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Disruption in manufacturing: What it means — and how to take advantage of it

Jul 05, 2017

If your strategic plan is too rigid, it could be holding you back. Today’s manufacturers need to be willing — and able — to react to disruption.

Disruption happens when something unexpected hits the market. It could be a technological advancement, a political shift, economic change or a new social phenomenon. Manufacturers that embrace disruption are more successful over time than companies that stay the course at all costs.    

Need proof? Blockbuster gets picked because it’s an easy example. But it’s true: it turned obsolete when it ignored new channels, like Netflix and Redbox. Likewise, Uber took the taxi industry by surprise.

When disruption hits, you have a choice: ignore it and (potentially) die or embrace it and (hopefully) thrive.

Prepare for disruption

Disruption requires some level of strategic risk. As an organization, you need to decide that you’re willing to take some chances to pick up a competitive advantage. Easier said than done — until you get into the right mindset.

Here’s how to lean into disruption:

  • Pay attention. Watch, anticipate change and predict what could happen next. Look for market changes, new technologies and economic and social shifts — in your industry, in your home market, and abroad. Once you start looking for disruptive opportunities, you’re more likely to find them.
  • Put opportunities first. It’s not fiscally responsible to dismiss all the risks involved in disruption, however, they need to take a backseat to opportunities. Wear the rose-colored glasses and prioritize the upsides when disruption opens a door.
  • Get comfortable with discomfort. Instinctively, you want to play it safe and protect the company from risk. But being too slow to respond to change is risky too. Get comfortable taking smart, measured risks to future-proof the company.
  • Challenge the status quo. Let go of “how it’s always been” and stay open to new ways of thinking and doing business. Develop a culture that encourages creativity, problem-solving and even some failure.
  • Be nimble. If you want to lead disruption, you have to act faster than the competition. In practical terms, that means you need to quickly assemble teams, evaluate potential strategies, and calculate your returns. If you take too long to respond, it could be too late.
  • Collaborate. Agility requires tight coordination. One of the best ways to gain agility is to implement an ERP solution that gives you an integrated, 360-degree view into operations so you can move quickly and effectively.
  • Plan. Be deliberate. Establish a protocol for identifying disruption, evaluating risks, and activating disruption teams. Pre-determine how you’ll monitor and measure results too, so you know if the endeavor is worthwhile — or when it’s time to pull the plug.

Small changes to your processes or target market can snowball into big breaks if your timing is right. Don’t “wait and see” what happens — lead the way.

How Wipfli can Help

Do you have what it takes to shake things up? Wipfli’s business consultants are experienced in disruptive manufacturing and can help you prepare for powerful change. We help companies build the infrastructure, culture and skills they need to change the world. Learn more.

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Wipfli Editorial Team