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  • October 5, 2021

Six Top Tips for Running a Small Manufacturing Business

Even as the business world moves online, the manufacturing industry is one of the largest and most varied industries out there. Depending on how you define it, manufacturing simply refers to the production of goods from raw materials.

Whatever your business produces, there are principles that you should follow to keep it running successfully. Here are some tips to help you get ahead.

Supply Chain Management

First of all, what is supply chain management? The supply chain is what keeps the entire manufacturing process running smoothly. An inefficient supply chain can be expensive and cause bottlenecks. Even worse, if your supply chain isn’t robust enough, it can break down and make the entire production process grind to a halt.

There are a few things you can do to make sure that your supply chain is robust. Take some time to work through the supply chain that your business will need, following the product each step of the way.

Typically, things start at your vendors, otherwise known as suppliers. Shop around for a reliable vendor who won’t break the bank. Saving money on the cheapest option won’t do you much good if the vendor proves unreliable. Also, develop relationships with other suppliers as well. If an issue crops up with your preferred vendor, then you can be more flexible.

One common pitfall is stockpiling inventory. It costs money to store things, and the ideal supply chain should be fluid and constantly in motion. Frequent, small orders are typically more flexible and may work out cheaper. Yes, having a little inventory ready to go is handy, but you shouldn’t have warehouses full of the stuff going to waste.

Efficiency and Productivity

This seems like an obvious point, but it’s a vital one. High productivity means that you have more products to sell, which means that you stand to make more money. There are a few ways to make sure that your productivity remains steady and strong.

First of all, it’s preferable to work slightly below 100% capacity, despite how it seems. While it looks more productive when your employees are constantly rushing and your equipment is churning at maximum power, it’s dangerous to have these conditions all the time.

First, there’s a very low margin for error, meaning that one mistake can cause major issues down the line. Mistakes are also more likely, either due to human error or equipment breakdowns. This kind of stress grates on employees, which can lead to high turnover rates. Finally, even the slightest spike in demand can overwhelm your process.

Rather, you should concentrate on an efficient workshop. It should be designed in such a way that your employees can easily access everything they need when they need it. Make sure that everything has its place and that it is always returned there. It only takes a few seconds to put a tool back, but a lost tool can cost hours. With this in mind, keep things clean and tidy. This includes the physical space itself as well as clear, logical scheduling, guidelines, and operations.

Invest in Equipment

Your equipment is what makes the entire manufacturing process possible. While you might initially save on shoddy equipment, you’ll pay for it at the worst possible time. Broken equipment can slow or stop production in its tracks, and it takes precious time and money to get it going again.

Some manufacturers require niche equipment, which is difficult to acquire. It might be necessary to use custom metal fabrication to create the tool that you need. Even if you can buy equipment that might work for your process, a specialized tool would work far better and may even be cheaper and more efficient.

As well as improving your efficiency and productivity, good equipment is generally safer for you and your staff. If the equipment is easier to use and less likely to malfunction, then your employees will feel more comfortable using it. If an accident does happen, then a failsafe mechanism can prevent injury or death.

Invest in People

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As well as your tools and equipment, your employees are vitally important. You should aim to keep them as safe as possible. Injury is sometimes unavoidable in the workplace, but you can aim to mitigate it as much as possible.

As well as investing in safe and effective equipment, make sure that your employees are trained in how to use the equipment, as well as what to do if an emergency arises. Protecting your employees doesn’t just benefit them, but it also benefits your business.

An injury can bring productivity to a standstill, as many factories require all equipment to be stopped if someone gets hurt. Then, you have an injured employee who can’t work while they recover. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, your business will likely be liable for damages.

If your business develops a reputation as an unsafe workspace, other employees may leave. New employees might be reluctant to join your company, especially if they’ve heard horror stories about unsafe working conditions. Finally, you will likely be subject to an inspection, especially if the injury was severe or fatal. This may result in your business being closed down.

Of course, injury or death are the worst-case scenarios. But there are reasons to invest in your employees outside of keeping them safe. Skilled employees are rare, especially if you have a niche business. Sometimes, it might be incredibly difficult or expensive to hire qualified staff.

If this is the case, don’t be afraid to train up existing employees. If they express an interest in learning how to use a different machine or to do another operation, then encourage it. This will allow you to be more flexible with your crack team of workers. Or, hire less experienced people and train them. While not every unproven employee will work out, this could work out to be a fantastic investment, for you and the employee.

Digital Marketing

Now, your business might have a tight supply chain, a beautifully efficient and productive workshop, and a highly-skilled workforce that creates a brilliant product, but it still won’t be successful without customers. If you want customers, you need to get your business out there where they can see it.

Marketing today is a different animal than it was even a decade ago. The internet reigns supreme, which means that social media marketing and eCommerce are the way to go. Yes, there is still a place for physical advertisements like billboards, but most customers go online for their shopping needs.

An eCommerce website should be attractive and functional, otherwise, your customers might get frustrated before they even look for a product. But first, you need to get people to visit your site. One way to do that is by paid digital advertising, but there are more passive methods as well.

For example, you can utilize SEO (search engine optimization) to encourage search engines, like Google and Bing, to direct potential customers to your website. Having a blog on your site will allow you to take advantage of SEO while telling your customers about your brand and your product. A good blog doesn’t just get your customers to your website, but it also helps them to get to know you.

Another way to develop a rapport with your customers is by using social media. This allows you to interact with your customers directly, which can make them more likely to buy from you than your competitors. After all, people prefer to buy from brands they like. Also, they’re more likely to think of your brand if they regularly interact with it in their everyday lives.

Some of the most effective marketing comes from the customers themselves. Remember the supply chain? That only ends when your customers receive the product, so make sure it gets there swiftly and in an attractive package. If they’re happy with the product, then they will hopefully come back for more and, potentially, encourage more people to buy from you.

Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource

If you’re running a small business, you’ll likely notice the need to outsource. After all, you and your small team can’t do everything. For example, if the above section on marketing made you break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry. If you hire a marketing agency to handle things, then you can be more confident in a professional job well done.

As well as marketing, you may want to hire someone to handle the financial side of things. With a small business, hiring an in-house accountant can be pricey, but you also don’t want to sort out taxes yourself. This is where outsourcing comes in handy.

Outsourcing gives you access to professionals who can handle the essential tasks of running a business, which allows you and your employees to focus on your specialties. It’s flexible, so you can outsource for regular services or on a one-off basis, depending on what you need at the time.

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