As the general state of things in the United States continues to air on a side of caution, and pandemic anxieties still swirl about as Fall begins its ascent, let’s put a spotlight on a topic that has been under the microscope for quite some time, and, in a macro sense, quite substantially given these trying times.
It’s a multi-faceted topic, and, as you’re long flipped the pages of the Gateway Magazine, you’re aware that we’ve long been proponents of keeping manufacturing tasks “inhouse,” or, as it stands, “in-network,” and that network, as it were, is of much benefit if it remains in and around our direct “neck of the woods.” This couldn’t be more important right now. As the months have pressed on since the pandemic took hold back in March, supply chains have broken down, and industries far and wide have experienced tremendous cause(s) for alarm.
There have been bright spots (the automotive sector reported 105% growth in June – however, this still remains south of pre-pandemic production (25% lower than February motor part production). There are, of course, myriad reasons for this, but, the major glaring consistency has been a kink in the supply chain limiting manufacturing production and delivery across the board.
While trends suggest that we’ve placed a concerted effort to reshore manufacturing work after the mass offshore production development uptick stemming from the 60s progressing on up through the 90s and early 00s to save on costs – labor, material, and otherwise – it bears repeating that there is much benefit to pulling manufacturing work back in domestic borders to keep things . Nothing could make this more obvious than the current economic and productive strain we’re feeling. If we have the collective means and resources to keep things “local” the chain is inevitably stronger.
As a manufacturer and service provider when you look around for a partner to help you see jobs through to completion, key areas of focus you’re likely considering include:
- Cost savings / ROI
- Turnaround / lead times
- Post-production / customer service
It’s a lot easier to achieve a higher level of all the aforementioned areas of focus when the accountable party is in a similar (domestic) service area (hopefully we’re all looking in the northeast here as it pertains to the readership of this particular magazine!) The greater point, of course, is the chain. When you extent that chain as far away as a multi-continent affair, problems, as we see right now, can arise. Risk and obstruction comes with crossing vast bodies of water to accomplish a (sometimes) menial end goal. Thus, take lesson of our current situation and assess inhouse supply strategies to become stronger and more resilient if a similar situation arises (and we’re not 100% convinced we’re not going to ride several waves of this original (pandemic) challenge.
Things to consider in plotting a strengthened resiliency in your manufacturing process / chain:
Domestically diversity network of sources for job critical components and production materials.
Many of you that are turning the pages here already do this. And that’s likely the very reason you’re thumbing through – to find specialized partners to fulfil components of a greater task/job that you either don’t have the inhouse bandwidth for, or prefer to source out to focus on other pieces and parts that make up the inherent hole. Either way, this is a good thing. It’s the whole “putting all your eggs in one basket” situation. In this time of pandemic, if a shop closed and it was the one shop you placed all your eggs in, where would you be? Some people are experiencing this exact situation, and it’s not a comfortable place to be in. Scrambling to find that second option in a dire time will often prove to be an unfruitful exercise. Plan well, and, if you don’t have a plan at all, consider it. Alliances are good things – especially in a time of hardship.
Consider strategic overflow / safety stock.
We know, we know. Space is at a premium in all the work that we do. And, further, a big part of the reason we’re outsourcing pieces/components of a greater production task is because we just don’t have the means and/or space to store all the different variables that go in to creating whatever the specific job is. That said, it’s not a bad idea to consider, where feasible, to increase capacity – whether that’s vertical storage solutions, or an additional “storage locker” of space to put an “emergency” influx of raw material/stock so we’ll have it in a time where (and when) the supply chain shuts down. We live in an on demand culture, but sometimes that line of thinking doesn’t yield desirable/realistic results. There’s value in reserves – which has never been more proven than right now.
Understand delivery logistics and figure out a “second route.”
This one isn’t easy. But, the long and short of it is – our customers don’t care how the finished product winds up on their doorstep (well, they care that it’s of predetermined/expected quality), so long as it ends up there when it’s expected. And, one of the key selling points we push in “reshoring” manufacturing opportunities is quick leads which yield faster deliveries. So, take a close look at delivery logistics, potential bottlenecks, and seek/plan alternatives. For a lot us reading this, we’re working with and delivering to our established New England based network, so, getting things over state lines that are only a few states removed isn’t necessarily a trying measure. But, it could be, considering what or who your utilizing as delivery methods. So, take a look. Do the research. And, like everything else on this list, have a dependable Plan B on the line before you need to use that Plan B…
Chaines often break down on the stops in-between physical geographic locations – so check the links on your chain and make sure they’re all strong and up to snuff. You don’t want to over promise and then get caught with your pants down because the driver never showed up and you’re stuck without a ride… Backup plans are just as valuable as the
primary. Trust us.
In your quest of seeking out alliances, maybe it makes sense to put some sort of emergency fund together or at least set the grounds for a collective brain trust to figure out an emergency plan spread out amongst multiple entities. Invest in each other and pool resources so that, in the end, even in an unexpected time of adversity, everyone comes out okay in the end.