4 GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) That Building Materials Companies Can Act on Today
The building materials industry is a major force in the global economy. It will continue to play a critical role as the world maneuvers through COVID-19 and adjusts to fluctuating supply and demand pressures, as well as new ways of doing work.
In the cement industry, for example, market growth is predicted to modestly contract 1.3% during the first half of 2021, according to the U.S. Portland Cement Association. This is followed by an acceleration from 0.7% in the third quarter of 2021 to 5.1% in 2022 – if a COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed by the third quarter, which national health experts now predict.
After years of relative stability, the building materials category is at a crossroads for disruption. There will be manufacturers that continue business as normal (pre-COVID-19), and then there will be companies that see this as an opportunity for change and will take advantage of this inflection point. The current business climate will create an obvious division between these two groups. With new advances in technology, companies that do not act quickly and adapt to frequent shifts will likely lose market share and industry position to their more technologically savvy counterparts.
Manufacturers that move faster and smarter than their competitors will likely come out stronger in the long run.
Within this rapidly changing landscape, it requires a new way of thinking. Companies need to reassess their approach to the industry and become more nimble and agile.
Companies have suffered: sites have been shut down, there have been disruptions to their supply chains, operational restrictions and workers face the real threat of COVID-19. And these unpredictable times are likely to continue in the months ahead.
As witnessed with COVID-19, changes to your business can happen overnight. What’s most important is how you prepare for future disruptions and change. There are a number of strategic considerations to consider, as you evaluate your current position amid the bumpy road ahead and understand what you can do to thrive.
Here are four actions you can take to help prepare for the new normal.
Show Your Team That Management Really Cares
It’s important to balance performance and health at this very important point in time. There’s no doubt about it that your workers are under a lot of stress: concerns about potential outbreaks, changes in shift patterns, potential hazards on the job, skyrocketing healthcare costs and missed hours as a result of illness or on-the-job injuries. Your workers need your support at a time like this when tension is high and there is so much uncertainty.
Now is the time to invest in a culture that transparently addresses and, more importantly, proactively reduces the risks related to current working conditions, as well as apprehension regarding safety and productivity. There is no better time to upskill your workers, and provide them with the tools and training they need to get the job done. (Read more: 5 ways to empower the manufacturing workforce to survive the pandemic and thrive beyond it.)
Because of new social distancing and safety restrictions, there are fewer people physically on the plant floor. You need to make do with the resources you have. This means, many workers might have to shift from one task to another, and need to accurately understand how to carry out a new job that they may not be familiar with.
Plan for the Unexpected – and Have a Plan B (and C, and D)
During these uncertain times the building materials industry has witnessed a number of changes. From figuring out how to protect your workforce, to managing risk to ensure business continuity – it’s critical to have a plan in place.
Your number one priority should be the health and safety of your employees. Right behind that is your strategy and a path forward. How will you anticipate potential changes and model the way your organization should react ahead of potential bumps in the road, to allow you to make rapid, agile decisions? Though it’s unlikely that you will anticipate every event or scenario that may occur in a time of crisis, it’s best practice to have a foundational plan in place.
One way to fortify your operations is to map out your suppliers, manufacturing plants, distributors and other elements within your logistics network and apply a stress test to evaluate your ability to recover from disruptions in these areas. Once you identify various scenarios and where bottlenecks are located, it’s important to be agile in order to adapt to plans in response to unexpected issues, while balancing speed and flexibility.
Put Continuous Improvement at the Center of Everything
The need for continuous improvement persists. You might even argue it’s even more important now. Manufacturers must think about what moves they can make today, to come out ahead later. A return to business as usual is highly unlikely, and leaders must prepare for what the building materials industry will look like after COVID-19.
Continuous improvement helps you identify and eliminate waste in your work processes. Chasing down a supervisor for a signature, shuffling through compliance documents, keeping track of data on paper and manually entering in information into spreadsheets are all areas you can incrementally improve on in your production processes. Each one of these individually can lead to significant change. If your organization doesn’t strive to overcome these inefficiencies, your business may be at risk.
It starts with people and processes, and mobile technology is there to support your efforts. Disruptions are likely to continue in the foreseeable future, so why not do everything that you can to ensure your organization not only survives, but thrives.
Get Digital, Connected Worker Tools into the Hands of Your Workers
Digital technology is critical to your foundation in order to successfully compete in this ever-changing and uncertain environment. By now, you are likely aware of the buzzword “digital transformation,” that has been a big focus over the years. But, the speed at which manufacturers will need to adapt their business models and strategic priorities will only increase. New technology and changing customer behaviors play a pivotal role.
All companies have a choice: either defend their core operations and remain stagnant, or actively reinvent themselves and seize opportunities to adjust to the changing market. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This couldn’t be more true now. Companies that do not recognize that now is the time for change, will struggle. This is particularly true, where events that threaten your operations can occur at any time, as we’ve witnessed with COVID-19.
In an industry that is underutilizing mobile, digital technology, early adopters stand to gain a huge competitive advantage.
Building materials companies need to sit back and think about the common issues they face on a daily basis. Whether that’s the reliance on tribal knowledge or capturing data and information on paper (which is likely leading to filing cabinets and piles of paper). Building materials companies have the opportunity to turn those outdated paper-based procedures into dynamic, digital work instructions.
There’s no time to experiment with the perfect roadmap here. Instead, companies must act now, and enable proven use cases, by starting small and then expanding. With mobile, digital tools you can provide your team with the certainty they need right now. You can instill confidence in your team. Not only will they be able to do their job accurately by following digital step-by-step instructions and checklists, but as a manager you have access to all the data being entered directly into the platform.
Your team can access forms and checklists, standard work instructions and operating procedures, even quick and easily digestible training or lessons accessible on demand. It promotes a harmonious working relationship between the worker, the information they need to get the job done right, and the data you need, as a manager, to track and monitor operations in real-time. In order to make this a reality, the content must be digital and interactive, and the workers must be equipped with smart, mobile devices.