The business landscape for manufacturers has undergone a massive transformation over the past couple of years. Remember the pre-pandemic era? Machine shop management teams had one simple priority: get enough work in and push enough back out. As long as there were customers and working machines, a shop owner could keep the lights on and meet payroll.
But the game has changed. Post-pandemic, shops have been forced to adapt to more challenges—new issues the average CNC machine business had never before considered. The blinders that allowed manufacturers to stay laser-focused on a narrow scope of work have vanished. And now every shop owner is grappling with the same question:
Are we focusing on what’s important? And do we even know what “important” means anymore?
From Pandemic to Paradigm Shift
Learning how to run a machine shop comprises new levels of complexity and nuance that stretch far beyond workflow and output.
For years, CNC machine businesses have struggled to find experienced manufacturing professionals, but today, the issue is front and center. Many workers who quit during the pandemic haven’t returned, and it’s not only machine shops that are suffering.
Platers, heat treaters, grinders, and other key vendor partners all face the same workforce challenges, and their problems inevitably become machine shops’ problems.
Pre-pandemic, few small and midsized shops ever thought twice about the supply chain; supply chain issues were reserved for OEMs. Post-pandemic, supply chain challenges are top of mind for machine shop management, with access to raw materials and outside services equally unstable.
Suppliers who once flew coast to coast visiting shops switched to remote work in 2020, and many still work from home. Connecting and networking remain high priorities for people throughout the manufacturing industry, but manufacturers have to work harder for those face-to-face experiences.
Professionally and personally, we’re in uncharted territory, trying to connect and learn and brainstorm and innovate—sometimes all through a video call. Our human need for relationships hasn’t dissipated; only our access points have changed.
The Importance of Being Adaptive
Learning how to run a machine shop used to center around day-to-day operations, but today’s machine shop management teams have the added responsibility of looking ahead—always ahead.
Post-pandemic, manufacturers are critically aware of what happens when they haven’t prepared for what could happen, so they’re learning to invest in the future, anticipate new technologies, and visualize the unforeseeable.
The only way to survive is to become not only more adaptable but also more adaptive.
Adaptable vs. adaptive
Adaptability is important for manufacturers. When you’re adaptable, you’re flexible and capable of adjusting to new circumstances. But being adaptable isn’t enough. Not anymore.
Being adaptive means taking the reins. Adaptive machine shop management isn’t satisfied with conforming to external conditions; they seek to create completely new conditions for their shops, their customers, and the industry as a whole.
At NTMA, we encourage adaptability, of course, but we also want manufacturers to be adaptive, actively constructing the future of our industry.
If you lean into both adaptability and adaptiveness, do you see your role differently? Are you focused on what’s important?
Small business owners have a tendency to isolate and feel that they have to go it alone. But adaptiveness requires community because changing the world is an all-hands-on-deck imperative.
One shop will not revolutionize manufacturing. One CNC machine business will not build the future. We’re all furiously striving to solve the same problems. How much faster can we get there if we join forces?
Are You Ready to Get Focused?
Now more than ever, it’s important for every machine shop owner to stay connected, be involved, and leverage industry relationships.
There’s no question: The pandemic broke the manufacturing model we all knew. Now it’s time to imagine a new model—to imagine it, design it, build it, and put it to work.
NTMA is here to help make that dream a reality. Will you join us?