What’s on the outside?

Posted on 8 Feb 2011 by The Manufacturer

Need some external advice? Dominic Brown, senior manufacturing specialist for the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) South East, pinpoints the characteristics to look for when recruiting external resources for business improvement in manufacturing.

Amid a still fragile economy, manufacturing is beating the odds with regular reports of increasing output and order balance levels, improvements within export markets and a steady rise in recruitment and investment.

The general feeling across the sector is positive, despite spending cuts, with many manufacturers choosing to look forward –– working to the UK manufacturing’s strengths in innovation, research and development, customer service and fast response times to emerging trends. More and more manufacturers are taking a step back in order to focus on improvement activities within their business, a hard task during stressful periods of sector uncertainty.

Pause for thought
The downturn has allowed many manufacturers the opportunity to take a look at their business and decide where efficiencies can be made. For example, stock control, which is directly related to cash flow, is now a higher priority area for improvements.

Companies have been taking the opportunity to understand how they compete, address their skill levels, their own value within the market and what makes companies buy from them. Consultants have to be able to respond with solutions that will add value and have both an immediate and long term benefit to the company. otherwise, the cost of bringing in external support cannot be justified.

Manufacturers choosing to get outside help need to look for support organisations that can offer real, tangible business benefits and provide straight talking, hands-on support and advice. A fresh pair of experienced eyes looking at a business is invaluable.

There are no prejudices, no ‘sacred cows’ and this enables a company to take a step back from their day-to-day business operations to look into the heart of an issue.

Business support can come in all different sizes, shapes and packages –– if a manufacturer wants help, look for support that knows about manufacturing! Do your research first and speak to companies that have used similar services. Find support that is not based on just parachuting in, solving a problem and walking away, but about delivering sustainable improvements and changes that can be continued and developed –– continuous coaching to ensure skills transfer is vital to any workforce.

What makes the difference between business support being successful or not? Understanding what the real issues and needs are and looking at the business as a whole rather than just focusing on one problem can make the difference between the success or failure of change.

It’s important to make sure that action taken is always driving towards resolving a problem or improving a process. Setting goals and targets is vital, and re-measuring to ensure you’re on the right course will keep things focused on the right activities.

The MAS way
How is MAS South East different from other support agencies? Some business specialists have a tendency to take root in a business, making it more dependent on them, rather than providing the tools and techniques for the business to take forward itself in order to achieve truly sustainable improvements.

As a government funded programme, we are much less commercially focused and are measured on the success of the businesses we work with.

Every piece of work we do with a company is measured against a set of key metrics and we have a strong track record of success at taking non-value added activities out of a business.

As a group made up of manufacturers who have moved into business support our focus is on identifying real solutions to real problems, and providing long term benefits rather than short term wins. Our work is carried out through an extended supply chain so we’re able to support manufacturing at all levels and through all phases of the product lifecycle. We also have a strong network of business support partners such as UKTI, WRAP and so on, that we can call upon to enhance the service a manufacturer receives.