Small manufacturing enterprises are more than balance sheets to their chief executives, who often have built their businesses from the ground up, learning sometimes painfully every detail of a successful company as a hands-on leader and final decision-maker. Often these are family-run companies, or at the very least they are small enough that the team who helped realize the success of the enterprise feels to like family to the CEO.
As the CEO, as the leader of this enterprise, you have learned to think farther out than the next pay period. Of those distant bends in the road, preparing for growth is one of the most important that you must navigate. And, at every step along the way, you must continue to demonstrate profitability and ROI on every decision you make.
Perhaps growth will come in the form of being able to add new customers and service them more efficiently, which in turn might mean growing your organization or geographic presence. If you want your team to connect and work together well enough to achieve this growth, and at the same time to gain the insight required to make the best decisions, take a hard look at your technology and processes. That preliminary step is important to:
• Lowering operating costs;
• Increasing visibility into the business, driving better decisions;
• Improving processes and realizing efficiency gains;
• Providing the framework and foundation for future growth.
No small manufacturing leader wants the distraction and expense of investing weeks or months of “team” time into solutions that take too long to vet, even longer to implement, and don’t allow the flexibility required for to the business’s challenges. No two businesses run exactly alike, and if you find that you’re taxing your budget and reorganizing your entire business to fit a new tool, you might conclude that you’re on the wrong path.
Other important things to think about as you consider how technology will enable your growth:
• Was it developed specifically for small- to mid-sized manufacturers?
• Will it help you automate processes, freeing your team to do more accurate work and serve more customers in the future?
• Will it give you insight into every facet of the business—from back office, to the shop floor, to the field?
• Will non-technical users be able to customize the software to fit their roles?
• Is it Cloud-based, or will you be looking at significant implementation time and cost?
With these thoughts in mind, you’ll be more prepared to assess where you are now, where you want to be, and how technology can help grow the enterprise into which you and your team have put your heart and souls.
Lori Payne is the vice president, Manufacturing Development at KeyedIn Solutions, Inc., a developer and supplier of cloud-based business management systems for manufacturers and those who manage distributed enterprises. Contact her via LinkedIn.