The age of reinvention for UK Manufacturers
The impact the Coronavirus pandemic continues to have is as far-reaching as it is well-documented. For manufacturers, recent events have forced them to ask tough questions of their operations:
- How agile are our production methods?
- How flexible is our supplier network?
- How secure is our customer base?
- How quickly can we respond to new demand?
Speaking to senior decision makers, it’s clear that a level of reinvention has been achieved in what goods are being produced and how, how new market opportunities are identified, how quickly ideas become tangible innovations, and how stakeholder relationships can become more meaningful.
As one executive noted; “We’ve had to redefine all facets of our organisation, from the way we utilise our resources and large CAPEX assets, down to desk space and how often we communicate with customers and staff.”
The way in which projects are delivered has also been re-engineered. Several participants noted how industry’s preferred way of delivering projects, the sequential ‘waterfall’ method, was being replaced by a more iterative, sprint-focused approach, commonly used to develop software.
The volume of change implemented over the past 18 months, largely geared towards boosting responsiveness, might suggest that manufacturers were fairly rigid, slow-moving organisations prior to 2020. But that isn’t the case.
As you can see from the recent report by The Manufacturer & commissioned by HSO, and the chart below, more than one in two decision makers rank their organisation’s manufacturing agility pre-COVID as above average. This is likely the result from two decades of substantial economic, geopolitical and market volatility, and the actions manufacturers took as a consequence.
However, what’s most revealing is that many participants weren’t comparing their agility with other manufacturers; they were scoring themselves against global retail giants. More than anything, manufacturers are having to reinvent themselves as a result of innovative dot.com retailers. Today’s consumer expects same day delivery, real-time order tracking, customisation options, convenient return logistics and a seamless experience across mobile, web and in-store.
These expectations have bled through into other sectors and manufacturers are having to respond irrespective of whether they operate business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), direct to consumer (D2C), or a combination. What’s more, industrial decision makers, like their retailing peers, have realised that intelligently using digital tools and data is what makes delivering such offerings possible.