How to Survive and Thrive in Manufacturing in the 2020s

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Mark Wood, CEO and Charles Tonna, EVP at Microart Services

At Microart we pride ourselves on bending over backwards for our customers, and boy have we had some bending to do in the last few years. While contemplating what got us through the early 2020s in such good shape, I have to say the two words that come to mind are team and tenacity. 

I always knew our team had the tenacity to support our customers in the best possible way. I also knew they had what it takes to survive through some of the biggest business and social disruption we’ve ever seen. But what truly impressed me and even surprised me was how everyone on the team went above and beyond to deliver exceptional service and ensured that, like our customers, we could not just survive these disruptions, but thrive.

So, what have we learned in the first thirty or so months of the 2020s and how might that set the scene for the rest of this decade?

You’d hope that after all we’ve been through we’ve learned a lesson or two. They say ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’. We certainly feel that way. After three years of challenging disruptions, and a realization that disruption is now a way of life, we feel stronger, more robust and perhaps even more relevant than ever before. Here are a few lessons we hold dear to us and believe will serve us well moving forward.

Lesson #1 – Nurture Team and Talent

Only a fool wouldn’t know that people are central to every business, especially when the going gets tough, and especially in the service industry. The wellbeing of the team was pushed even higher up the agenda in 2020 and remains there. And let’s face it, even beyond keeping the team healthy, happy and focussed on customer value, we need to remember they are one of the key stakeholders in the business. It may have started with keeping them safe from COVID-19, but it quickly developed into understanding the mental health issues related to isolation, the process of creating work-at-home models that allowed people flexibility, but got stuff done.

Post pandemic we continue to nurture our team. We are working hard on building out training programs and apprenticeships and much more. It’s been a tough time for the team, but we pride ourselves on the longevity and loyalty of our talent pool and we are working tirelessly to ensure our team knows how valued they are. The so-called “great resignation” threatens to undermine the dividend of manufacturing returning to Canada as part of a trend to more regional robust supply chains. We need to work together to make sure we have the skills to deliver on the business we are winning.

We are so grateful to our team for going that extra mile throughout the pandemic and beyond. I want to give a particular shoutout to our supply chain team, who have had one hell of a twelve month period, working around the clock to get the components we need to get stuff done and get product out of the door. We need to acknowledge their work, their grit and determination, their resourcefulness, and we need to understand how difficult their work has been and continues to be. Thank you team, you epitomize the ethos and DNA of Microart.

Lesson #2 – Use Technology to Make Technology

We make a lot of high tech innovative products and it makes sense to use technology to do that. This means a focus on digital transformation throughout the entire business, from supply chain, through production automation and planning to full life cycle traceability. Digital transformation needs to occur everywhere and that includes finance, human resources, training, production and customer liaison.

Investment in the very latest equipment, processes and software is a cornerstone and something we live with on a daily basis. Technology helps us deliver a more open, traceable and detailed customer experience. Technology helps us mitigate skill shortages, through adaptable automation solutions. Technology allows us to continuously improve quality, first pass yield and efficiency, while reducing waste. And technology gives us the visibility we need to adapt to disruptions as they occur.

Lesson #3 – Evolving Partnerships

Over the last three years we’ve made too many calls advising our customers that their delivery schedule has been impacted by one crisis or another. That’s not something we enjoy, but what we do know is that those open honest conversations are necessary. Information is power, so we’d never keep anything from our customers, they need to know what’s happening and what we are doing to ensure we get things done. This has put a strain on customer relationships while bringing us closer in many ways.

I firmly believe the partnerships of the future will be much more collaborative. Our best customer relationships already are. We add value throughout the product lifecycle and as such see ourselves as integral to the business model assumed by many customers. We help design, make and deliver their product and their brand promise. This is a serious endeavor that requires us to be open, honest and diligent as well as tenacious when needed.

Lesson #4 – Agility is Everything

Finally, we have learned so much about adapting and rolling with the punches. We realized it is not about finding the formula and sticking with it rigidly. It is about creating an agile dynamic business that can adjust and flex when things change. 

Surviving and thriving through each challenge or disruption has put pressure on different parts of the organization each and every time. The EMS that wins in the future will not be the largest, the cheapest or even the most technically able, it will be the most adaptable.

The industry is constantly under disruption and it looks like our next challenges might come from the economy. We’ll need to remain determined and tenacious, but we’ll need to be innovative, creative and agile to continue to thrive.

Our core values are summed up in the acronym GROWTH, representing Grit, Respect, Openness, Winners, Team, Honesty. These characteristics helped us through recent challenges and will serve us well in the future!

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