A sudden spike in demand sounds like a good problem, but does your business have the ability to increase production quickly? What is the most effective way to encourage your workforce so you can ramp up production when you need to?In a recent blog from Industry Week, John Mills offers five tips for surviving a sudden spike in manufacturing demand. He suggests that although some manufacturers are still recovering from the recession, there are some, such as the US automaker, Ford, who cut short the traditional two week summer break to ramp up production due to the demand for their newest SUVs and trucks. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released a report this month stating that economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in June for the 30th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 73rd consecutive month. So demand is indeed growing throughout many areas of the manufacturing industry.
You have a new, unexpected project, are working at near capacity, and need to figure out how to make it all work. Firstly, it’s important that you consider carefully the value of the project and if it is worth pushing current schedules to take on the extra responsibility.
In his article, John Mills also suggests conferring with your top performers to assess the order of projects from most important to those that can potentially wait a little longer to be completed. Don’t push for unrealistic deadlines, but work with their ideas and embrace their creative suggestions. In the same vein, it helps to clearly recognize those members of staff who are prepared to put in the extra hours, or learn new skills that will help new projects through the production process. Asking your team to work longer hours sometimes requires more than extra remuneration. It is easy to get caught up in deadlines and forget that your production team on the floor is making the magic happen. Encourage them to feel more like contributors than production line workers. This can sometimes be as simple as a handwritten note acknowledging their efforts.
Turning a spike in demand into long-term business means keeping your customers happy. Even with a great manufacturing team working for you, you still need to be realistic about completion and delivery times. Keep in touch with your customers with regular updates so they feel they can rely on your company for this order and future orders down the line.
Most importantly, focus on your company’s strengths. If you take on a new manufacturing project with new components that mean a change in equipment settings while you are already working at capacity, the new instructions could potentially create confusion. Encourage loyalty by rewarding excellent productivity from your staff.