Exporting can be a lucrative business practice on a global scale if the company's supply chain is properly managed. Manufacturers can often identify supply chain partners in developing markets across the world to assist in exporting.
Trends in Manufacturing Employment
Small and midsized manufacturers, as well as other companies in the supply chain, struggle to communicate the desirable employment opportunities in the industry. Public perception is still catching up with the manufacturing revolution that combines technology and enlightened management philosophies, including flatter organizational structures, more delegation and empowerment, and the blurring of distinction between blue-collar and white-collar jobs.
Top job candidates are looking for more than a paycheck. Small and midsized manufacturing management has to evolve with the times by developing new leadership skills and cultivating a corporate culture desirable for today's workers. Qualified employees are looking for autonomy, involvement in decision-making and transferable skills and experiences that will make them valuable to the market as well as to their current employers.
Working in manufacturing today requires a diverse skill set, including an understanding of computer hardware and software, analytical skills, decision-making capabilities and strong interpersonal abilities. Recruiting young employees who possess these skills is essential to replace workers from the baby boom generation, who are beginning to retire. NAM estimates that baby boomer retirements will peak in 2012 and there will be 10 million unfilled positions by 2020.
Small and midsized manufacturers and supply chain partners need to review a few important measures to determine the health of the business, known as key performance indicators (KPIs). The KPI concept was developed by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, who divide KPIs into four categories:
- The financial perspective
- The customer perspective
- The innovation and learning perspective
- The internal business perspective
It is important to develop KPIs that measure the fundamental factors driving the viability and success of the business. Companies should identify three to five KPIs to focus on the critical components of their business. For example, the CEO of a midsized manufacturer might have KPIs of sales growth, manufacturing costs, certain production process times, on-time delivery and results of customer surveys.
Because the supply chain's effectiveness is contingent on the success of each company's specialized policies and procedures, creating benchmarks to evaluate processes is crucial. Supply chain executives should prioritize performance measurement and communicate its importance to all levels of the company.
Public Policy Issues and Manufacturers
The central message of the NAM/TMI report is to empower small and midsized manufacturers to distinguish themselves to achieve a competitive advantage. However, some challenges faced by companies are influenced at least partly through enactment or reform of legislation and regulations. Examples of current policy issues affecting manufacturers — and therefore the entire supply chain — relate to regulatory improvement, energy legislation, international trade, taxes, health care reform and federal funding for research. It is important for company leaders to stay informed on legislation that affects their business and express opinions to the appropriate political officials.
Because many small and midsized manufacturers are exporting, it is important for supply chain partners to be especially aware of public policy issues that affect international trade. The supply chain is expanding far beyond U.S. borders, and reform of certain legislation and regulations will shape the future of the global marketplace.
Best Practices: Strategies for Success
The NAM/TMI report outlines 15 best practices followed by leading small and midsized manufacturers. These guiding principles help companies manage risk without compromising innovation, as they face continuously changing customer demands, skilled worker shortages, evolving technologies and limited internal resources.