Sometimes you hear talk of the decline of the manufacturing sector in the modern economy, but the truth is, manufacturing is as important as ever and is changing but not at all on a downward slide.
There is actually a resurgence in many manufacturing sectors, and while this creates an opportunity for growth, it also introduces challenges that must be overcome if a manufacturing business is going to both survive and thrive in the new environment.
Here are 6 of the top challenges facing manufacturers today and some ways in which industry leaders are overcoming them:
1. Keeping Up With Technology
Technological advances in the manufacturing space have advanced by leaps and bounds in only a relatively few years. One of the biggest improvements that every serious manufacturer needs to take advantage of is CNC Machining.
CNC stands for computer numerical control and involves complex computer software systems executing a series of preprogrammed commands to control all manner of factory machinery. CNC can run grinders, mills, routers, and more. It can handle 3D cutting tasks with only one set of prompts and boost production over manual controls while reducing losses from errors.
As for other technological advances in manufacturing, think fuller automation, the industrial version of the Internet of Things, and more tasks taken over by robots. These are important trends to follow too, but we’ve highlighted CNC machining since it does so much to improve plant productivity.
2. Hiring & Retaining Skilled Labor
CNC and non-human production methods are a huge advance, but no factory will be all it can be without a second-to-none staff of dedicated, highly skilled labourers.
As the last generation of skilled workers continues to enter retirement, there is a notable squeeze on available workers skilled in many manufacturing niche areas. Trade schools aren’t as popular as they once were, and employers now have to pick up some of the slack by offering additional training to newbies.
And the main stage for advertising for new recruits is now the Internet, be it social media posts, job site posts, or on-website recruiting efforts. Even with great compensation, a competitive benefits package, and a position that offers career advancement opportunities, you’re not going to land the top talent unless you fight for it aggressively online.
3. The Impacts of Globalization
Made in [insert Western country here] is still a wonderful stamp to be able to put on your products, but chances are, those products aren’t sold in the US alone. Many companies manufacture both at home and overseas, and compete in numerous national marketplaces worldwide.
Increased global competition in the manufacturing sector can be a good thing. If your company adapts to the changes and out-does the competition in key areas like supply-chain efficiency, speed to market, higher quality, lower cost, or superior “earth friendliness,” globalization can mean finding your niche and expanding your scope worldwide as never before.
4. Increased Cyber Threats
As businesses become more and more computer-centric and store more of their valuable, proprietary data in online Clouds or in-house IT systems, the danger of losing that data to cybercriminals (lurking around every cyber corner!) looms large.
Ransomware cyberattacks have exploded in recent years, and hack-attacks on manufacturers’ new robots, high-tech software, and more can shut down production lines – sometimes, hackers demand you pay a “ransom” before they let you get up and running again!
This is why you have to continually update software and cybersecurity tools and routinely train and re-train employees on how to identify a potential threat. And instruct employees to avoid opening any emails from unknown sources, as there’s no way to know what kind of destructive viruses they may unleash.
5. Keeping Compliant Amid Changing Regulations
Changes in corporate regulations imposed by all levels of government, and by governments of foreign nations if you sell in their marketplaces, increase cost and risk. Many business owners have been going through painful processes of repaying a debt after a business going down, so you need to make sure you do not repeat their mistakes.
Tax increases and IRS rule changes are only one front. Health and safety regulations, liability legislation, and mandated employee benefits are just as critical in keeping your business continually compliant.
The cost of a government fine or a private lawsuit, and the reputational damage such can potentially cause, are not worth the risk. Always keep abreast of the latest changes via software and official manuals, and regularly have an experienced lawyer run a “compliance audit.”
6. More Competitive B2B Marketing
With manufacturers, B2B marketing usually trumps B2C in importance overall. But this line of marketing is getting more digitized and more competitive. Trade shows, phone sales, and industry publications still have a role to play, but much of the marketing battle now rages online.
An interactive, easy to navigate, and highly informative website is basic for making conversions, but you can’t succeed by just waiting and hoping someone visits your site. You have to drive traffic to it through ads, blogs, ebooks, videos, picture slide shows, infographics, and more.
The point is to create content that answers the questions and meets the needs of real people searching for that very information online. By positioning yourself as an industry expert, you build trust and increase the chances of content users following links back to your website. SEO for organic search dominance, inbound marketing, and quick follow up to all responders is key to marketing success.
Tackle these top 6 manufacturing industry challenges and turn them into opportunities, and your business is likely to flourish. Growth will still take time, but all other things being equal, those who win in these six areas will outgrow those who don’t.