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Made in America: Staying agile in manufacturing

Customers today are evolving quickly. They expect greater product customization, faster delivery, and superior customer experience. To stay competitive, manufacturers need to be more connected with their customers and supply chains, more flexible and accommodating in their production process, and faster overall from new product development to go-to-market distribution.

In short, manufacturers need to become more agile.

Agile manufacturing is a term used to describe an efficient manufacturing approach that allows organizations to respond rapidly to changing market demands. Agile manufacturers embrace automation from design concept to the shop floor to delivery. The more digitized the process, the faster products can be developed, manufactured, and fulfilled.

For many businesses, “retooling” for agile manufacturing can be a daunting task and it is common for there to be resistance to change within organizations. To become as agile as you can, we offer the following tips:

  • Determine whether agile manufacturing will benefit your organization. Certain products are more suitable for agile manufacturing, such as those that benefit most from greater personalization and speed to market. These might include apparel, consumer electronics, and packaged goods, as well as B2B products like computer chips.
  • Provide the requisite organizational support. In most organizations, adopting agile manufacturing requires significant organizational change. From developing a more modular and customer-focused product design, to building “smart” machines, to accessing and managing real time information flows from markets suppliers and distribution partners, going agile changes how a manufacturing firm operates. As a result, it is advisable to assemble a task force responsible for creating a plan for agile manufacturing that includes a board member or senior manager who can sign off on such a far-reaching initiative.
  • Strengthen your partnerships. Responsiveness and speed to market are key goals of agile manufacturing, but to deliver on these goals, the connections with suppliers must be immediate and reliable. Strengthen the partnerships that will enhance your agile manufacturing plan, especially with those that have modernized their own operations and can digitally interact with your systems, and abandon those that are apt to cause problems, especially in terms of connectivity and timeliness.
  • Commit to the resources required. It’s important to recognize that the move to agile manufacturing may require a significant commitment of resources to establish a digital stance that includes a robust ERP solution, as well as retooling for increased automation and a more flexible and adaptive manufacturing process.

For many organizations, moving to agile manufacturing offers the best way to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace. As you consider your path and the resources you need to be agile, remember that your Washington Trust Relationship Manager is available to help you ensure the long-term operational success of your business

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