Article by Sam Deckert, Founder and Principal Consultant at Peak Insight
Of all the factors that determine success in the manufacturing sector, one of the most important is effective business collaboration.
Firms must be in constant contact with everyone from suppliers to distribution partners and end customers. Any failure to collaborate can result in misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and financial loss.
Unfortunately, however, new collaboration projects are often viewed as complex activities that take a long time to show a return on investment. Planning and deployment is perceived to take months and any impact on daily activity will take an extended period to become apparent.
Reality, thankfully, is very different. Increasing numbers of manufacturers are finding it’s possible to go from concept to payback within a very short space of time. This can result in a rapid improvement in output and have a positive hit to the organisation’s bottom line.
Focus on quick wins
For many manufacturers, changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a shift to the way collaboration projects are approached. Rather than looking to achieve large-scale, organisation wide changes, they are instead focused on achieving quick wins that can be gained within a short period of time.
During COVID, such quick wins were necessary to ensure that production schedules could be maintained even when many staff were forced to work from home. By focusing on projects that could support critical workflows and processes, disruption could be minimised, and productivity levels retained.
When it comes to collaboration in manufacturing, there are a range of steps that can be followed to increase the likelihood that quick wins will be achieved. These steps include:
- Begin with the end in mind: Before any activity begins, be crystal clear about exactly what the end goal actually is. It might be to improve communication with a critical supplier or streamline the way in which information is shared on the factory floor. Ensure these goals are documented and everyone is on the same page.
- Access all areas: Some ways in which a collaboration project can deliver benefits may not be as evident as others. Be sure to examine all areas of the company, from supply chains and warehouses to production lines and transportation networks and identify all ways in which investment and activity can assist.
- Look for existing gaps: It might be the case that earlier collaboration projects were never completed or failed to deliver expected benefits. Look at the current state and where the gaps exist. Filling these could result in a quick win.
- Remember back-office facilities: As more office staff return to the workplace, there will be opportunities for wins there as well. Consider deploying collaboration tools such as electronic whiteboards and better audio and video collaboration platforms that can be used to improve workflows and boost productivity.
- Better equip remote staff: It’s likely many staff still working remotely are relying on microphones and video cameras they used privately before the lockdowns. Check whether these can be upgraded to enhance call quality and usability.
- Embrace VoIP calling: Remote working can also cause an alarming jump in mobile phone costs. Look for ways in which internet-based VoIP calling can be introduced to get bills back under control. VoIP calling can also be put to use on factory floors to reduce reliance on mobiles.
- Continue the process: Effective collaboration projects are usually ongoing in nature. Processes and supporting tools are continually being reviewed and replaced as better alternatives appear. Keep your projects moving forward at all times.
By undertaking these steps, manufacturers can achieve quick wins from targeted collaboration projects. Staff enthusiasm for changes will be maintained once they see the results that are being achieved and management will remain on board when cost savings and production improvements become clear.
Consider how collaboration projects can add value within your manufacturing business. It might not take as long to achieve as you thought.