ChangeI'm passionate about the manufacturing industry.

For 15 years, in one capacity or another, I've been immersed in manufacturing. Before software sales, I worked in several roles for manufacturing businesses in Colorado. Later, my entrepreneurial spirit took over and I founded my own manufacturing company. Over the course of a decade, I grew the operation and led the business through a successful acquisition. In that timeframe, I have been fortunate enough to gain some unique perspectives on what it means to run a manufacturing business, and I would like to share a few of those insights with you.

Operational Gaps

In manufacturing, I frequently see operational gaps occur within inter-departmental communications. From product design in engineering to production on the manufacturing floor, to sales, and then to support; there is a lot that happens before, during, and after purchase to make the lifespan of that piece of equipment a success. For example, as equipment enhancements are made within engineering, those changes often take an excessive amount of time to get passed through the grapevine. That grapevine looks something like this: engineering, production, technical publications, equipment sales, aftermarket sales, customer support, dealer network, and (finally) the equipment owner. That involves multiple departments with a lot of moving parts. That is where there is a tremendous amount of potential for errors to occur. Identifying and addressing this gap is one of the crucial components for building customer loyalty and aftermarket success.

To help build aftermarket success, adapting to change is necessary. Having run my own manufacturing company for many years, I understand how risk-averse the industry – and the people who work within it – are today. Holding on to the mindset of, "This is how we've always done it" will only inhibit your company and your employees from becoming efficient and successful.

To prevent that, this article addresses what YOU, as a manufacturer, can focus on to ensure your operational gaps don't turn into pitfalls.

3 Core Areas OEMs Should Be Focusing On

1. Meeting customer expectations. Customer expectations have changed. Adjusting to your customer’s expectations is not only a key to success, but it’s also a key to survival. You can buy anything and everything online these days, including groceries. Your customers are definitely expecting to find their technical documentation and buy parts for their specific equipment online too, even if it is custom built. There is no sink or swim mode - the digital economy is here. Adapt to it!

2. Adopting technology. Bottlenecks happen. If there is a resource that can fix that, then you should be utilizing it. There are all kinds of technologies that help provide visibility into the rest of your business. From core business functions like ERP, financials, inventory planning, and CRM to customer service portals and aftermarket parts storefronts – use the technology that makes the most sense for your business to get you in a more efficient operational state.

3. Driving margins. When I first started my own business, a fellow entrepreneur told me “Keep your eyes on the cash.” It sounds so simple, but it is absolutely true. We often succumb to the siren call of capital equipment sales because of the large price tags. It is common for manufacturers to lose focus on higher-margin transactions which occur after the equipment has been obtained, such as aftermarket part sales. Refocusing on how you or your sales team can maximize aftermarket parts sales will give you the additional cash flow that you need to make improvements elsewhere.

Having worked with thousands of people in the manufacturing industry, the most common hurdle I run in to is, "I'm too busy to talk about this right now." Ironically, that's exactly what I want to help people with today. Whether you are the president of a manufacturing company, a technical publisher, an aftermarket sales manager or a field service technician, reducing that margin for error and creating more time, is, in fact, my goal.

Scott Sparks is the sales director for Documoto, an AEM member company that seeks to provide  innovative software solutions for equipment manufacturers, their dealer network, and their equipment owners to keep the world’s machines working. 

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