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How Executives Can Increase Their Company’s Financial Efficiency

financial

How Executives Can Increase Their Company’s Financial Efficiency

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, opportunities for logistic companies expand. While this is good news, it also means competition within the industry is rising. If supply chain businesses want to stand out from competitors, they must increase their financial efficiency.

Many investors and potential business partners use financial efficiency metrics to determine a company’s economic health. Consequently, financially inefficient businesses may miss out on valuable strategic opportunities. Partnerships and investment aside, an efficient company is a more successful one.

Here are seven ways executives can increase their company’s financial efficiency to attain these benefits.

Automate Back-Office Tasks

Most businesses have repetitive, manual tasks that take time away from more valuable work. According to one study, more than 40% of workers spend at least 25% of their time on these tasks. Since these inefficiencies are so common and so impactful, automation can bring considerable rewards.

Many of these inefficiencies are in back-office operations like data entry, scheduling, and approvals. These tasks are also easily automatable through robotic process automation (RPA) solutions. By implementing these tools, companies can free their employees to focus on other, more important work, accomplishing these goals sooner.

RPA is also often faster than humans at these repetitive tasks. As a result, companies will improve the efficiency of these back-office processes as well as the more valuable manual operations.

Increase Fleet Visibility

Another common source of financial inefficiency in logistics companies is a lack of visibility. Fleet operations are prone to disruption, and when businesses can’t predict or see them as they unfold, these disruptions can have far-reaching consequences. In contrast, increasing visibility can help respond to developing situations faster, minimizing delays and costs.

Many companies now track fleets with GPS systems, but businesses can go further, too. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can monitor and communicate data like location, driving patterns, maintenance info, and product quality in real-time. With this timely information, fleet managers can see issues as they arise, leading to quicker, more effective responses.

Faster reactions lead to better customer service, less disruption, and sometimes avoiding serious delays entirely. Businesses’ financial efficiency will rise as a result.

Address Accounts Receivable

Accounts receivable turnover is one of the most popular metrics for financial efficiency, so businesses should strive to collect debts as quickly as possible. In the delay-heavy and prone-to-disruption world of logistics, that can be complicated. However, a few options can help.

One way to improve this ratio is to provide multiple payment methods for clients. This allows customers to use whatever best suits their needs, leading to quicker reactions from them. Similarly, payments will be faster when customers can use a process they’re already familiar with.

Another way to improve accounts receivable turnover ratios is to employ automation. Automated billing, reminders, and processing services are abundant today and can streamline the process for both companies and their clients. Employing these solutions while providing multiple payment methods will ensure businesses collect outstanding payments as quickly as possible.

Refinance or Consolidate Outstanding Debts

Outstanding debts are another common obstacle to financial efficiency. Having debts is normal for a business, but that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t continuously reevaluate their loans. Periodically addressing these to see if there’s a way to refinance or consolidate them can help cultivate financial agility.

Many logistics companies may have outstanding vehicle loans, for example. These ongoing payments can easily fade into the background, but refinancing them can save $150 per vehicle per month in some cases. That seemingly small change frees up extra monthly revenue that companies can then put towards something else.

Alternatively, some companies may want to consolidate some of their debts. Doing so can make it easier to manage them and lower interest rates. Businesses may then be able to pay them off sooner.

Improve Cross-Department Communication

One aspect of the business that may fly under the company’s radar is communication between departments. When things get lost in translation moving between teams, it can lead to mistakes or take more time to achieve the desired goal. These mistakes and delays hinder financial efficiency, so improving communication can increase it.

Communication barriers cost $62.4 million annually in lost productivity on average. Consequently, companies should strive to remove barriers to effective collaboration, especially between different departments. Using collaborative software, holding frequent meetings, using instant messaging apps, and similar steps can do that.

When teams can communicate efficiently, confusion-related errors will decrease. Similarly, cross-department projects will have shorter completion times thanks to easier collaboration.

Reorganize Inventory

Inventory turnover is another aspect of financial efficiency to address. The longer items sit in warehouses or distribution centers, the less agile a company is. While logistics businesses may not be directly involved in the sales side of this issue, they can take steps to improve inventory inefficiencies.

Like fleets themselves, most inefficiencies in this area come from a lack of visibility. When organizations don’t know exactly where every item is at all times, it can take time to retrieve the correct one. Similarly, this lack of transparency can lead to confusion and errors that require correction down the road, leading to delays.

