leadership is not all about being the boss; it’s about creating an environment where everybody thrives.  Everyone needs to know where the business is heading and why; and most importantly, what is required of them as individuals to help get you there. Get connected and utilise what’s out there; for example, Growth Accelerator’s funded leadership development programme.

6.  Stop firefighting! – As you grow quickly, you might start to feel like you’re losing control.  Your role isn’t to solve crises, it’s to make sure these problems don’t happen in the first place.  Anticipate how growth will impact on your current systems and processes and put measures in place to deal with them head-on. 

7.  Nurture your team – Attracting and retaining talented staff and developing their skills is vital to your future growth.  Stress and frustration is generally caused by poorly designed work systems, so review your company’s culture and begin challenging “the way we do things round here”.

8.  Develop your new product ideas – Remember the five golden innovation tips and live by them:

  • Develop customer-led solutions by identifying pain and healing it
  • Seek as many ideas as possible, from as many places as possible
  • Evaluate and develop realistic plans
  • Use specialist support to fill gaps in skill and knowledge (growth hubs and universities can be a great source of support)
  • Inspire staff with strong, visionary leadership

9.  Get your systems and standards in place –
what’s preventing you from reaching new customers and potential new markets?  You might not be able to compete on price, but don’t underestimate the importance of ‘quality and delivery’.  Think about structure, standards, certifications, policies and processes and consider developing a separate strategy for each current/potential market.

10.  Reach new customers
What are the most successful ways in which your business attracts and wins new customers?  What more can you do with existing capabilities to diversify and increase sales?  Consider aligning your business with the high growth sectors that are attracting big investment and speak to UKTI about support in targeting overseas markets.

To tap into MAS support, please visit www.mymas.org, contact 0845 658 9600 or follow @mas_works on twitter.