2020 was an incredibly challenging year for nearly every industry. The manufacturing industry was hit as hard or harder than most. In addition to Covid-19 protocols that limited the way manufacturing companies are allowed to work, there was a downturn in other industries which curtailed demand.
But the calendar has now turned to 2021, and manufacturing companies have an opportunity to make this year a success. But in 2021, success will not come easy. Manufacturing companies will have to pivot, let go of the old way of doing things, and embrace the new realities of the new year.
There is no specific roadmap for success in 2021. If there were a step-by-step set of instructions to a more successful year, everyone would be following it. What will determine success for manufacturing companies in 2021 is a set of strong and agile principles. Companies that adopt these general practices and mindsets will be more likely to find success than those that don’t. Here are four keys to manufacturing success in 2021.
Be nimble with your strategy
At the beginning of Q1 2020, manufacturing companies had plans for the year and were in the process of executing those strategies when the world stopped because of the coronavirus. The following months were filled with uncertainty. Shutdowns, reopenings, and constantly shifting rules and regulations dominated the balance of the year. This created the need for businesses of all types to adapt to simply survive.
After nearly a full year of uncertainty, things are starting to come back into focus in 2021. Vaccines are being rolled out and most locales now have Covid-19 protocols in place that allow manufacturers to truly understand how they can work for the near future. But just because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it doesn’t mean manufacturers can get complacent. A nimble strategy will still be a big key to success in 2021.
As the second, third, or even fourth wave of Covid hits different areas, there will still be lockdowns put in place in 2021 while the world waits for the vaccines to be widely distributed. There should also be a point where everything is lifted and manufacturers are allowed to hit the gas pedal again. Being ready for both these realities is why a nimble strategy is so important. Responding to whatever realities 2021 brings, good or bad, is much more valuable than sticking to a set plan.
Commit to Quality Assurance
A nimble strategy is important because, in times like these, where external factors are driving market conditions, there is very little a manufacturing can control. This also makes controlling the things you can control even more important in 2021. What do manufacturers still have control over? The most important item of all: the quality of the products that they create. This is why committing to quality assurance in 2021 is another factor that will contribute to manufacturing companies’ success.
For manufacturers that make products for standard industries, committing to quality assurance means putting standardized procedures in place and requiring more sampling and testing as products come off the line. It also means defining what quality looks like and training to those standards. This will pay off in 2021 and beyond.
In highly-regulated industries, quality assurance is even more important. Some of these companies are working faster and at higher volumes than ever, especially in the pharma and healthcare industries, so committing to quality assurance even while working fast is paramount. This Dickson guide to IQ OQ PQ has more on the quality assurance standard for regulated industries.
Make Training a Priority
During normal times when everything is humming along and demand is strong, many manufacturers find it difficult to commit the time and resources required for properly onboarding new hires and continuously training long-term employees. This is understandable but it is also bad for business. The better and more continuously that employees are trained, the more success a company should have.
Training in 2021 should be a priority for several reasons. One is that many companies have the time. Another is that many manufacturers will be hiring new employees this year, and if they don’t start on the right foot, they will be doomed to fail. Successful companies will absolutely use this time to prioritize training for new and old employees alike.
The other reason training needs to be prioritized now is that 2021 is where we will transition from the pre-Covid world to the post-Covid world. The way we work and the way we manufacture will be fundamentally different in 2022 compared to 2019. Training to meet these new realities will be one of the things that separates successful companies from unsuccessful ones.
Our eyes and our ears sometimes lie to us. The data never lies. As Covid recedes in the world in 2021 because of vaccines and public health protocols, we’ll slowly digest whatever the new normal will be in our world–and this could prove to be a difficult transition. It will be a new world and what customers think they want may not jive with what they actually need. Likewise, what you think you need to do as a manufacturer may not be the same as what you need to do to maximize productivity, quality, safety, and profits.
This is why the smartest, and ultimately most successful companies of 2021 will rely on their data to tell them where to go and what to do next. The manufacturing process creates enormous quantities of data. Successful manufacturers know that collecting, analyzing, and making decisions based on this data is a major key to success.
There is no question that 2021 will be a challenging year for manufacturers. It will be challenging in a very different way compared to 2020 and, in the back half of the year, we should see a return to some type of new normalcy in the world. For manufacturing companies to have success in 2021, they will have to continue to stay nimble, commit to quality assurance, train their employees well, and use data to drive decision-making.