The 4 Factors Taking Manufacturing Companies Into the Future

Posted by Maziar Adl
Maziar Adl
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Illustration: Choose PathProduct manufacturing is a complex process, no matter what your industry is. Between managing people and teams and sourcing materials and components, there are numerous moving pieces that can lead to potential complications in production. Every manufacturer faces similar threats, including supply chain disruption, global political events, natural environmental factors, shifting consumer demands and habits.

In addition to these external factors, there are also internal variables that present challenges to product creation. These internal factors can include information silos, a lack of transparency regarding company goals, teams working in a disjointed manner, and sticking to the time-consuming method of stage-gate product planning. Manufacturing companies that want to stay relevant and succeed for decades to come need to adapt to the changing industry. Here are four ways the manufacturing sector is setting themselves up for success into the future. 


Why Manufacturers Need to Use Agile Product Planning

Illustration: Path to targetEvery company wants to respond better and faster to both internal and external factors. The traditional manufacturing methodology revolved around creating nearly-finished prototypes, testing them, and fine-tuning features before a launch. This may have worked well when innovation was slower to evolve, but in the 21st century, innovation happens on a continuous basis, often introducing new features and capabilities that can dramatically change the consumer’s view of a product. 

Agile product planning works differently than stage-gate. When creating a product plan, the first step is to produce a minimum viable product or MVP to test with users and gain feedback. The next few steps involve producing other features or parts of the product and testing those along the way to fine-tune them before the full product is assembled. This allows changes and improvements to be made during production, rather than waiting until near the end to test and gain feedback. 

When small changes need to be made, it is less costly to adjust one component of the product than dismantling and readjusting it further down the line. Agile product planning makes it easier to reduce costs and save time in producing products that perform well in the market, which is vital to have a competitive advantage.  


How to Increase Agility in Manufacturing

Illustration: Teamwork puzzleIncreasing agility in your manufacturing structure takes time, money, and strategy. Often companies will take a hybrid approach to increase agility steadily over time without completely disrupting the business operations of their company. Organizations can begin the move towards agility by developing base platforms for their products. This example is often seen in the automotive and technology industries. 

Both vehicles and devices, such as laptops, will have a base model platform from which companies will add features based on the market it is destined for. This allows product teams to fine-tune and improve the platform, which in turn improves every product using that platform. It also allows for customizations to happen faster and on multiple variants without having to return to the drawing board or start from scratch each time or do costly clones. 

Moving towards agility also makes it easier to incorporate software features into the hardware. The biggest struggle most manufacturers have when adding software to their products is the cadence of software roadmaps and hardware roadmaps. Agile methods are also more accommodating for both hardware and software teams to work together, leading to better products. Platforming also makes it easier to keep the same teams working on the same products rather than dismantling and reassembling a whole new group for each iteration, which benefits both software and hardware teams.


How Communication Tools and Product Management Software Can Help

Illustration: Global communicationsIt’s one thing to make a commitment to become more agile in your manufacturing processes, implementing agility is another challenge. The process requires adjustments over time and the right tools to facilitate the changes. Having employee buy-in requires effective communication and an accessible source of truth. 


Prevent Information Silos

With agile product planning, there are rapid updates to information at each testing stage. These updates must be shared with all relevant teams. In some cases, user feedback may result in a small change in one component that does not affect the rest of the product. In other cases, feedback may suggest that a large change happen that does affect more than one component. If that crucial information is not shared with the relevant teams, the product will not adapt to the feedback and may not complete at all if the parts aren’t compatible or able to work together. 

Giving teams the right tools for communication, the ability to see and access shared data, and regular channels to ask questions or meetings for discussion will help you make agile product planning successful. 


The Benefits of Lean Teams in Agile Manufacturing

Illustration: flag at summitWith agile, there is less time spent gathering, vetting and coordinating the team members. Instead of shifting them around from project to project, you keep your engineers and designers working continuously on your product and each iteration. Not only does this strategy save time and headaches, it requires less management power to keep track and organize the teams. Many manufacturers who adopt agile manufacturing or a hybrid model of agile find that they can keep their product teams leaner than they did with the stage-gate method. 


Utilize Value Mapping

Value maps are another helpful tool that allows product managers to assess the effect of making or not making a change to a product. For example, in the case of a raw material or component shortage, what would be the effect of removing a specific product feature? How would that affect the overall performance of the product in each market? Or conversely, would there be an improved projection if a feature was added to a product? When you can set your own criteria to score your products across varying configurations, you will be better able to assess the impact of each modification. This quantifiable impact makes it easier for management to make informed decisions. Accurate metrics make companies more competitive in ever-changing economies. Software such as Gocious provides an unbiased data-driven tool to drive strategy, making it easier for companies to pivot when needed. 


Agility Beyond the Product Tools

Illustration: plan rocketWhile software and digital tools can provide much support needed to react quickly to varying factors in manufacturing, they cannot fix all the problems within a company. Promoting a more agile manufacturing environment requires a strong management team. Effective communication from the product manager to all the stakeholders and supporting departments that make products happen is necessary.  

When these key elements are in place, and planning software is optimized for the best performance, companies are able to predict, respond and adapt to the changing environment faster and more strategically. This naturally leads to an increase in productivity with less wastage of time and resources. 

Gocious knows what manufacturers need most, which is why our product roadmap management software provides communication tools, comparative and competitive analysis, product scorecards, sharing features, and varying roadmaps for all partners in one easy-to-use software. Collaboration, communication, and roadmap management capabilities are all ways that help manufacturing companies become more agile. 


Expand Your Product Management Toolbox

Gocious E book agile manufacturingAdapting your strategies, learning new methodologies, and investing in training are some of the ways you can equip your product teams for the switch to agile planning methods. Another way to support your organization is by using product management tools and innovative software that keep your teams connected, your information central, and clearly states the bigger goals of your business. 


Gocious is a product roadmap management software that can help your organization adapt to agile product planning. 

Topics: Product Management, plans

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