It’s a new year and a great time to update the company philosophy, upgrade operations or upset (positively) the status quo. Here are the top five trends recently cited by Deloitte1 and Forbes2 as areas of change for those in the manufacturing sector to recognize, explore and embrace.
Tackle workforce issues
To meet the challenge of attracting and retaining the talent required for success and growth, Deloitte recommends that companies beef up cross-training for existing employees, modify their recruitment efforts to clearly present their highly-desirable job opportunities and create a flexible work environment to meet the wants and needs of today’s workforce.
Forbes advises industry to create a winning balance between the human workforce and the growing field of robotic helpers by thoughtfully examining which roles are best suited to people and which tasks are best carried out by intelligent machines. Forbes also urges employers to face the music about a younger generation of workers that wants (and will find) gig work, remote work and contract work.
In the supply chain, the only constant is change
Forbes predicts that more companies will flatten their organizational hierarchies to create a more agile business structure. The intent is to allow teams to respond to supply chain change by quickly reorganizing the existing workers and tapping remote, contract and gig workers to fill additional roles.
Deloitte points out that since supply chain disruption will persist for an unpredictable time span, companies must become more agile to outmaneuver whatever wrench is next thrown into the supply chain. Just-in-time inventory systems are no longer workable or prudent. Alternate suppliers should be lined up. International versus domestic sourcing of materials and services ought to be carefully examined for which type provides the most agility. Supply chain data can be tracked and analyzed to inform faster, better inventory choices and business decisions.
Sustainability goes mainstream
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, says Deloitte, are making sustainability in manufacturing an expectation and a given, with a company’s ESG “score” affecting its financing, competitiveness and recruitment. Environmental accountability, including energy efficiency and net-zero or carbon-neutral operation, is on the rise; the wise business owner is proactive and leverages this new accountability as a competitive advantage.
Forbes is succinct on sustainability: “Any business that ignores sustainability is unlikely to do well in this age of conscious consumption.” Identifying and reducing environmental costs in the supply chain are a great starting point, but industry’s true leaders are working toward sustainability across the entire business operation.
Co-opetition and other strange bedfellows
In the wake of massive supply chain disruption, Forbes describes manufacturers that are cultivating new and strange bedfellows. Some companies have lined up alternative sources for materials and Plan B, C and D options for shipping. Some companies have teamed up with others in their own marketplace – in cooperation with the competition, or co-opetition – joining forces for enhanced buying power of scarce materials. And some businesses have begun to share inventory quantity data with their suppliers to give the suppliers a leg up on anticipating upcoming demand, orders and deliveries.
An authentic, purposeful business
Forbes sees the intertwined business characteristics of authenticity and purposefulness as areas in which consumer sentiment is driving business change. As with the rise in consumer demand for sustainable operations, more and more consumers want to buy from companies that they admire and with which they can relate. There is more scrutiny these days into why an organization exists (its purpose, beyond just making a buck or making a widget) and how an organization does business (reliably, honestly, compassionately, with humility).
As Forbes puts it, “Today’s consumers are seeking a more meaningful connection with brands. And this need for connection has given rise to authenticity as a business trend in its own right.” If every entity in the supply chain is both seller and consumer, it follows that the B-to-B connections can be as meaningful as consumer-retailer connections. And sourcing from or to passionate-about-their-contribution companies that operate honestly and with integrity makes for stronger business relationships.
1. “2022 Manufacturing Industry Outlook: Eyeing growth despite turbulence,” Deloitte.com, www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/energy-and-resources/articles/manufacturing-industry-outlook.html.
2. Marr, Bernard, “The 8 Biggest Business Trends In 2022,” November 1, 2021, Forbes.com, www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2021/11/01/the-8-biggest-business-trends-in-2022/?sh=647bc91621da.