Prepare for more change
What was normal two years ago will almost certainly not be normal during the second half of 2010 or even during the first months of 2011. What was normal then, in fact, might never be normal again. However much it might be a cliché, change really is the new normal in manufacturing — and plenty of other industries, too.
Among those changes are the new gaps in the supply chains of some larger original equipment manufacturers, the result of smaller companies closing during the last couple of years, which might cause delays and problems in receiving supplies in a timely manner. A number of industry experts say the availability of credit will also likely change, with banks starting to somewhat relax their requirements for the first time in two years. But the biggest change might be the addition of manufacturing jobs.
“Manufacturing is now the only business sector that has been adding jobs for five months,” says Emily Stover DeRocco, president, The Manufacturing Institute. “Manufacturers have added 126,000 new jobs.
“But the focus is going to continue to be more on what we call mass customization, as opposed to mass commoditization. This reflects, again, the industry’s response to globalization, which is that U.S. manufacturers, in order to maintain their global leadership, have had to move to a higher quality and a higher value product.”
And that higher quality product will almost certainly lead to more changes in the way manufacturers and so many other companies plan and do business. It is the ripple effect across industries.
For example, if you have not already reassessed your vision and your plan for your company — especially in terms of negotiating for the best terms — that should move to the top of your priority list.
“You still have to get the best terms,” Birsinger says. “A lot of my clients are hesitant to go and tell that vendor or that supplier, ‘I need this. If you want to keep me as a customer, I need these terms and I need you to do this for me.’ So many small businesses think they do not represent enough of an order for their vendors to go and negotiate — tactfully but aggressively.
“Whether you’re ordering $1,000 or $50,000 worth of stuff, that order represents business for that company, and they are willing to do whatever they can do to not only keep you as a happy customer but, more important, keep you as a customer. A number of my clients think they don’t have the leverage to negotiate better terms.”
That can also help you better position yourself and your company for the continuing changes and the eventual uptick in the economy and the industry.