What’s at Your Core?
Your success is our success because it’s our core competence to tell about it.
Most shops got their start in business doing something they are especially good at. Often, they discover a unique way to manufacture something that hadn’t been tried before. But most of the time success comes from something less technical such as uncommon customer service associated with making something relatively common.
On-time delivery, consistent quality and a willingness to try something new to make a customer’s parts better, faster and cheaper would result in a loyal base of customers that want to do business with a reliable supplier. It seems like a simple formula, yet it can be difficult to maintain over time. Why?
Once a job has been set, it could run virtually unchanged for years. Machines could be dedicated to the job; processes and procedures could be built around the stability that such work brought to the production floor. A shop’s core competency could be calculated through tweaks and tricks that could shave fractions off cycle time. That’s simply not possible today.
Metalworking part production is now the slave to reduced product life cycles that continue to get shorter and shorter. Shops’ customers and their customers’ customers must try to keep ahead of the fickle market trends. Many of these trends have been precipitated by the incredible speed of technological advances predicted by arcane drivers such as Moore’s Law. This fallout from this race falls right into the lap of the supplier shops.
So what’s to be done? A periodic re-evaluation of the shop’s core competency is often the correct response to this dynamic environment. The trick is to successfully run jobs that were once on the machine for years and have now morphed into runs of weeks and days while maintaining the same customer service expectations.
Many shops I know increasingly ask themselves, “What is our business?” I remember a few years ago having an email conversation with a colleague who worked for a competitive magazine. I had written my column about our industry and basically included myself as a member of our industry.
Well, my colleague called me out on that inference saying he thought we were in the publishing industry. I strongly disagreed with him. Production Machining would not be long for this world if we copped the attitude that we simply publish magazines that happen to cover the precision machined parts industry. It turns out that his “publication” is now defunct.
I see our core competency being one company among thousands involved in precision machined parts manufacturing. What we bring to the industry, our deliverable if you will, is researched information about how the work of precision machined parts manufacturing gets done. We cover the technology available and write stories about how that technology is successfully applied in the real world.
Like your businesses, our tools have evolved dramatically and continue to do so, but the core of what we do remains in place. Once we simply brought that information through the mail in the form of a trade magazine. Today, our channels have expanded dramatically to include the internet, social media and email, and who knows what Mr. Moore’s law has in store for us as time moves forward.
Doing what one does well does not necessarily mean doing what one has always done. This is a trap that is easy to fall into and very difficult to extricate oneself from. As I’ve written about our industry for almost 18 years, this battle between perceived core competency, the need to change and become more flexible and the degree of change necessary to successfully implement that flexibility while maintaining the customer service contract continues to be a major theme.
Interestingly, the faster change occurs in our industry, the more critical the need becomes for reliable information about what is available to deal with it, and what others have done to respond. Our core competency is to deliver content to our industry that is relevant and that the content we deliver has undergone scrutiny by editors who know what is relevant content. If you use Google, it’s quickly clear not all information that is available is relevant.
Job security for precision machined parts manufacturers is a culture that recognizes and embraces the vagaries of its customers’ markets and can maintain its core competency to keep those customers happy. Your success is our success because it’s our core competence to tell about it.