Even though the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing quarantine have been with us for more than four months, the business implications for manufacturers are still evolving. Schneider Electric summed it well in a digital event the company hosted in late June:
Agility is essential for survival as manufacturers navigate new workplace safety requirements, unpredictable market dynamics and major supply chain disruptions. Such as:
- How can we do a better job operating remotely when facility access and travel is limited or restricted?
- Where should we adjust systems to reduce downtime and optimize efficiency?
- What can we do to become more flexible and resilient to global disruptions in the future?
COVID-19 will have significant impacts on metal fabrication and manufacturing for years to come. But companies that can move quickly to adapt to the needs of their stakeholders and members of their ecosystems will be better positioned to emerge successfully.
A Responsive Framework For Strategies Moving Forward
The COVID-19 pandemic’s early disruptions included factory shutdowns, lost wages, and product shortages. The global financial services firm McKinsey & Company has put together recommendations for immediate and midterm strategies to help manufacturers navigate the difficult, evolving situation.
This covers planning ahead, setting priorities, and accelerating their response to supply chain issues and production demand and capacity. The recommendations center around creating a nerve center to steer the organization, “serving as an information center, managing risks and responses, and aligning all stakeholders.”
The nerve center would oversee these key areas:
- Protecting employees: Making employee health the paramount concern and adjusting production as needed.
- Maintaining financial health: Improving liquidity, reducing costs, and protecting other members of the ecosystem.
- Screening and safeguarding the supply chain: Understanding supply chain risk and taking action to address disruption.
- Adapting marketing and sales: Identifying and mitigating risks of declining sales while meeting critical customer needs.
According to McKinsey, the nerve center should follow agile principles to eliminate bureaucracy in decision making. It also should encourage transparency and provide frequent updates.
Leadership will also need to revisit medium-term goals more frequently than in the past. For example, this might not be the time for that long-planned expensive product launch, minus the trade show environment and factoring in financial disruptions.
Lean Combined With Agility Creates Opportunities
Lean and agility work hand-in-hand to give operators and supervisors the ability to respond more quickly in our current chaotic environment. Too often, lean is seen as cost-reduction and efficiency tacts as opposed to a market building strategy. Lean does not ensure responsiveness to uncertainty. That’s where agility comes in.
A lean and agile company has an engaged workforce that can quickly identify issues and eliminate delays while building capacity. They have a certain mastery of their processes and an understanding of how to innovate and collaborate by trying something differently. Unlike many companies that react by simply cutting costs, industrials take a more agile approach to weather a crisis, including:
- Responding quickly and effectively to their customer demands
- Finding ways to bring successful new products to market faster
- Responding more quickly to sudden changes in the manufacturing environment
Southern Metal Fabricators is always looking for ways to reduce waste and deliver more value to customers. They break down the entire production process to more effectively determine quantity requirements, run calculations, and complete orders.
Safety as a Key to Ensuring Manufacturing Productivity
As more of the manufacturing workforce returns to the shop floor, protecting employee health remains paramount. It’s essential to know local laws and requirements; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance for employers, including how to measure temperatures of the staff while adhering to federal privacy protections.
Some highlights of what to keep in mind:
- Who will be in charge of this policy or procedure?
- How will we ensure that the individual employee’s privacy will be protected?
- What is the likelihood that other employees will find out personal health information of that employee?
- How will the private information of the employee gathered be recorded and stored?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also have guidelines for returning to work, including disinfecting equipment and how to deal with common areas.
Reap the Benefits of Working With a Lean, Agile Metal Fabricator
Southern Metal Fabricators had disaster-preparedness and business continuity plans in place long before COVID-19 began its march across the U.S. This has helped us weather the storm because we took such definitive action as:
- Researching and applying the most cost-effective methods to produce custom metal fabrications, without skipping on quality essential to agricultural and industrial customers.
- Implementing lean best practices that result in fabrication efficiencies and more ROI for our customers.
- Ensuring business continuity by investing in new fabrication capabilities and going above and beyond to meet and exceed when it comes to quality, budget, and delivery.
Want to learn more about the benefits of working with a lean-minded metal fabricator who can apply a similar system to your advantage? Contact us today, and give us a chance to say, “Yes, we can do that!”