Strong Leaders of CNC Machine Shops will Create the New Normal

Strong leaders don’t just accommodate change, they embrace it. Strong leaders also don’t merely adjust to the new normal, they create it.
#opinion #covid-19


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As we navigate through this disruptive period, it’s natural to ask: “when will we return to normal? And what adjustments are needed to accommodate this ‘new normal’?” With these questions, comes the uncertainty of what this new normal will look like and what actions we will need to take. While the extent and permanency of these changes are unclear, change is coming without doubt in both our work and personal lives.

But change presents opportunity. And, retrospectively, strong leaders don’t just accommodate change, they embrace it. Strong leaders also don’t merely adjust to the new normal, they create it.

In creating the new normal, businesses will undoubtedly rethink supply chains and the value of striking a new balance between efficiency on a global scale (as it is currently measured) and resiliency.  Unconstrained supply chain optimization is the enemy of flexibility. Inflexibility is the downside of economies of scale. Beyond traditional reshoring and the other logistical components of this new normal, technology will be a strong play. In the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, technologies such as digital connectivity, remote monitoring and blockchain take on a new importance and relevance, enabling transparency, speed and the security of transactions with improved line-of-sight. Leading-edge processing techniques (including 3D printing and flexible manufacturing systems — some aspects of which we are currently witnessing in the manufacture of personal protective equipment) are cornerstones of a new adaptability. 

Technology also changes the equation when it comes to trade-offs. Just like automotive technology over time has changed the trade between gas mileage and performance — in many respects giving us both — manufacturing technology will change supply chain trades. Interdependence or self-reliance? Efficiency or redundancy? Trade-offs will be evaluated in a new light, and I suspect some new balances will be struck. Leaders who define the new normal will refuse to accept these traditional either/or constraints.  They’ll want both. And perhaps, with a new perspective, technology skeptics can then become technology adopters. 

Creators of the new normal will embrace innovation.

To many, we are living through our personal black swan event: that unknowable unknown. And, while specific planning for such events is, by definition, imprecise and predictably inadequate, leaders who shape the new normal will take steps to mitigate the unpredictable. Creators of the new normal will embrace innovation. These leaders will not be intimidated by complexity, ambiguity or uncertainty. They will embrace organizations, manufacturing processes and supply chains that are adaptable, flexible and responsive. They will measure the impact of irrevocability on decisions.  Some things are just too hard to unwind. Adapt to survive. Innovate to thrive. 


Employees are our most important resource, a resource not measured simply by head count, but by capability and impact. To hire and retain the best employees, work from home or, more accurately, providing that flexibility changes from being a personal accommodation to becoming a competitive advantage. The same goes for online collaboration and remote learning. In a post-pandemic world, how we interact with each other and how we conduct business is up for reevaluation.

Customer-facing processes are rife with opportunity. This current disruption highlights and shapes our personal experiences with online versus brick-and- mortar shopping. By necessity, restaurant dining has been replaced with pickup and delivery. By example, these represent opportunities to rethink supplier/customer transactions in both directions. Will leaders who create the new normal provide increased visibility into their operations for the sake of an improved customer experience? Will leaders, as true partners, see increased transparency (a key attribute of a truly integrated supply chain) as a risk or an opportunity, or as a competitive threat or a competitive advantage?

In the near-term, there is a natural focus on getting “back to business” and a discussion about how long that will take. But maybe, just maybe, getting back to business comes with a new look and a new perspective. Out of this current set of challenges comes the opportunity to create a new normal.