Manufacturers face ever-rising costs and competition. Read on for ten survival tips provided by top industry analysts Sandvik Coromant Global President Klas Forsstrom; well-known Australian market research analyst Phil Ruthven and Guy Morgan with 30 years in plant management at BBK Southfield in the US.

  1. Look to the future. According to Klas Forsstrom, “The key is to work for the future.” During a visit to Australia Klas said: “I mean future technologies and future ways of machining. Don’t be held back by outdated practices. Cut machining time, improve efficiencies and work with new materials”.
  2. Maintain your focus. Do what you do best. Phil Ruthven said: “Concentrate on what you do well and leave the rest to others.” Guy Morgan agrees: “Pursue the lines of business that are within your core competency”. Mr Forsstrom said specialisation was a growing trend. “Focus on a dedicated area and become known as leaders in your field.”
  3. Reinvent your products. Guy Morgan said: “Suppliers who differentiate their products fare the best. Their success relates as much to their mindset as to the money they invest. A little creativity and outside-the-box thinking goes a long way”.
  4. Find new markets. Klas Forsstrom suggests: “Partnering with your customers and collaborate on new ways to get products to the market place”.
  5. Maximise your productivity through enhanced product and process design. Mr. Morgan advises: “Lean manufacturing focusses on production and its costs. Your team should work closely to reduce labour costs through production-friendly components”.
  6. Embrace Industry 4.0. Forsstrom said this is “About using technology to connect better with customers and how customers interact with your products. If I were in the business of making pens, I’d teach people how to write. If you’re selling furniture, its important customers know how it’s made and how to care for it”.
  7. Pay attention to your supply chain. Guy Morgan advises: “You don’t want to be surprised by a supplier that goes bust.” Similarly, look to your retailers; you don’t need them disappearing either.
  8. Improve quality and performance. Forsstrom admits that he is never pleased with what they’ve achieved. “If you belong to a winning team, last year isn’t good enough.” Morgan backs this up, saying: “Successful companies gain a competitive advantage by continual improvement.”
  9. Invest in your staff. A US university study recently found that manufacturers making investments in training came through downturns better. Billionaire Warren Buffett said of getting the right people: “If you’re looking for a manager, find somebody that’s intelligent, energetic and has integrity. If they don’t have the last, (you can) be sure they don’t have the first two. If you have somebody who lacks integrity, you want them to be dumb and lazy”.
  10. Invest in your Company. Facilitate total productive maintenance and invest in new technologies to reduce setup and manufacturing costs and reduce batch sizes.