Alternative approaches to stay fit for economic developments while saving

13 January 2019

Written by René Hol

Last week, we discussed how manufacturing firms can respond to recent developments in financial markets and the potential effects on their business.

We emphasized the need to make the company fit and agile. You must consider how to deal with potential economic dips in 2020. Which techniques and tools do management of manufacturing industries have to create short-term improvements in their business performance? If a company wants short-term successes, two aspects are key: first, making quick decisions where, how and what to change, and second, a straight-forward implementation. The short-term improvements can be typical continuous improvement steps but also first steps towards more disruptive innovations.

It’s important to keep improving, but at the same time you also want to endure potential downturns in the economy. Therefore, it’s useful to try to achieve improvements with a relatively low cash investment. Subsidies are often a good source of financing. Next to this, students are often cheap sources of inspiration through a part-time job, internship or graduation project. Additionally, recent graduates can often bring a lot of new and refreshing ideas into the organization, but one should make sure there is space and time to give their ideas a warm welcome.

If a company wants to identify the low-hanging fruit quickly, it should involve their own people actively. They know the daily operations and know where the dust gold is. The ideas, comments and suggestions of people in the operational processes must be collected cleverly. The software industry offers several tools for these activities. Some tools are based on an open database with many user-friendly functions. Users are challenged to entrust their minds with the community.

Other solutions for manufacturing industries are content-intensive software tools. Such software integrates the generated ideas into a solid framework of best practice business process models. We call these tools the digital consultant. The costs will be much lower because the role of the human consultant changes: the traditional analyst and designer, that make a lot of hours, are replaced by a limited number of hours by a coach and instructor: from quantity to quality.

The task of the management, potentially supported by the digital consultant, is to catch these ideas and transform them into actions of change. As people have been the fundament of the proposed changes, acceptance will be high. Therefore, change can be implemented quickly, without using a lot of cash.

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