* by Anton Oosthuizen
Manufacturers and suppliers are full-swing into the pre-festive season production madness, and there is probably only one thought that scares business owners more than no Christmas at all – and that is the thought of empty shelves ahead of the holidays.
Manufacturers across all industries are beefing up production in order to get stock onto shelves before the festive season without dropping the ball, losing contracts or suffering penalties.
Nothing exposes weaknesses within a business’s systems and processes more than when the pressure is on and the heat is turned up. It is at this boiling point that things tend to fall apart. Manufacturers whose systems are not as robust or integrated as they should be might be hitting a speed wobble around about now, and facing these common stresses:
- Not being in control of their orders.
- Overbooked production beyond production capacity.
- Not being able to manage deadlines.
- Orders slipping through the gap.
- Incurring penalties or losing contracts due to non-delivery.
4 Ways to survive the chaos
The number one thing needed for all business owners is clarity into their business. Once you can see clearly what is in the queue, what is being processed, and what is being dispatched – with timelines and costing – you have clarity.
Once you have clarity, you have control. Here’s how to get that clarity:
- Simple software
A lot of SMEs run pure accounting packages to manage costs and use separate spread sheets to log orders. There is huge vulnerability in using these non-integrated systems to run a business, such as updating the wrong version or having duplicate orders or outdated orders. Plus, complex formulas used in these spread sheets expose the business to human error, with no alarm bells to alert you to that error, or to impending or breached deadlines. In an attempt to keep our systems cost-effective and easy to use, we forfeit accuracy and efficiency. Ideally, what manufacturers need is a system that integrates all processes in the operational life cycle.
2. Finger trouble
No matter how simple or how integrated your software is, if the data is not captured correctly, your business is vulnerable. Make sure you have all orders loaded correctly and that you have competent staff.
- Upskill the team: If you capture over multiple systems for each process, you need to invest a bit of time to ensure that each member of the team that is responsible for capturing data is skilled and up to date on how to capture and process these orders accurately. Though it is time-consuming and laborious, it will be worth it in the long run.
- Integrated software: Look for solutions that save you man-hours, eliminate human error and are easy to use.
3. Capped capacity
You need capacity on your production side to fulfil your inflated orders. If you have no clarity into your orders and what your team is capable of producing within the normal working day, assessing this will be a problem. You can only do this if you have proper foresight through software that integrates accounting, orders, deadlines and stock. To meet the production need, you may need to:
- Consider outsourcing some of the work to other manufacturers.
- Add additional shifts so that you operate on a 24 hour basis to meet the demand.
- See if you can renegotiate deadlines if you see you are unable to meet them.
4. Alarm bells
Ensure your team, and you, are aware of all approaching deadlines. If you are not aware of your deadlines, you will not know how to pool or allocate resources.
- Set reminders: Carrying around deadlines and orders in your head is not the best idea as you then become the only one carrying the deadline pressure, and if you are unavailable, operations come to a standstill. Don’t leave it to chance – set up reminders. Use email calendars or even your phone for a low cost way to keep up to date with time lines. If your stock or order-taking software has deadline alerts, find out how to activate it.
If you don’t feel you have time to change systems or integrate their processes, I beg to differ; changing now might be the best way to save time and money, and keep your customers happy this season.
Here’s to the festive season!
*Anton Oosthuizen is a consultant at QuickEasy Software, a fully integrated management system that gives manufacturers and SME’s clarity and control across the full spectrum of their business: accounts, order, stock and production. Based in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, QuickEasy is fast gaining major market share across the SME spectrum.