According to one survey, 34% of businesses have shipped items late because they sold out-of-stock items. Warehouse management systems, IoT tracking, and RFID tags can all help keep better track of inventory levels, avoiding mistakes like this. Logistics businesses can then pass these benefits along to their partners, creating positive ripple effects.

Train Employees More Thoroughly

One risk factor that can affect financial efficiency in any department in any business is human error. Even small mistakes can lead to considerable disruptions over time as more employees make them. Many may suggest automation as an answer, but that isn’t applicable in every circumstance and isn’t always necessary.

The solution to this problem is to put more emphasis on employee training. Organizations should look for common mistakes and, as trends emerge, emphasize these points in training. Periodic refresher courses over high-value or complicated processes can help too.

When workers better understand how to perform their jobs correctly, they’ll also work faster. More thorough training will boost confidence, leading to less second-guessing and higher efficiency.

Financial Efficiency Is Critical for Any Logistics Business

As the logistics market grows increasingly crowded, businesses must improve their financial efficiency to stay competitive. Higher efficiency will lower operating costs, attract investors, and open new strategic opportunities. These seven steps can help any business increase its financial efficiency. Companies can then become as agile and profitable as possible.

Accessible

Creating an Accessible Warehouse for Workers with Disabilities

The warehousing industry faces a growing labor shortage, yet many facilities are overlooking a ready and willing workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 19.3% of people with disabilities are currently employed. At the same time, 877,400 people with disabilities are actively looking for work.

These workers could help warehouses become far more productive, but the facilities need to become more accessible first. Accessibility issues are common in the industry, and they stand in the way of hiring these eager employers. With that in mind, here are seven ways warehouses can become more accessible for those with disabilities.

Customize Mobile Computers

Mobile computers are some of the most important tools in the warehousing business. Despite how crucial they are to the job, many facilities may not be getting all they can out of them. Their default settings may limit their accessibility, leading to errors and inefficiencies.

For example, the text on these devices’ displays is often small, and scanning distances are short. This can make it difficult for workers with visual impairments to read correctly and lead to discomfort for those with restricted mobility. Using computers with longer scan distances and customizing them to show larger text will solve these issues.

Text-to-speech options, high-contrast displays and customizable color coding are other personalizations that could make these tools more helpful. When they’re easier to use for more workers, picking and related processes will accelerate.

Employ Robotic Assistance

Another way to make warehouses more accessible is to capitalize on automated systems. Some tasks, like picking items off high shelves or moving heavy materials, may be too physically strenuous for some workers. Automating them, at least in part, can open these tasks up to a broader workforce.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for one-third of all worker injuries and illnesses and often come from overexertion. If workers have a disability that limits their mobility, they’re at even higher risk of these injuries. Automating processes likely to cause MSDs would then make workplaces significantly safer and more efficient.

Automated guided vehicles or powered forklifts could also help workers with disabilities move materials throughout the warehouse. As an added benefit, these technologies make workflows faster as well as more accessible.

Rethink Shelving

Some facilities may need to reorganize or redesign their shelving systems. If items are too high or too low, workers may need to bend over or reach above their heads to retrieve them. While some exercises can improve flexibility by 25%, these actions can still be hazardous, especially for workers with disabilities.

The most frequently picked items should be between waist and chest height. That way, workers can reach them without overextending themselves. Shelves can use automated retrieval systems to grab higher-up items to make the most of vertical space. Alternatively, facilities could implement mezzanine racking.

Mobile shelves that shift to meet workers according to their specific needs could also help, though these may be more expensive.

Replace Stairs

Capitalizing on vertical space is one of the best ways to optimize warehouse layouts, but it poses a problem. Stairs are an obstacle for workers with some disabilities, so they limit who can access which items. As a result, they can hinder a facility’s productivity, keeping it from getting the most from the whole workforce.

Stairways are unavoidable, but warehouses can replace some of them with ramps. Some facilities may be able to install elevators as well. These options are more accessible, letting any worker reach higher-level items if necessary.

In addition to making warehouses more accessible, traveling up a ramp is often faster. They also allow for more vehicle traffic between levels, making automation more efficient.

