Manufacturing in 2014 – what does excellence look like?

Posted on 26 Feb 2014 by The Manufacturer

Tom Comstock, VP of strategy, DELMIA at Dassault Systèmes, suggests innovation in manufacturing has as much to do with attitude as investment.

Tom Comstock, VP of Strategy, DELMIA at Dassault Systèmes

Although every supply chain or manufacturing plant is different, they tend to face many of the same challenges and opportunities every year. It is how they react that marks out market leaders, from those lagging behind in the race for market leadership.

Manufacturing organisations today need to contend with unprecedented levels of competition – the result of complex supply chains and global contests, increasing customer demands, international regulatory issues, and the speed of new product introduction cycles. As a consequence, companies are compelled to accelerate their journeys toward their visions of optimised operations and realise ongoing production improvements.

When every company is facing the same economically turbulent context, it is left up to attitude and creativity to find those critical differences that could offer a competitive edge. The temptation is to have a light bulb moment and jump into strategy upheavals and investment with both feet, without a foundation based on relevant market insights. A balance must be struck between ingenuity and data-driven logic.

In the end, regardless your approach, the initial necessary steps towards accomplishing new ideas tend to be similar. This is because the pursuit of Operational Excellence – namely effectively optimsing people, process and supporting technology resources – first requires the adoption of a continuous improvement mindset. If everyone on your team embraces the cultural adjustments needed to increase collaboration across contributing departments, the team will progress as a more efficient and focused unit. Targets, metrics, goals and KPIs are secondary to transforming the attitude of a team out of the status quo and into the role of industry leadership.

LNS Research just completed a research report on Manufacturing Operations Management. In this report, the findings make it clear that manufacturers are looking to improve high standards across the board. Over 250 respondents from across manufacturing verticals including discrete, process, consumer and life sciences were asked to choose their top strategic objectives going forward. The graph below illustrates the priorities of manufacturing companies as they strive for a competitive advantage in 2014.

Second only to ensuring product quality consistency was the ability to be responsive to customer demands, with 56% of responses. Seeing that responding to customer demands is such a high priority, it is not surprising that a growing number of companies are focused on adopting the right dynamic process and technology capabilities. This, combined with a collaborative relationship between departments, makes for agile operations ready to respond quickly and effectively to customer demands and changes in the marketplace.

According to the survey, 26 per cent of the respondents currently have both dynamic processes and the supporting software already in place, with an additional 10 per cent planning to do so in the next year. Overall, 63 per cent of the respondents either currently possess these software capabilities or are actively working to implement them to enable or increase operations agility.

Whatever path your business decides to pursue towards competitive advantage, it is doomed to failure without the support of the necessary people, processes and technology. Excellence in manufacturing, like any other vertical, is firstly dependent on attitude and is then facilitated by investment. A workforce invested in seeking out innovative ways to add value and think differently, whilst prioritising relationships with customers, will be a formidable force in the manufacturing market in 2014.

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