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Manufacturers Must Rethink Their Strategic Plans for 2024

Man i hard hard working at an industrial machine. Man i hard hard working at an industrial machine.

This article was originally published on February 8th, 2024 on the Baltimore Business Journal website.

For many, a new year brings optimistic resolutions to improve upon prior successes and shortcomings.

A challenging and ever-changing few years may have caused manufacturers to operate more reactively than they would like to admit. And there is no doubt continuing labor issues, supply chain challenges, and an election year will bring plenty of new… opportunities. But simply looking at where your company fell short in 2023 and doubling down on meeting those goals without reconsidering your strategic plan may land you in the exact same position next year.

It’s time to take inventory not of the key manufacturing products we use to fuel our nation’s economy, but of how your company is positioned to move forward.

The Plan

Long-term goals are not the same as a strategic plan. While your long-term goals may remain relatively unchanged, the strategic plan to achieve those goals must evolve with the business environment. Ask some tough questions: Did we keep up with technology? Did we invest in the right equipment? Do our daily activities allow our core competencies to shine? Defining the business strategy can be time-consuming and requires input from the company’s significant departments, so do it correctly.

At a minimum, the strategy must:

  • Consider current and future demand for the core competencies of the business. Define areas where the company needs to develop new core competencies
  • Maintain accurate financial results and projections to guide decision making
  • Monitor operational metrics that provide real-time feedback on progress towards the goals
  • Have a plan to tackle corporate and departmental leadership changes

Taking the time to understand recent marketplace challenges and then revisiting the plan gives the company the best opportunity to gain buy-in from the executive team.

Relationships

Challenging times can tell executives a lot about whether they previously fostered the correct business relationships. Maintaining the right team, subcontractors, vendors, customer base and even financial partners is critical to meeting the strategic plan.

Employee relations are equally vital since the employee base is usually the most critical component for any manufacturer. Evaluating whether you need to train or hire for knowledge gaps, and being able to implement changing technologies, should be a constant goal.

Subcontractor, vendor and customer relationships are more often overlooked and take more planning to improve without negatively impacting the business. Take the time to thoughtfully evaluate these relationships and determine a course of action if improvements are necessary.

Finally, take the time to educate yourself on how your professional relationships with attorneys, accountants, bankers and insurance professionals are helping or hindering the business. After reflecting on your strategic plan, areas for improvement are likely to be very evident.

Technology

No matter what sector your company competes in, the impact that changing technology has on your business is undeniable and a responsible investment in technology can go a long way to meeting your strategic long-term goals.

Best-in-class manufacturing companies and executive teams are pushing technological advances that make sense for their company before the investment becomes obvious. With proper training, new technologies provide a safer work environment for employees, while filling the skilled labor void. By committing to a culture that embraces new technology, manufacturers can move from simply receiving purchase orders, to consulting with customers on how to best solve their business challenges. This investment prepares you to meet any needs before they arise and more importantly, before the competition has the upper hand.

Don’t let the pace of a new year dictate where your time and energy are being spent. Be proactive and take inventory. Reflecting on, and recommitting to, your strategic plan, key relationships and meaningful technological advancements will put you and your team in the best position for a prosperous year.

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