Manufacturing Improvements in Small and Medium-Sized Firms: Key Factors Driving Companies to Improve Manufacturing
Companies can’t expect to stay profitable and to grow by maintaining the status quo. Thriving in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace requires proactive improvements to manufacturing operations. The findings of Lifecycle Insights’ 2022 Flexible Manufacturing Study reinforced this reality, particularly as it affects small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). When organizations can improve manufacturing processes, they can get products to market faster, increase output with more automation, maintain high equipment effectiveness, produce highly superior products, and more successfully compete with larger organizations in the industry.
Accelerating Manufacturing Improvements
Companies’ production processes will naturally become more efficient over time. But in today’s market, organizations can no longer afford to wait for that to happen. External drivers are forcing companies of all sizes to proactively improve their processes by accelerating their adoption of technology and practices. For SMBs wanting to remain competitive, this is absolutely crucial. In fact, the most progressive organizations are already taking action.
In this post, we will highlight the three leading drivers urging today’s SMBs to improve their manufacturing operations: competitive time, product, and cost pressure; customer schedule and seasonal requirements; and regional regulations and sustainability. We will also discuss the outcomes companies can expect after making such enhancements.
Competitive Time, Product, and Cost Pressure
Thanks to globalization, the marketplace is more cutthroat than ever. SMBs must navigate this growing competition just to stay afloat. But the most progressive organizations are going beyond simple survival and are finding ways to thrive in the face of time, product, and cost pressure.
Time to market plays a huge role in company success. Manufacturers can stay ahead of the game if they develop new products and release them before the competition does. Speedy development and release depends on reducing the number of physical prototypes and turning to digital tools instead. Using simulation, they can test the manufacturing process, identify potential issues, and fix them before production begins.
Success also requires developing differentiated products that deliver value to customers and set a company apart from the competition. Using a digital platform allows the product development team to test multiple innovative ideas and then refine the best ones. This is the best way to design novel products that others cannot easily replicate.
Finally, organizations must keep development and manufacturing costs low to ensure profits. Their manufacturing assets must be well-maintained and experience little to no downtime. When their assets are in consistent working order, companies can maximize production while minimizing costs.
Customer Schedule and Seasonal Requirements
Companies also need to develop and deliver products while considering the seasonal spending habits of customers. Doing so is actually critical to success in many cases.
Take consumer electronics. Demand for these products spikes during the holiday season. To take advantage of the temporary increase in demand, companies must get their products to the stores before it’s too late. Understanding this kind of ebb and flow in consumer demand is crucial to maintaining profitability. Companies must be able to adjust delivery timelines quickly when necessary.
But companies can’t change their delivery timelines in a vacuum. They have to have a strong grip on manufacturing operations to accomplish this. Companies that have the luxury of versatility in their manufacturing processes can better respond to seasonal needs and changing customer schedules.
Manufacturing simulation tools can help companies forecast production volumes accurately through the use of computer models. Engineers can then improve the accuracy of these models by incorporating manufacturing data. When companies have access to such tools, they can easily integrate seasonal requirements and demanding customer schedules into their manufacturing planning and operations.
Regional Regulations and Sustainability
Companies must also be mindful of regional and local regulations if they want to sell their products in different places. And standards vary from location to location. Designing products that can conform to all these requirements is challenging. Digital tools can help organizations manufacture different product configurations seamlessly while also monitoring quality. Then companies can more easily address varying regulations.
Regulations and consumer pressures are contributing to mounting demand for more sustainable and environmentally friendly products. Employees and investors are also demanding it. Companies that don’t address sustainability risk losing out to competitors that do. Fortunately, life cycle analysis (LCA) solutions can help organizations calculate the sustainability of any product throughout its life cycle. When companies integrate LCA solutions with their product lifecycle management (PLM) platforms, they can quickly and accurately determine the sustainability of the products they develop.
SMBs Expectations from Improving Manufacturing
Lifecycle Insights’ 2022 Flexible Manufacturing Study highlighted the drivers pushing companies to improve their manufacturing operations. Improvement requires changing existing processes, investing in new digital technologies, and possibly disrupting the status quo.
When asked what their companies hoped to achieve through manufacturing improvements, survey participants put better quality products at the top of the list. In fact, 43% ranked quality improvement as the most important expectation. Respondents also hoped for more automation to increase output (15%) and improvement in overall equipment effectiveness in production facilities (13%). It is clear that SMBs are well aware of the need for improvement—and are actively looking for ways to stay competitive in the field.
As the global marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, companies are looking to move beyond simple survival and to find ways to thrive. Respondents in Lifecycle Insights’ 2022 Flexible Manufacturing Study noted the importance of making targeted improvements to manufacturing processes and operations. Companies that do so can create differentiated products at greater speed and lower costs, take advantage of customer schedules and seasonal demands, and meet regulations and sustainability requirements. The study showed that SMBs are investing in digital manufacturing tools to improve product quality, increase automation and output, and improve overall equipment effectiveness in production facilities.