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  • Martin Harshberger

Top pain points for Manufacturers


I’ve recently read several articles talking about the top pain points for manufacturing. It occurred to me that the list of problems and solutions was centered on whatever the writer was selling.


Not that they weren’t all valid, there was little commonality except for the big three.

1. Supply chain issues

2. Labor shortage

3. Government regulations


Early in 2021 I Began hosting a podcast titled Manufacturing & Supply Chain CEOs”, and I’ve talked to about 40 businesspeople so far. Of course, they all agree with the three above. I’ve then asked them to complete an organizational survey to help me establish a benchmark for like companies.


What fell out of that survey lists some different opportunities.


· 50% don’t have a documented strategy

· 75% haven’t done an internal SWOT to identify and prioritize problems and opportunities

· 50% don’t have structured goals with assigned accountability

· 75% report slow sales growth over the past 3 years

· 50% haven’t hit profit targets

· 50% don’t trend KPI’s


These are in addition to the top three. In other words, everyone feels the Impact of the top 3, but all of the other responses above are within their direct control.


The clear message is all manufacturers have pain points, and while they may share some, when it comes to getting help, one size definitely doesn’t fit all.


Whatever the pain point is, If I were to sum up one root cause it would be, execution of change initiatives.


That’s the common denominator I’ve seen working with companies in various industries, many are lacking in accountability and execution.


Most change initiatives don’t create value, studies show that number as high as 85%. Most leadership programs don’t work. Most quality improvement initiatives fail to sustain improvement over the long-term.

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review, by Michael Beer, Magnus Finnestrom and Derek Schrader in the October 2018 issue.

They quoted multiple studies that show that companies spent $356B in 2015 for training. And for the most part, that investment didn’t improve organizational performance.

Inspired people went back to their jobs and fell into their old routines. They gave several reasons for this:

· Lack of strategic clarity

· Top-down management practices

· Organizational political environment

· Cross-functional conflict


I would add lack of two-way communication to the list above. All of these issues are common among companies that’s I’ve been exposed to. Most of the people I’ve worked with over the years have been successful. They had been in business for years and were doing OK. But not as well as they could have been. They had become complacent and reluctant to change, to try something different. History has taught me that people don’t generally accept change until there is no choice. Often, it’s too late in the game to make a difference.


I’ve done numerous turnarounds early in my career, and it used to amaze me how many obvious and relatively easy to correct issues I ran into. Over and over it seemed like people were ignoring the obvious. I learned that many saw the issues, they just were reluctant to make a decision to change.


I’ve specialized in strategic planning for over 16 years. About 10 years ago I realized that developing strategy alone wasn’t enough. Without a program to help with execution of that strategy it wasn’t creating enough value.


So, whatever the pain point you are facing today examine why it happened, when, and why it has continued. I think that you’ll find most things can be improved if not eliminated.


The decision is yours as to whether you make permanent changes, or “put a bandage” on the issue.


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