Provide Wheelchair-Friendly Transportation

If warehouses have company vehicles for employees to use, they should consider wheelchair-friendly options. These cars are of limited utility if not every employee can drive them. Adding at least one wheelchair-friendly vehicle makes them more useful.

In today’s market, warehouses have plenty of options for wheelchair-friendly transportation, too. Companies can outfit most vehicles with hand controls, and multiple systems exist for helping wheelchair users into the driver’s seat.

Having an accessible company vehicle could also improve worker morale. When employees show they appreciate their workplace, they’ll be more productive as a result. Warehouses and their workers will benefit all around from these changes.

Enable Multiple Picking Methods

Picking is often one of the most inefficient processes in a warehouse. Similarly, it’s also one of the most frequently inaccessible for workers with disabilities. One of the ways to address this problem is to use multiple systems that account for everyone’s needs.

As mentioned earlier, some mobile computer displays can be challenging to read. Pick-to-light systems could replace text-based solutions, guiding workers to the correct items without reading a small, possibly low-contrast screen. These systems also typically improve pick rates by 30%-50%, so they offer multiple benefits.

Voice picking systems are another alternative. Offering voice, light and traditional systems will let workers use whichever works best for them. That way, no matter what conditions an employee deals with, they can work efficiently.

Keep Aisles Wide and Open

Many warehouses reduce their aisle space to accommodate more shelves. However, this can make facilities less accessible for workers with some disabilities. Keeping them open allows for smoother traffic and easier picking.

If aisles are too narrow, workers with wheelchairs may not be able to pass through if there’s another employee there. Similarly, those that need to use robotic assistance tools may not have room to maneuver. Making aisles wider lets any people and machinery pass through more easily, removing this barrier.

Wider aisles also let workers pick items off low or high shelves without taking up as much of the path. That way, more employees can reach objects without impeding the productivity of others.

An Accessible Warehouse Is a Productive One

When warehouses become more accessible, they can welcome more workers with disabilities. This benefits both parties, giving people a source of income while helping employers overcome persistent labor shortages. Facilities that already have disabled employees can help prevent injury and become more productive, too.

Changes like these let employees work more efficiently and safely. As a result, overall morale and productivity will improve. No matter what a warehouse’s workforce looks like now, improving accessibility could boost their efficiency.

retention

8 Small Policy Changes That Can Significantly Strengthen Retention

Worker shortages are plaguing the warehousing and logistics industry. While many companies are looking for new ways to attract workers to remediate the situation, retention is just as, if not more, important.

Without strong retention, recruitment will do little good. Replacing a salaried employee also costs six to nine months’ salary on average, so retention is far more affordable. Thankfully, even small policy changes can strengthen employee retention. Here are eight examples.

1. Tighten the Recruitment Process

Retention starts with hiring. Employers can prevent many turnover cases by hiring workers who are more likely to stay in the first place. The first step to achieve that is to ensure that job postings are accurate and transparent.

One study found that nearly half of all workers have left a job because it didn’t meet their expectations. Instead of relying on vague language and buzzwords, job descriptions should offer specific details about the position. That way, any applicants understand the roles they’re taking on, preventing disillusionment down the line.

Job seekers will also appreciate honesty. Being transparent in the recruitment process may give new hires a better starting impression of the workplace.

2. Create Upward Mobility Opportunities

One of the most crucial policy changes for better retention is to enable upward mobility. In 2019, 20% of workers who left a job did so because of career development-related reasons. In fact, career development has been the number one reason employees leave for 10 straight years.

This issue has a relatively straightforward fix, too. When a new position opens up, instead of looking for outside hires, companies should promote from within. Businesses should also look to create plenty of opportunities for advancement to give workers a career growth goal.

Career development opportunities can be more than raises and promotions, too. Courses to teach employees new skills or fund their education will help increase retention, too.

3. Accept Anonymous Feedback

Another simple yet effective policy change to make is to have a system for anonymous feedback. Workers may have suggestions for improving the workplace but may fear retribution if management can trace their comments back to them. Anonymous feedback forms let employees speak up confidently.

It’s important to respond to this feedback, too. Making changes that workers want can help ensure the workplace fosters a positive environment. Employees will also feel empowered if they see how their actions impact the workplace, and empowered workers are 33% more likely to stay for three years.

It can help to encourage workers to use these systems, too. That encouragement will promote an air of trust and transparency and empower them further.

