Manufacturing Momentum: Challenges, Opportunities in the Modern Landscape

PE Firms
Human Capital
Value Creation

Manufacturing businesses are faced with evolving challenges, especially amid an uncertain economy, constantly pressured from different angles by policy decisions and global events. BluWave sees this every day in the projects it supports for hundreds of private equity firms and thousands of businesses.

Whether in human capital, operations, growth strategy or technology, today’s business leaders have their hands full.

In a recent webinar, Co-Head of Research and Operations Keenan Kolinsky discussed with Product Manager Ryan Perkins the challenges and opportunities in this industry.

An man in a hardhat stands facing yellow industrial equipment, like backhoes, in a warehouse.

The Rising Importance of Human Capital in Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector was once driven primarily by machinery and raw materials. But now it’s recognizing the importance of its most valuable asset: people.

In fact, 74 percent of manufacturers say that “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” is a top challenge, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAoM).

Interim executives have emerged as a pivotal solution in this landscape. These temporary business leaders bridge critical leadership gaps, ensuring that companies don’t lose momentum during transitions.

“Interim executives can help businesses keep their foot on the value creation pedal,” Kolinsky says.

Their role is especially crucial in a volatile economic environment where leadership vacancies can’t be left open for extended periods.

But it’s not just about filling gaps. The recruitment process itself is undergoing a transformation. The emphasis is shifting from generalist recruitment approaches to specialized, industry-specific strategies. Manufacturers are realizing that to drive growth and innovation, they need the right people in the right roles, making executive searches a top priority, too.

Operational Excellence: The Backbone of Manufacturing Success

Turning toward a more traditional problem, nearly half of manufacturers identified supply chain issues as a top challenge, per the NAoM. Even with the peak of the COVID pandemic disruption behind us, this issue persists.

“With manufacturers…experiencing a variety of economic and even geopolitical pressures, manufacturing operations and supply chains simply have to be tighter than ever to achieve desired margins and outcomes,” Kolinsky said.

In response, many manufacturers are turning to expert third-party resources to optimize their supply chains. From right-sizing inventory to reducing lead times and optimizing supplier networks, the focus is on efficiency, cost savings and performance.

Beyond the supply chain, there’s a broader push toward operational excellence. Lean Six Sigma principles, rooted in the Toyota production system, are being adopted to streamline processes, identify bottlenecks and drive efficiency. The goal? Faster, more efficient production with greater precision.

Strategizing for Growth in a Competitive Landscape

A weaker domestic economy can poses unique challenges. During those times, growth strategy becomes the north star guiding manufacturers. But how do they chart a course for growth amid such turbulence? The answer is data-driven strategies.

“Markets shift often and they shift quickly,” said Kolinsky, who emphasized the importance of real-time insights. “Base your strategy or plan for growth on current market data and dynamics.”

READ MORE: Analytics, Data & AI Resources

By leveraging data analytics and visualization tools, manufacturers can gain actionable insights, track KPIs and make informed business decisions.

With the advent of more accessible artificial intelligence tools, many businesses in the manufacturing industry and beyond have been focusing on essential pre-cursor activities focused on data hygiene. These will lay the groundwork for a more seamless integration once they’re ready to use AI to accelerate growth.

Embracing Technology: The Future of Manufacturing

The digital revolution is reshaping the manufacturing landscape.

According to Alithya, 43 percent of manufacturers came into 2023 planning to increase their year-over-year spending on technology. it’s clear that the industry is gearing up for a tech-driven future.

“The manufacturing industry is really digitizing rapidly and in more ways than one,” Kolinsky said.

From IT strategy to system selection and implementation, manufacturers are recognizing the need to align their technology tools with broader business objectives.

But it’s not just about adopting the latest tech solutions. Effective change management is crucial. As manufacturers transition to modern systems, they must ensure that their teams are well-equipped and trained to leverage these tools to their fullest potential.

BluWave is here to help you connect with best-in-class, niche-specific manufacturing resources to help with human capital, operational excellence, growth strategies, technology and more.

Contact our research and operations team to scope your need and get quickly connected with  the service provider you need in less than one business day.


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