We’ve all seen those business pitches on Dragon’s Den when an ambitious entrepreneur has invented the next great product and wants one of the business magnates to make the necessary introductions to get it onto the shelves of every major retailer in the western world. It sounds great in practice, but when he goes on to say that the products are currently being manufactured in his garden shed, it becomes clear that there are more obstacles ahead than simply meeting the right people and drawing up the purchase order.
Scaling up any business is a tricky proposition and can be fraught with risk. It is a little like taking that plant that has been thriving so well in a pot on the window sill and planting it in the garden. How will it manage in the big wide world? For a manufacturing business, the challenges are magnified and multiplied. Here are three areas on which you need to focus.
Upgrade the infrastructure
To a certain extent, moving to a larger facility and buying more plant and tools is the easy bit. The problems emerge when you attempt to use processes that worked fine in a garden shed in a medium scale manufacturing operation.
Assess every part of the process, from procurement of supplies to chasing late payments and ensure you have not only a process but also a software solution that is fit for purpose. For example, MRP software might seem an unnecessary luxury when you start out, but it will soon start paying dividends in managing inventory efficiently, ensuring you can meet demand without having excess capital tied up in materials and stock.
Strengthen the financial foundations
A manufacturing operation is particularly capital-intensive and poor financial systems and controls will stifle growth and hurt the business in a number of ways. It will put a strain on cash flow, and will potentially make it more difficult to obtain funding in the most favourable terms.
The financial controls can end up being the elephant in the room. No business owner is under the illusion that they are unimportant, yet there always seem to be more business-critical strategic areas to think about.
Recruit and retain the right people
There’s a well-worn cliché that any business’s most important asset is its people. But clichés are things you should ignore at your peril. A great team with the right blend of knowledge and experience is tough for competitors to replicate and can provide a genuine business edge.
Recruitment, then, is something that should not be left to chance, and spending a little time developing smart hiring processes will pay dividends in the long run. With the right team in place, it is equally important to ensure they remain committed and motivated to drive the business forward. Staff attrition is costly for a whole variety of reasons, and the last thing you want is to be hiring and training new people every week and trying to build teams from a workforce that is in a constant state of flux.