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Your Manufacturing Restart

Cover Stories MadeinPA

Since the inception of the industry, manufacturers have weathered and survived more than their fair share of economic, national, and global changes and challenges, including recessions, natural disasters, and worldwide events. Manufacturing is a robust and resilient industry, but COVID-19 has proven vastly diff erent from anything manu- facturers, or any other sector, have ever experienced before.

While issues such as risk mitigation, skilled workforce shortages, and production optimizations have been high priorities for manufacturers, now incredible, unprecedented, and immediate challenges in the processes, production, and people that power manufacturing enterprises are at the forefront. New rules apply in a new normal, and new normals require new approaches to busi- ness-as-usual.

This pandemic period and post-pandemic reality have sparked an in- dustry-wide rethinking and reconfi guration of business capabilities across every operational domain, from risk, succession and contingen- cy planning and supply chains to cash flows, workforces, and safety protocols. As manufacturing enterprises across the southwestern Pennsylvania region are rumbling back to life in the green and yellow phases, and as they explore and implement new ways of operating, manu- facturers require strategic guidance and resolution for the tremendous short- and long-term economic and operational impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Where challenges and uncertainty exist, so do opportunities and strategic resources in responding, recovering, and revitalizing manufacturing during and after COVID-19.

Restarting Manufactuting Workforces 

A healthy, safe, and thriving workforce is one of the most immediate and urgent challenges facing manufacturers.

Manufacturers are tasked with an enormous responsibility to and for their employees, stakeholders, and customers around health, safety, and well- being throughout phased business reopenings and the return of our region's workforces. Manufacturing leaders are seeking out strategies and solutions to conceptualize, implement, and sustain new compa- ny- and production-wide health, safety, distancing, and sanitization protocols. Not only are these integral elements of a safe and successful restart, but manufacturers are also ac- counting for, implementing, and managing new procedures and reconfi gurations across their work- forces and workplaces.

Work-from-home policies, plexiglass installations, and staggered in-person scheduling aim to mitigate and manage the poten- tial spread of individual COVID-19 cases or compa- ny-wide outbreaks. Should those circumstances occur, manufacturers must also have thorough planning in place to in- ternally and externally communicate health risks, along with succession and contingency planning, to account for the resulting reductions in workforce capacity and unexpected temporary or permanent leadership transitions. There is a looming sense of uncertainty in these measures, particularly if COVID-19 continues to be an active threat or if new spikes or waves create a pandemic resurgence across local communities or the broader region, state, or nation.

 

“Many manufacturing organizations experienced shockwaves in the early days, weeks, and months of COVID-19 because of widespread misconceptions about effective supply chain management and forecasting, concerns surrounding affordability of proactive improvements and implementations, and underestimating the scope of a
possible disruption event.”

 

Company-wide health and safety measures, and the eff ectiveness of such measures, will continue to be top-of-mind for manufacturers and their stakeholders. These eff orts will have long-reaching impacts across all areas of processes, production, people, and the delivery of products and services. In addition to considerations for continuous health and safety measures, manufacturers must reprioritize workforce attraction, retention, and develop- ment eff orts, by leveraging the capabilities and potential of existing workforces and creating plans for attracting and onboarding new talent. Workforce development initiatives and skilled work- force shortages have been long-standing concerns and action areas for manufacturers. Companies can't aff ord to lose sight of the critical need to attract new talent, retain and retrain existing workforces, and invest resources into workforce and leadership development and succession planning during this tumultuous period.

As manufacturers move forward into COVID-19 recovery, they must keep in mind that their stakeholders, customers, existing workforces, and prospective talent will be evaluating company responses to this pandemic against their own alignments, values, and priorities. Safety protocols must account for the immediate and ongoing health and safety concerns, promote an organizational culture that is wholly com- mitted to health and safety, instill and build upon internal and external trust and confi dence, and provide continuous, transparent, and proactive communication across all stakeholders. Creating, implementing, and maintaining the proper protocols and procedures that pri- oritize company, customer, and workforce health and safety are essential elements of responsible business practices, while also working to position manufacturing companies as employers-of-choice and trusted brands and businesses.

Whether manufacturers have existing measures in place or are at the starting gate, the roadmap toward a successful pandemic recovery necessitates a continuous approach to workplace health and safety. To gain visibility into risk factors and to create comprehen- sive back-to-work and COVID-responsive workplace and workforce strategies, Catalyst Connection's Back-to-Work Playbook, in partnership with MAC Safety, off ers regional manufacturers the strategic resources and support to strategize, implement, and sus- tain comprehensive safety measures. With expert guidance across the areas of best practice-protocols, sanitization and social distancing guidelines, checklists, internal and external communications, and additional considerations, tools, and solutions, manufacturers can rethink and reprioritize workforce safety and engagement. To download the resource, visit CatalystConnection.org/Playbook. OnRAMP Magazine asked experts on Catalyst Connection’s staff for initial insights. Let’s get back to work!

Retooling and De-Risking Supply Chains

Supply chains are critical to the flow of business and essential to the flow of business funds, and that means when supply chains are dis¬rupted, business is derailed. According to an early survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers, 35.5% of survey respondents reported already facing supply chain disruptions as of early March of this year. 

“Many manufacturing organizations experienced shockwaves in the early days, weeks, and months of COVID-19 because of widespread misconceptions about effective supply chain management and forecasting, concerns surrounding affordability of proactive improvements and implementations, and underestimating the scope of a possible disruption event,” said Petra Mitchell, President and CEO of Catalyst Connection. “A long-standing reliance on inflexible, off-shore supply chains and a lack of supply chain diversific¬tion practices led to immense challenges for manufacturers in increasing or sustaining production throughout the pandemic. This is especially so in responding to record demands for health, personal care, and medical products while also mitigating slowdowns in other areas of manufacturing.” 

