The pandemic disrupted countless supply chains, triggering shortages that include everything from semiconductors to medical devices. However, disruption and uncertainty are nothing new. Even before COVID-19, natural disasters and transportation delays threatened supply chain management.
So how can manufacturers recover from pandemic-induced disruptions while also preparing for future challenges? By embracing new processes, new sources of ideas, and new ways of collaborating. In short, innovation.
Focus on innovation
Earlier this year, American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) surveyed top supply chain professionals and found that innovation is a top priority. Specific focuses include:
- Operational/process innovation (38%)
- Innovation analytics (31%)
- Improving collaboration (30%)
- Product and service innovation (28%)
- Automation and digitization (23%)
As APQC notes, innovation isn’t just about creating cool new products and services. To succeed in a post-pandemic world, manufacturers need to rethink their operations and processes. They need to adjust to permanent changes brought on by COVID-19 and build towards future resiliency. Open innovation and collaboration are two ways to achieve that.
Embrace open innovation
While companies traditionally keep their ideas and strategies a secret, some businesses are embracing open innovation. In an open innovation model, companies share ideas with external partners and leverage these relationships to source new ideas. By exchanging ideas and troubleshooting pain points, manufacturers can get the help they need to lower costs and streamline operations. As the old saying goes, two (or more) heads are better than one.
Encourage employee collaboration
Despite the critical importance of innovation, most companies overlook an obvious source of inspiration: their employees. APQC found that only 5% of companies task their employees with at least one innovation goal. This puts companies at a disadvantage because they have no way of capturing or tracking internal innovation, or the informal processes employees create to streamline operations or better serve customers. To encourage innovation, companies should ask all employees to share their ideas and feedback. They should also make it a formal goal. When companies build a culture of collaboration, they discover new and exciting ways to improve their business.
Create an actionable plan
Of course, innovation goals are meaningless if there’s no realistic way to achieve them. That’s why MCA Connect developed NorthStar for Manufacturing, a business transformation service that gives companies a clear path to success. Through this unique service, we help manufacturers identify quick-win opportunities, uncover hidden challenges, and develop a strategic plan that holds everyone accountable. Click here to learn more.