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Planning for the future of manufacturing in a dynamic landscape

Rising supply chain disruptions around the world have dramatically slowed the production and delivery of goods. Managing – and fixing – the supply chain problem has become a major priority for business continuity. In a recently published article in Supply & Demand Chain Executive on 7 Things Manufacturers Can Do Right Now to Mitigate Supply Chain Challenges, we shared our best tips for managing the chaos, preparing for the future, and staying focused on customers.

But as the pandemic continues, it has become increasingly clear that many of the supply chain issues we’re experiencing are symptoms of much bigger problems. Staying relevant means reinventing more than the supply chain strategy.

So, what does the future look like? While the true impacts are still evolving, the reality is that companies are already behind if they have not begun making changes to strategically alter the way they innovate, produce goods, and interact with customers. Today’s consumer is still motivated by price, however other factors are progressively informing their buying habits. Environmental impacts and sustainability, health and safety, and convenience all have an elevated level of importance.

Businesses that succeed in this new landscape must apply entirely new strategies. Basic enterprise, supply chain and manufacturing methods must be completely redefined into innovation processes, built to evolve with technology and customer demands.

Here are 4 key ways we’re evolving to meet customer needs and keep up with the pace of innovation:

1. Eliminating silos.

Project roles and responsibilities must change from a silo approach to collaborative discussions. Getting the right people in the conversation early and often closes skill gaps and reduces duplication efforts, resulting in cost savings and improved efficiency. Collaboration ensures components are designed for production success from the beginning.

2. Looking for alternative materials with better outcomes.

It’s bound to happen: a supplier we (and our customers) were counting on to deliver materials fails to deliver. Or, even more likely, a standard-material formulation performs below expectations, or an over-engineered design tries, and fails, to meet the next-generation needs of our customers’ product.

Our supply chain professionals, materials scientists, and engineers are trained to look for alternatives at every step. And our in-house materials science expertise gives us the ability to produce production-intent prototypes from any material in our ever-expanding library.

These custom formulations ensure customers have a wealth of options and receive better results in performance, price and ingenuity.

3. Taking a closer look at our environmental impact.

We create components for customers that allow vehicles to run more cleanly, help supply clean water to people across the globe, and reduce reliance on carbon fuels. We are proud to enable positive change through our customers, however we know continuous improvement of our own sustainable manufacturing practices is just as important. Through thoughtful product design, improvements in machine efficiency, reduction of scrap, and more, we can reduce emissions and waste. As we enter 2022, we are targeting projects outlined in our Sustainability Report to further promote our Environmental, Social and Ethical (ESG) responsibilities.

4. Investing in an innovation center that changes the way we work – and the way customers work with us.

Silos are the enemy of agility and progress. Our industry-leading capabilities exist in multiple locations, and while digital communications allow us to create excellent components from these locations, industry-standard prototyping timelines can slow market innovations. Reducing the prototype timeline is integral to giving our customers the very best service.

For example, in medical device applications such as diagnostics, drug delivery or surgical instruments, our customers are under pressure to get to market faster with devices that deliver new ways to improve clinical outcomes. We know the importance of connectivity between our innovation team and customers will only become more essential to enable speed-to-market.

The best way we can do this is to bring our entire new product development process — materials science, design, prototyping, tooling, pre-production manufacturing, and testing — under one roof. That’s why we’re investing $7M in a new Innovation Center built for high-speed, production-ready prototyping and manufacturing. Whether our customers engage with us in-person at the new location or remotely, they’ll get the benefits of this reinvented process. We can condense a typical 4–6-week development process into 10 days — or fewer – a timeline that is unprecedented in our industry.

Let’s bring your product to market faster, now!