While the regional, state, and national pandemic responses and ramifications were nearly impossible to predict at their on set, this COVID-19 recovery period presents manufacturers with a unique opening to rethink and retool the supply chain for the first time in decades. This recent mass global supply chain disruption created a simultaneous need and opportunity for many manufacturing com¬panies to look at reshoring, restructuring, and de-risking their sup¬ply chains for the short- and long-term. 

These measures not only work in addressing current challenges but also present new opportunities to enter and explore new supply chains, access new business and growth opportunities, and restructure or increase production to be responsive to changing market and consumer demands. 

“As manufacturers continue to experience and respond to production variations, fluctuations in demand, and ongoing supply chain delays, there is no guarantee that future waves or spikes of the coronavirus won't upset the supply chain yet again,” said David Rae, Managing Director, Organizational Development at Catalyst Connection. “A successful, resilient, and expedited recovery for manufacturing enterprises rests in the commitment to explore and invest in retooling the supply chain through local sourcing, evaluating risk management, implementing best practice approaches.”

One of the most limiting beliefs affecting small and mid-sized manufacturers today is that there is nothing to be done to prepare for or prevent a potential supply chain event until the actual supply chain 

disruption event occurs, explained Rae. To survive and recover from COVID-19, as well as endure the upheavals and challenges to come, manufacturers must dismantle this belief system and instead actively work to minimize supply chain risk by seeking out the appropriate resources and making the necessary investments. 

Building a resilient and risk-tolerant supply chain requires flexibility and foresight. To aid manufacturers in gaining insights into supply chain retooling and optimization, Catalyst Connection's resource, De-Risking Your Supply Chain, offers practical and pragmatic advice and approaches for manufacturers to develop robust and fault-tol-erant supply chains in the era of COVID-19 recovery. To download the resource, visit CatalystConnection.org/SupplyChain. 

Rethinking Avenues for New Business 

While COVID-19 has created unimaginable economic, operational, and labor challenges, business opportunities abound for manufacturers in entering new markets, accessing high-value supply chain openings, and attracting new customers. 

“Manufacturers must be prepared to seize these opportunities as they arise and must be ready to invest in advanced approaches and innovative plans of ac¬tion,” said Connie Palucka, Vice President of Consulting at Catalyst Connection. “There has never been a more critical time for manufacturers to rethink and refocus on strategies that fill the sales funnel with business-sustaining leads and enable them to access emerging business opportunities through entry into new markets and in the delivery of new product offerings.“

Palucka went on to explain that when it comes to rethinking avenues for new business, manufacturers first must focus on keeping the sales funnels flowing throughout their crisis response and recovery efforts. Without a continuous flow of leads, no manufacturing enterprise can survive for long in typical times, and that is even more apparent during COVID-19. As customer needs, value alignments, and budgetary capabilities have shifted during the pandemic, understanding how and where to secure new business is essential for manufacturing enterprises to withstand and flourish during and after these trying and tumultuous times. 

“As social distancing requirements and restrictions on large gather¬ings continue, traditional and high-ranking means of lead gener¬tion for manufacturers, such as tradeshows, conferences, and other in-person events, have been canceled or postponed indefinitely,” said Palucka. “Now, as more prospects and customers are working remotely and relying on email and social media for information and interaction with brands and businesses, modern, digital-forward, and inbound marketing methods take urgency over more traditional tactics. These approaches offer higher rates of engagement, develop more qualified leads, create actionable and data-driven insights, and lead to a better return on investment overall.” 

It is believed that COVID-19 has the power to fuel a new period of manufacturing innovation; however, it requires that manufacturers position forward to tap into emerging markets and consumer needs and demands and maintain a sense of agility, whether through production, capital investments, or marketing. When equipped with resources and empowered to pursue appropriate strategic investments in Industry 4.0 capabilities, Advanced Manufacturing, and new technologies, Palucka said manufacturers can address and respond to rapid market shifts and changes, build readiness and resilience across their manufacturing environments and supply chains, and secure and maintain a competitive advantage. 

Understanding and responding to these business shifts and changes, while seizing new opportunities, requires the knowledge and leveraging of available strategic resources. Catalyst Connection works with regional manufacturers through quality management systems consulting to help companies position, demonstrate compliance, and take advantage of new supply chain opportunities to outperform competitors and grow sales. 

Additionally, with Catalyst Connection's Lead Generation for Man¬ufacturers resource, manufacturers can learn how to take a COVID-19-responsive approach to keep supply chains stable and sales funnels full. Expert advice, paired with implementable methodologies, provides the guidance companies need to develop the digital-forward and customer-centric strategies required for doing business in today's new normal. To download the resource, visit CatalystConnection.org/LeadGeneration

Resiliency to Move Forward 

“The manufacturing sector is one of the world's most resilient industries, and manufacturers are leading global, national, and regional recovery efforts in the face of COVID-19,” concluded Mitchell. “While long-ranging impacts, permanent changes to life and business, and the exact time period of the pandemic remain uncertain and unknown, the road to a successful recovery is possible.” 

As Catalyst Connection helps manufacturers understand and address what's happening now, what's next, and what's beyond for this manufacturing restart, the southwestern Pennsylvania region's manufacturing community requires strategic expertise, support, and partnership to advance its capabilities, maintain a competitive edge, open up new business channels, attract and retain existing and new skilled workforce talent, and more, to empower effective COVID-19 responses and recoveries. 

To access strategic expertise and partnership for a successful and sustainable manufacturing recovery, visit CatalystConnection.org or call 412-918-4300.