Industry Trends

7 Things Manufacturers Should Focus on in the New Year

manufacturing 2017

As 2017 approaches, manufacturing leaders are reflecting on all of the changes that occurred in 2016 and planning ahead for what’s forecasted to be a prosperous upcoming year.

“The expected 2017 revenue gain of 4.6 percent is a healthy number relative to the 0.9 percent gain for 2016 and serves as a positive indicator for 2017 expectations,” Brad Holcomb, chair of the ISM’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, explains.

To help manufacturers prepare for the industry’s upcoming growth, we’ve compiled seven manufacturing new year’s resolutions.

1. Go mobile.

Experts predict a 33 percent predicted mobility growth in manufacturing through 2017. Depending on the business’ goals, there are a variety of mobile apps to help with the following:

  • Product tracking. Mobility allows for real-time tracking of the manufacturing process, immediate access to inventory counts and a cost-effective way to comply with simple barcode scans and government regulations.
  • Streamlined communication. Manufacturers can improve customer experience with immediate access to order information, increase employee efficiency with automated scheduling and reporting and boost order management with more transparent sales.
  • Improved safety. Part of the manufacturing mobility trend include use of wearable tech. These wearables can monitor employees’ health if they’re overheating, prevent frostbite in cold climates by triggering an environment change and alert management if injury occurs.

2. Get certified.

Manufacturing organization certifications, such as ISO (International Organization for Standardizations), ensure recognized quality, consistency and professional standards. Not only do these credentials help give an edge when it comes to marketing and customer satisfaction, but many reputable organizations require certain certifications in order to do business.

3. Improve sustainability.

Sustainable manufacturing saves money on energy costs, improves health and safety, and boosts workplace morale. In the upcoming year, manufacturers can:

  • Rethink packaging. Packaging is a huge use of natural resources — and customers notice. Eighty-three percent of consumers would choose a product that came in a clearly labeled renewable package versus a conventional package. Renewable materials, such as paperboard and bio-based polymers, are a great alternative to traditional packaging.
  • Get a waste audit. Although recycling is the best way to deal with waste, sometimes it just isn’t an option. To find out if their plan is getting as close to zero waste as possible, managers should consider partnering with a waste disposal company. These businesses can help define what can and cannot be recycled and help implement an efficient waste sorting process.
  • Stay accountable. In order to fully understand their plant’s environmental footprint, manufacturing managers should regularly perform energy audits. This will allow them to create and track efficient goals, continuously improve and ultimately be held accountable.

4. Prioritize research and development.

It’s easy to get comfortable when business operations are running smoothly — but manufacturers must stay on the edge of creativity and innovation in order to remain competitive. By allocating time, money and other resources to research and development, business leaders can position their company as a leading expert in the market.

Research and development is also a great way to impress upper management and shareholders, since new ideas can be a catalyst for economic growth. The government values research and development as well, which is why it provides tax credits for participating businesses.

5. Increase productivity.

In order to compete in a global economy, manufacturing leaders must constantly work to improve productivity. In order to manage a productive workplace, must:

  • Get organized. When it comes to increasing productivity, the first step should be getting organized. One way they can do this is by implementing 5S standards, which is a systematic and methodical approach that allows teams to organize their workplace in the safest and most efficient manner. 
  • Standardize work. Standardizing work is a key element of lean manufacturing. Creating a set method of processes allows managers to stay organized, held accountable and able to identify areas for improvement. In order for standardization to work, the processes must be centered around human motion.
  • Update equipment. Old or unmaintained equipment can put plant floors at risk for unplanned equipment downtime, negatively affect the quality of the products being manufactured and waste time, energy and other resources. This year, manufacturing managers should invest in equipment that analyzes important data in order to predict and prevent issues.

6. Hire a diverse workforce.

Today, more and more companies are creating a workforce that represents a range of genders, ethnicities and ages. In doing so, they’re increasing their retention rate, creating a more flexible work environment and using a unique set of backgrounds and experiences to solve industry issues.

Women, for example, make up 47 percent of the labor force, but only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Millennials, on the other hand, have surpassed all other generations as the largest force in the workforce — but 62 percent of manufacturers say Millennials only represent a small fraction of their workforce. And African American, Hispanic and Asian workers combined only represent 32.5 percent of all manufacturing employees.

In order to meet the needs of an evolving industry and fill the soon-to-be vacant positions in manufacturing, managers must tap into these previously unused labor groups.

7. Invest in employees.

Employee personal development plans are a win for both individual employees and managers. These plans allow employees to identify goals, learn new skills and better themselves. They also allow managers to perform accurate employee reviews, boast an educated workforce and curate positive attitudes.

One way managers can invest in their employees is  by supporting manufacturing certifications. Although some may cost time and money, professional certifications are definitely a worthwhile investment for employers. These credentials reduce costly employee turnover, boosts workplace morale and ensures an educated workforce.

Another option is to support attendance at tradeshows and conferences. Not only do trade shows put product into the hands of a new audience, but they encourage collaboration between industry experts, offer training opportunities and leave attendees feeling refreshed and inspired.

What are your 2017 new year’s resolutions?

What things are you working to improve in 2017? What changes do you expect to see in the industry? We’d love to chat! Let us know and tweet us @AppleRubber.