Although Brexit presents major questions for UK manufacturers in many areas – from health & safety to employment law to sector vulnerabilities. However, smart companies are viewing this time of uncertainty as a time to invest in continuous improvement and business transformation activities that will ensure their competitiveness no matter what exactly the political or economic future holds.
Here are three ways manufacturers can improve their processes and productivity now.
Go local, go global
With the pound at its lowest point in recent history, manufacturers with strong export markets and that trade in local currency are actually seeing a rush in interest for their products. If there wasn’t already an incentive to look at upping your export game, there is now. Industry bodies and experts, such as EEF, offer competitive research analysis for members and non-members on how to evaluate new markets, products and competition before moving forward with an ambitious export scheme.
On the other side, the low pound and uncertainty over Brexit’s impact on international trade should encourage UK manufacturers to evaluate their supply chain for opportunities to buy local. For example, if a part is sourced from China, it will take approximately 12 weeks to arrive at the UK manufacturer, which increases the amount of inventory required as well as increases the risk of a poor quality shipment being used for 12 weeks instead of receiving replacements in a few hours from a local supplier.
Here, Lean can help analyse the value stream for all parts of the supply chain to identify if it is worth finding a local alternative to a particular part or if the savings found in an offshore supplier are more beneficial.
One of the biggest changes in the manufacturing business in recent years has been the surge of requests for bespoke products. From consumers as well as industry clients in the supply chain, companies are expected to deliver customisations in short order. It’s about personalisation and adaptability rather than volume.
I recently helped a company redesign their entire Special Products Inquiry system to go from over a week to 24 hours when it came to responding to custom orders. This required no new investment, just a Lean approach to looking at questions like:
- What activities provide value to the customer? What don’t?
- How does the process flow throughout the facility?
- Is there a way to move people and steps together in a more optimum fashion?
- Is there a way to combine or remove activities from the process?
Whether it’s being able to reshore, export to new markets or deliver a custom order, the watchword of modern manufacturing is agility. By using continuous improvement strategies, such as Lean, to remove waste, remain competitive and deliver quality, companies will be able to keep their UK operations strong in the face of potential political and economic challenges.