2021 was another trying year for manufacturing with supply chain challenges, COVID-19 outbreaks and extreme weather all impacting the industry, but we’ve made it through and learned a lot along the way. So what’s in store for manufacturing in 2022? No one can really know for sure. We must continue to expect the unexpected and adjust operations in ways that make them more sustainable for the ups and downs that are sure to greet us in the New Year.
Some of the best practices that are proving to be beneficial for OEMs during challenging times include:
- Embracing a multi-sourcing strategy. Identifying multiple suppliers for components and materials required to build products helps OEMs sustain operations and continue delivering product during supply chain disruptions. In spite of the upfront costs, taking advantage of supplier managed inventory programs and building up stock is helping organizations better navigate uncertain times when there is scarcity of supply.
- Building shorter supply chains. Many OEMs are looking to design shorter supply chains and bring some aspects of manufacturing closer to home to reduce overall lead times. Even if certain components can’t be sourced locally, changing the sources for materials that can be purchased regionally certainly eases the overall burden during a crisis.
- Re-examining the supply chain when designing new products. While existing products require full product redesigns in order to make major supply chain changes, OEMs can update sourcing strategies as they design new products. Investing time up front into carefully choosing the components that go into new designs and making sure they don’t have end-of-life problems or any obvious supply chain constraints better ensures continuity during production.
- Designing products for automation. As more OEMs consider moving to regional manufacturing models where labor costs might be higher, understanding how to design products that are suitable for automation and robotics is critical. Automating basic assembly processes increases efficiency, cuts costs and better ensures quality, while reducing assembly time and errors.
- Prioritizing the environment. Demand for higher quality products that have longer life spans is becoming a core part of environmental initiatives to reduce waste. When older products are at the end of life, OEMs are placing more focus on how materials are either re-used or properly disposed of to reduce environmental hazards. Manufacturers must be armed with a comprehensive strategy for ensuring quality, sustaining engineering capabilities, repair/refurbishment services and recycling programs in order to tout an eco-friendly approach as part of their brand.
Bringing it All Together
In 2022, it will be essential for manufacturing organizations to embrace strategies that empower them to ‘respond’ versus ‘react’ to global uncertainties that may arise. Staying closely connected to what’s happening in the industry will be key. Implementing best practices that allow for flexibility, while reducing risk and ensuring quality, will be critical to meeting customer needs and maintaining a competitive edge.