Uncertainty was beyond question a certainty the last 18-24 months in a global market besieged by the onslaught of COVID-19, which is still hugging the corners of society. However, there were several other mitigating factors that made 2021-22 a very difficult year for manufacturers, retailers, distribution centers and family households alike. Especially hard hit in 2021 and early 2022 were the shipping and manufacturing industries, which are still hobbling along yet showing improvement daily.
If anything, what the last 18-24 months exposed is that there are many weak points in multiple companies that quite frankly were just not prepared. The lack of insight and preparation of the environment proved difficult for those that were unable to take advantage in such a competitive industry. Although we are seeing some easing of material shortages, it is likely that this volatility will remain in place for the foreseeable future. However, improved foresight into the fluctuations of such a hostile environment and better planning strategies will allow companies the confidence to move forward.
Due to increased freight and shipping times for product delivery, we were forced to look very intimately at our ordering cycle for raw materials. Throughout this process we identified key indicators: demand planning, inventory levels/cost savings, shortening cycles and review management.
Demand planning has likely been the biggest improvement in allowing us tighter controls over inventory levels, while at the same time keeping enough new raw materials in place to eliminate downtime in our production or our quality throughput.
Having foresight into the future needs of a company requires much more than software. It requires relationships with your customers, your vendors and your team members. We have found that utilizing that foresight creates the ability to be more efficient in our planning and manufacturing processes, which in turn has reduced our costs, thereby keeping those costs from flowing downstream.