The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant shift over the last 18 months in how we operate in society, schools, and business. This event caught everyone by surprise, and many manufacturers weren’t sure how to respond to stay competitive, especially when their doors were closed due to public health guidelines.
One significant challenge faced by manufacturers is customers purchasing products from offshore suppliers because, in some cases, of their perceived lower price point. Of course, every company wants to save money, especially during extreme market pressures. The challenge for domestic manufacturers during our post-pandemic recovery is to maintain customer loyalty through carefully planned reinvestment in order to sustain their needs.
At SWS Warning Lights, we’ve always been big proponents of using innovation to streamline processes, eliminate waste, and increase revenue. The issue for many manufacturers is not having a roadmap to success or even knowing how to get started.
Getting Started In Innovation
The key to successful innovation is identifying your challenge, such as attracting customers away from offshore suppliers. You can then mine different information sources to determine what the problems, challenges, and opportunities are. This discovery exercise should go beyond the boardroom and directly to the people you serve.
From there, you can formulate a series of questions that are very specific to solving competition from offshore companies, such as:
- How do we create value for our customers that supersede our overseas competitor’s products?
- Can we innovate to create products faster or in mass amounts to bring prices down?
- Can we offer faster shipping options at no extra charge?
- Are we able to source parts from local suppliers or eliminate duplication in our processes to keep our costs down?
- What can we do to improve the customer experience after the sale?
At first glance, these seem like big questions that might suggest large, costly solutions. However, I find that innovation doesn’t mean completely overhauling your manufacturing facility. You can start with something small, such as introducing new software that provides additional functionality to project management, improves processes, and helps you find ways to get your products to market faster.
As your company becomes more comfortable with adopting innovation, you can implement further developments that will strengthen your market position. Keep taking small steps toward your goal, stay in touch with your customers, and always maintain an open mind to change.
Other Direct Benefits Of Innovation
Converting customers from buying offshore not only significantly boosts sales but also brings a host of other benefits to your company as well, including:
- Improved customer relationships
Innovative products are designed to create extra value for your customers. Your customers will notice your efforts, which will translate into additional sales. Be sure to keep your customers apprised of your improved ability to serve their needs through newsletters, social media, and additional direct channels (such as the good old telephone). Invite them to provide feedback so you can identify any areas of improvement.
- Improved profit margins
Innovating allows you to improve operational efficiencies, eliminate process duplication, and reduce machine and employee downtime. These results bring many benefits, including lower costs, better customer service, and increased competitiveness – all of which contribute to your profit margins.
- Creates a culture of change
Once you begin adopting change, you’ll start finding yourself looking for ways to anticipate market changes so you’re not constantly reacting to them. Analyzing market trends, engaging with your customers, suppliers, and employees, and keeping an eye on your competitors will help you spot and capitalize on opportunities to make improvements.
Bigger Sales Strengthen Your Community
Increased sales through innovation is always great, but I firmly believe that when your business succeeds, your community also becomes stronger.
This philosophy applies to more than creating additional local jobs. Thriving businesses need accountants, lawyers, suppliers, and other day-to-day services provided by people in their community. Local restaurants, caterers, and charitable organizations also benefit when manufacturers in their service area succeed.
The long-term result is a solid community foundation for future generations to grow on. The changes you make today can reverberate for decades and positively impact the lives of the people around you. These are rewards more important than any individual success.
One final note about innovation: the need to adopt new ideas never goes away. Markets continually evolve in response to different stimuli, and our companies need to be flexible enough to pivot when necessary. Developing processes that can withstand everything including small market shifts, changing customer demand, major disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and competition from offshore suppliers will help ensure our continued prosperity as we move further into the 21st century.
Tom Chopp is Managing Partner at SWS Warning Lights Inc. He can be reached at 905-357-0222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.