In a world where so many consumers are focused on the end-product, the manufacturing and engineering industries often fly under the radar in terms of the essential services they provide. Right now, however, as we start to move out of lockdown and all heads turn towards recovery, the spotlight is very much on manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies as they’re pushed to reopen and keep the economy moving.
With eyes on safety and operations, both challenges and opportunities are presented. How can this sector navigate these obstacles and take advantage of the opportunities presented as markets begin to wake?
From adaptation to diversification, on to expansion
Core operations were placed on hold for many large-scale manufacturers and engineering firms as changes in demand caused clients to pull back on spend. Some organisations, however, spotted the opportunity for a change of tack in order to meet a new kind of demand in terms of healthcare equipment, PPE and hygiene products.
Not only demonstrating corporate social responsibility, this ability to diversify and innovate may have opened up potential new markets for some businesses as they put their expertise and technologies to new use. As we move out of lockdown, businesses who think out of the box and take stock of existing propositions and capabilities in the light of new market conditions, may also unearth valuable new opportunities. At a time when individuals are working from home and potentially more responsive, undertaking market research before launching back into ‘business as usual’ will help flush out where potential for growth lies.
Lessons in contingency
One of the biggest challenges faced since the COVID-19 lockdown has inevitably been supply chain disruption, particularly where many manufacturers and engineering firms rely on suppliers throughout Asia, truly putting business contingency to the test.
Whilst no one could have predicted the world’s current situation, many business owners will be reeling from a lack of contingency planning and risk mitigation within their business models. Organisations that have responded well, however, and continued to deliver with minimal to no disruption, have sealed trust and loyalty within their existing client base and created a platform from which to drive new business on the back of a proven track record for reliability and service delivery.
In an interview with Engineering.com, VP of Operations and Supply chain for Universal Robots, Martin Kjærbo, cited dual-sourcing as vital to his organisation’s ability to ride the waves of adversity. He further highlighted the importance of developing relationships across the whole of the supply chain, even as far as third and fourth-tier suppliers. The pandemic has provided a real lesson in contingency planning and reinforces the need for businesses to take a belt and braces approach going forward.
We’re all in this together
A key theme arising from the pandemic has been one of unity and collaboration, reaching beyond just local communities; a genuine sense of businesses wanting to support each other, their clients, colleagues and consumers, which continues to develop as organisations start to come out the other side.
With pressures to get the economy moving again, employers, employees and other stakeholders alike are all keen to get back to business, opening up opportunity for wider collaboration with each other as they work together to discover what the new normal looks like. A number of businesses working to resume operations reflect this sentiment; Toyota Manufacturing UK cites engagement, collaboration and sharing of best practice as steps for moving forward, whilst Universal Robots note that employee commitment and receptiveness to change has been instrumental in determining new ways of working and navigating through uncertainty.
Many organisations of course are still focused on surviving in this climate, but it’s clear that there is huge scope for industries such as manufacturing and engineering to embrace change. As the sector moves forward, lessons learnt will inform a new best practice encompassing diversified procurement, closer collaboration, contingency planning, agility and innovation. Organisations will be judged not only on how they have performed during the pandemic but also whether these behaviours persist as we ease out of lockdown and they continue to engage in a flexible and collaborative way.
If your business is looking to deepen engagement with existing clients and reach out to new market segments, we have over 30 years’ experience supporting businesses such as Brush Electrical, Aerotech, Bobst, Mettler Toledo and many others in this sector. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you deepen engagement with valued clients, nurture new relationships with prospective clients and strengthen connections across your supply chain, get in touch.