Taking a customer idea and turning it into a usable part can be a complicated process. A lot of leaders have tried tackling manufacturing industry problems, and have been in vain. Even with a clear understanding of customer goals and intentions, projects can easily fail if not managed properly. Some projects seem to be devoid of any clear source leadership altogether. With the complexities involved in bringing something to market today, it is imperative that clients and manufacturers are able to clearly communicate with each other, and have a clear understanding of the scope of all parties involved. In order to ensure coordination between the various factions, project managers are usually part of the project hierarchy. Picking the right one can greatly increase the chances of having a successful manufacturing operation.

Fix a Timeline

A clear timeline of completion should be broken up into phases, but should also have some flexibility in its time frame. If people involved in the project feel rushed, they are more likely to make decisions that could negatively impact the quality of the project. however, instilling the appropriate sense of urgency is also an important motivating factor in these multi-faceted projects. In some instances, the project goes through several renditions as it is improved. In this instance, clear communication between the client and manufacturer is even more imperative.

Communication is key!

Clear communication between all parties involved is a key first step to commencing a successful project. There are instances in which a client calls with a clear vision for what they would like to accomplish, however, others may approach you with nothing short of a drawing on a napkin. Depending on the nature of the project, the manufacturer may have varying amounts of involvement in the design and product development. The less sure a client is about the design of the item, the more they tend to rely on the manufacturing partner for knowledge on how to best design the component being manufactured. In other circumstances, a client may have already completed research and development phases and is purely looking to scale up production of an item that has completed prototyping. regardless, it is very important to have a person or team that either side can approach with concerns or suggestions. This is where having a clearly defined project manager is key.

Not having a person or group clearly defined can cause issues in various ways. The less sure a client is about specific design aspects in a project, the more prone to changes during the project tends to be. Materials may need to be altered, and manufacturing steps rewritten. Keeping all parties informed is paramount in these instances. If either the client or the manufacturer feel they are not being kept informed about changes or delays, it can destabilize the client manufacturer relationship, and in turn, the entire project. Parties involved in the project may have valid suggestions, but feel the are not being heard by the appropriate decision makers. In this instance, parties would also be able to approach project management. Avoiding an adversarial relationship between the client and manufacturer can improve the outcome of a project drastically.

Relationship with suppliers

Fostering a strong relationship with raw material suppliers will also improve the chance of positive outcome for a project. As a manufacturer, it is immeasurably beneficial to have suppliers that are not just knowledgable, but also have a vested interest in your success as a manufacturer. They will be much more willing to troubleshoot with you to find the best suited materials for the project, while also being as economic as possible in finding a solution. Small businesses that make sure to cultivate these close relationships with suppliers will be capable of competing against much larger companies than themselves. Increasing your ability to buy at competitive prices will allow you to more easily scale up manufacturing for larger production runs, and remain competitive even against the larger companies you may be competing against for a project.

Test against real-life conditions

Once the product is manufactured, testing is sometimes required to make sure it will work as designed in the real world. This testing may reveal other flaws that may not have been realized during initial design of the project. Quality control will have to present their input to the appropriate authority in these instances. If changes need to be made, it is important to clearly articulate where and why the change is happening, as well as insure that everyone involved is made aware of said changes.

Collaborate with your shareholders

Shareholder interest can play a part in the manufacturing process as well. People who have put their hard earned money into bringing a project to market deserve to know how a project is progressing. however, this can be a double edged sword. Sometimes, shareholder comments during the development of a project can pull the project into different directions. If shareholders are not happy with the time line of progress taking place, it is sometimes easy for the design team and manufacturer to blame each other for shortcomings or missed deadlines. Avoiding this finger pointing is an important part to having a successful outcome. The project manager must find the right balance of shareholder involvement in a project, and this may fluctuate over time. At the end of the day, the shareholders in a project are entitled to information on the progress, and should not be pushed aside. Once investors in a project lose faith, manufacturing can grind to a halt startlingly fast.

Flexibility is key!

There is an endless amount of variables that can make, or break a project. It is important to get a handle on the variables you can control. Listening and understanding the customer needs is a key first step. Having a homogenous team working together and clearly communicating internally will improve prospects. Make sure you point a group or person who is responsible for ensuring the client and manufacturing team are in clear communication. Being sure to have reliable and knowledgeable raw materials suppliers will increase chances of project success to an even higher degree. Be open and willing to design changes as the project progresses, and dont be afraid of delays. They may be undesirable, but many projects that ended up being wildly successful were often stricken with delays during their infancy. Continue to communicate clearly, and move forward with your client. Taking these steps will drastically increase the chance of positive outcome for your manufacturing project.

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