- 20 years as VP Manufacturing / Operations for 6 medical device companies.
- Sanovas - COO
- Picarro - VP Manufacturing and Customer Support
- CardioDX - VP Operations and Administration
- PEAK Surgical - VP Operations (Acquired by Medtronic)
- Siemens Untrasound - VP Global Supply Chain
- Stryker (NYSE: SYK) - VP Global Operations
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Manufacturing Strategy - Alignment of Tactics and Resources
- There is a lack of strategic foresight in the right-setting of resources.
Companies often find themselves coming up short when it comes to having the right people in the right place at the right time. This is particularly true in manufacturing. Whether a company is a early-stage startup or a more established organization, there is a general approach to staffing policy that requires hiring for the particular manufacturing position that needs to be filled now. As companies grow and shift their business focus from one platform to another, they realize that they need to make structural changes or own different sets of skills. This means realigning their resources, which, at this stage of the game, can be very difficult.
Instead of narrowly focusing on an immediate position to be filled, companies must be more proactive and look one step ahead toward what they will look like and need in the future. To ensure the right-setting of resources, they need to ask a critical question: Is the person I am hiring now someone that can do the job at hand and also grow with the company and accompany our transitions skillfully, without ever losing sight of our objectives? Defining what skill sets will be required over the long term and identifying the gaps early on means that the manufacturing and business strategies must be closely aligned.
- The accelerated rate of innovation leads to underperformance during the ramp-up of new products.
Technology is a bit of a double-edged sword. Current software technology allows for increasingly fast rates of innovation, which can ensure a strong competitive advantage. However, it is problematic for some manufacturing teams, which find it hard to keep up.
Engineers are able to go online and access free tools and applications that allow them to realize in a day solutions that might previously have taken six months to develop. Because these iterations are numerous and very fast, manufacturing finds it increasingly difficult to adhere to strict product controls and processes.
If your manufacturing team does not commit to a proper and diligent validation process of the product iterations, you will encounter adjacent performance problems. While the speed of innovation will continue to drive growth, it is critical that manufacturing remains committed to quality.
Quality can only be ensured via strict controls. It is the quality, reliability and performance of your product, and not the number of iterations you realize, that will keep your customers satisfied.
- Supporting too many projects and not focusing on key initiatives delays or prevents successful growth.
There is an appeal to having many projects in the development pipeline – it reflects a company’s dynamism and wealth of ideas. However, this can be a barrier to successful growth.
Spreading company resources thin to support too many projects that have not been properly prioritized does two things – it under-resources those key projects that do have the capacity to generate strong profitable growth for the company, and it wastes valuable resources on keeping projects alive that ultimately will not bring long-term value to the company.
While this reveals more about a weakness within a company’s business strategy, it nevertheless directly affects the manufacturing strategy as well. Companies need to identify key growth initiatives and prioritize projects that will deliver on these initiatives. If they do this, and weed out an overly-fed pipeline, manufacturing will dispose of enough of the right kind of resources to successfully bring these projects to completion, and consequently generate desired growth.
- Outsourcing can hamper early product development and strain resources.
Outsourcing can be a very effective manufacturing option, but it can hamper early product development and strain a company’s resources. For fledgling companies, the temptation to pursue development with an external contract manufacturer (CM) is initially very appealing. They have the infrastructure, the experience, the skills and the manpower that you may not have. If the product design is fairly simple and straightforward, outsourcing may be the most efficient and cost-effective approach.
For more technologically challenging or sophisticated products the choice to outsource must be based on a clear and well-thought-out calculation of the risks and rewards. If you jump into it without proper reflection, you could end up spending far more time and money than you had initially budgeted on traveling between your organization and the site of your contract manufacturer, and on ensuring cross communication between your and the CM’s engineers and manufacturing teams. These costs will put a strain on your own resources. Before you decide whether or not to outsource, it is essential to identify the manufacturing challenges of a given project and carefully weigh all cost elements.
- Companies over focus on growing their install base and compromise on customer support
Growing one’s business and customer base is the aim of every company. With that growth comes an obligation to take care of all existing customers as if they were newly acquired.
Matching company growth with reinforced customer support that allows you to meet and exceed current customer demands long after a sale is made is essential if sustainable and profitable growth is to continue.
Some companies lose sight of this golden rule, and primarily focus on growing their business and winning new clients. This approach can backfire. New customers transition to the status of established customers quickly. If you do not have the resources in place to keep them satisfied, they will look elsewhere.
Every successful manufacturing strategy takes this into account and makes sure that customer-centric relations and customer satisfaction remain at the heart of a company's operations.