Competitive advantage: It seems only natural that its pursuit is at the root of any business strategy. Yet it also remains elusive, especially as a company matures and changes occur in technology and business climate.
Here Jeremy Wright, Director of Product Management at Advanced Technology Services, offers tips on keeping up with an ever-changing marketplace.
The competitive edge is often at the root of a new company charter. After all, why go into business if you don’t believe that you can do something better than it’s currently being done? However, maintaining that edge can be an arduous task. It requires a near-constant effort to stay ahead of the field, keeping track of innovations, customer needs, regulations and more — to say nothing of new competitors, as well.
Keeping up with evolving business trends and technologies is, however, one of the most effective ways you can maintain a competitive advantage. In a climate of frequent, unpredictable and often-momentous change, these trends, practices and technologies can also help you weather these changes and control as many of the factors in your business as you can.
In this article, you’ll learn about six ways to harness these trends and technologies to give yourself, your engineers and your company the tools to keep a competitive edge.
First, updating equipment, when needed and when prudent. As innovation speed continues to increase, the advantages of new, updated equipment are more material than ever. In certain scenarios, it’s true that core technologies do not change much from year to year. Though technology advances, more than ever, can make an impact in production quality, speed and efficiency — all factors that can give you an edge.
Second: proper training. In order to succeed, employees must be given the tools to do so. Updated equipment and technology is one part of the equation, and knowing the best ways to use and apply these tools is the other. Supply your engineers with opportunities to continue learning and developing their expertise. This means you can distribute the capability to improve and advance your product or service offering among your entire staff and can reap exponential benefits as a result.
A cross section of breadth and depth in expertise is the most desirable result of employee training. Learning new processes and technologies will help you and your company stay apace with marketplace innovations, while developing deep expertise in specific areas will help set you apart from the pack.
Third: implementing industrial factory maintenance. Efficiency, speed and quality in production are three factors that should be mentioned often in pursuit of a competitive edge, and with good reason. In industries where the products themselves are similar or identical, these customer service elements, and the benefits they offer your clients, can make the difference between a repeat customer and lost revenue.
A robust, carefully planned industrial factory maintenance strategy can offer you significant benefits in all three areas — benefits that you can pass to your customers. If you have the best maintenance strategy among your competitors, there’s a good chance you’re also offering the best service along these metrics. Smart maintenance leads to your machinery working at full capacity, producing parts at the highest quality with fewer defects and rejections, and reducing unplanned downtime while ensuring that any planned downtime is as productive as possible.
Fourth: taking advantage of data collection technology. Connected devices and the heralded Internet of Things are probably one of the biggest talking points in manufacturing and industry over the last decade. As these technologies have become more affordable and commonplace, their full impact is now able to be gauged.
The verdict is that by collecting as much data as possible from your processes, and synthesising it in the right ways, new opportunities for production efficiency and predictive maintenance have been unlocked. Taking advantage of these improvements — whether through new machinery or add-on sensors and monitors — means that your facility will be operating more efficiently than a competitor’s that hasn’t caught up yet.
Fifth: take control of the supply chain. With the amount of information and data available today, ‘supply chain surprises’ should be almost a thing of the past. Yet downstream supplier disruptions continue to be a common reason for stalled production and late product delivery. While there is not yet a one-size-fits-all solution to supply chain assessment and monitoring, the competitive advantages of dedicating time and resources to these efforts can help you be more proactive in reducing unpredictability.
Finally, create brand affinity. Service, quality and performance are at the core of each of these tips, and these are some of the best ways that you’ll retain customers and exhibit your advantages to prospects that are doing their due diligence in sourcing. It’s also a good idea to employ some other areas of technology to build your brand, raise awareness of your company identity, and let prospective clients know about your service benefits. A robust website, company blog and even social media can all be ways of achieving this.
With these six tips in hand, you’re well on your way to building and maintaining a competitive edge, no matter what your industry.