The demand to redefine manufacturing as an ecosystem is here
A manufacturing company transforms raw materials into finished products. Crafting is the making of items in factories. Neither of these two Collins English Dictionary definitions sums up what making should be defined today.
For a while, I viewed the best of manufacturing as one big ecosystem. Where, more importantly, each player in the ecosystem brings value to how it works best for its specific end users.
We can no longer treat manufacturing as an activity. Or as a series of activities without effective synergy.
Yes, manufacturing includes individual activities such as design, sourcing, milling, turning, grinding, welding, marketing, sales, etc. But these individual activities must more often than not be carried out as an interdependent entity of connected systems and processes. As this is when a robust ecosystem is formed where everyone benefits from the presence of true collaboration in the value chain.
“Go back in time”
The discovery of steam in the first industrial revolution was a pivotal incident, not just for manufacturing. It was a singular incident that transformed the way things were done on our small island.
With it came the term “manufacturing,” in the sense that people were trying to put things together, build machines, make components and parts that basically drove industry.
The significant changes that brought about the Industrial Revolution were the adoption of the factory system, the invention of machines, and the use of steam to power machines, looms, and more.
The city where I live, Manchester, was once the hub of industry.
“And back… to the (present and) future”
So what has happened since then, other than a lot? Too many to summarize here. The stuff I’m going to cover, however, is from Fictiv’s State of manufacture 2021 The report and “supply chain concerns stifle innovation.
Respondents, 45%, reported rigid internal processes that hinder their team’s ability to innovate. While 97% of companies said supply chain management consumes a significant amount of employee time.
Other reported hurdles include cost overruns and difficulty finding fast, high-quality options to manufacture low-volume versions.
Whenever we think about bringing a product to market, we need to start with the end in mind and work back to ensure that every process and every outcome is included and in mind.
Synergy right from the start is the real added value. If you like, it’s almost similar to creating a recipe, getting feedback, following that recipe, delivering that recipe, and checking what customers think of the recipe during and after consumption.
When we design something, we focus on what is needed to make a product. And then in what order we have to put these things together to make a product. The critical moment is to include design, sourcing, milling, turning, grinding, welding, marketing, sales and all other activities as one – at the same time.
All processes must run synchronously and interconnectedly. Some of these processes must even run concurrently. An example starts to raise awareness on why your product is the best in the market and why people should buy your product.
If your product is produced and other activities then begin, it is too late in the curve.
So this is a must. As all of these activities fuel the manufacturing of your product while giving the best chance of ensuring the success of your product. This is what creates value for you and your customers.
Even though sales and service personnel aren’t pressing the welding gun or pressing a factory button, they make sure the end customer gets the most out of your product by being involved at the stage at which he should be involved.
“Feedback is a gift”
If there’s anything the customer wants during this redesigned ‘manufacturing as an ecosystem’ process, they can pass it on to your design teams, who can make those changes.
The result is a better product with more longevity and value for the target audience.
Ultimately, if we don’t add value to the target audience, we won’t be in business for very long. This is why manufacturing is not a stand-alone activity.
All these actors that I have talked about so far, they are all capable of adding value to the entire life cycle of a product.
For me, this means that manufacturing is now “an ecosystem of interdependent entities, where each entity brings value to the manufacture of products”.
Therefore, we cannot think of manufacturing as a stand-alone activity where people put things together; we must consider it as a vast ecosystem.
Once we change the way we view manufacturing as an ecosystem, we change the tone of the conversation, and then change the conversation itself.
For example, at Equitus, we as designers and engineers talk to salespeople, we talk to machinists, tool designers, millers, grinders, fabricators, marketers, user experience researchers and human behavior experts.
They understand how the human mind works and therefore their feedback tells us how to design your product to be naturally aligned with the workings of the human mind, as opposed to creating a product and to force people to think a certain way in order to use it. this.
When all these people really come together – it is possible – everyone adds value to the product and the customer lifecycle because the customer journey begins before they have seen the product. This happens at various touchpoints like at a trade show, technical business talks, through digital marketing, a conference, a company’s website.
So if the first leg of the journey itself is a bad leg, you can’t expect customers to continue the journey. That’s why all of these things and the value they bring to your product are part of the whole manufacturing system.
They all have added value to add which will result in taking this product and being successful. And a product becomes a success when customers see the value in it.
And then that results in a positive reaction.
The customer says, ‘Look, this is a great product, but the guys behind this product are also fantastic. They keep watching us, they make sure we have everything we need”.
The word-of-mouth reaction then triggers more sales, more growth, and more revenue.
And in the end, more prosperity for everyone involved. It is the heart of the ecosystem.
About the Author
Raam Shankar, Founder and CEO, Equitus Design Engineering and Innovations