4. Support Worker Health

Lifestyle-related benefits are easy to overlook but can be an effective policy change to retain employees. Healthy workers are likely to feel happier and more satisfied, and employers can help them be healthy. By offering perks that support healthy worker lifestyles, businesses can show their employees that they care about their well-being.

Providing nutritious food options in company cafeterias is an easy change to make. Foods high in nutrients like vitamin C can boost workers’ immune systems, helping them feel stronger and healthier. Providing exercise programs or occasional on-site massage therapy can help too.

5. Communicate With Employees Often

Along similar lines, it’s important to maintain communication with employees. Studies show that nearly half of Americans feel lonelier than usual, so feeling seen and valued in the workplace can make a significant difference. Talking with workers will help them feel valued and bring any issues they have to light.

Remember that this communication goes both ways. In addition to listening to employees, management should inform them of any upcoming opportunities and changes often. If workers don’t understand what’s going on at the company, they’ll feel underutilized and unimportant, leading to turnover. In contrast, feeling involved can convince them to stay.

6. Maintain Competitive Compensation

Most employers already understand that higher pay and more competitive benefits will help convince workers to stay. This issue goes beyond bumping up a starting salary once or offering new perks, though. Businesses should have a policy to review industry compensation rates periodically to see how theirs compares.

Workers quitting because of pay and benefits-related reasons have increased by more than 26% since 2010. This trend also coincides with the growing movement of more businesses offering new perks and adjusting pay rates. What constitutes competitive compensation is changing and changes regularly, so a one-time fix is insufficient.

Periodically reviewing industry trends can reveal whether an employer offers sufficient compensation or if they need to adjust. This prevents underpaying compared to competitors as well as unnecessarily raising rates.

7. Recognize and Reward Commendable Behavior

According to one survey, 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a major factor. Thankfully, employers can address that with relatively straightforward policy changes.

Workplaces should have a policy of recognizing and rewarding positive behavior in their workers. Regular awards given to the highest-performing employees or praising workers’ actions and achievements in company newsletters can help workers feel valued. These rewards, though seemingly small, can go a long way in employee retention.

Workers don’t often expect much in return for good service. Typically, recognition of a job well done is sufficient. While monetary incentives don’t hurt, taking the time to praise commendable behavior can make a significant difference.

8. Encourage Employees to Take Advantage of Perks

Another seemingly small but significant change for employee retention is letting workers know it’s okay to use their benefits. Poor experiences with other employers may leave workers feeling like they shouldn’t use their time off or other perks. Encouraging them to do so can assuage those concerns, making them feel more welcome.

When workers take advantage of their benefits, they’ll likely feel more relaxed and fulfilled. When management doesn’t just allow but encourages it, they’ll feel appreciated, too. If employees feel like their employers care for their work-life balance, they’ll be less likely to leave.

Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact

Workplace changes don’t need to be disruptive to have a substantial impact on employee retention. It’s often an amalgamation of multiple “little” things that convince workers to leave a job. In the same way, making several little changes can convince workers to stay with their current employer.

These eight changes represent some of the most effective yet straightforward improvements to strengthen retention. By implementing these fixes, businesses can reduce turnover and related costs and foster a more motivated, positive workforce.

Strategies

7 Proven Strategies That Eliminate Downtime in the Supply Chain

Eliminating downtime is a concern for any business, but supply chains face more pressure than most. Disruptions and delays will ripple throughout the industries that rely on them, potentially causing massive losses. By the same logic, reducing supply chain downtime likewise reduces it elsewhere.

While most organizations likely understand the importance of eliminating logistics downtime, the path to that end is less clear. Frequent delays showcase considerable room for improvement in the world’s supply chains.

Thankfully, several companies have also found effective strategies for eliminating these delays. Here are seven of these proven methods.

1. Optimized Warehouse Layouts

Poor warehouse arrangements are easy to overlook, but they’re a common source of supply chain delays. A poorly laid-out warehouse slows the picking process and makes it harder to track inventory levels. With less insight into their stock, companies are more likely to run into shortages they could’ve otherwise avoided.

Lack of stock visibility is all too common an issue, with 43% of small businesses not tracking inventory. As a result, the U.S. retail industry has an inventory accuracy rate of just 63%. Without an accurate picture of stock levels, companies can’t expect to order new items in time, leading to delays.

Better warehouse layouts improve inventory visibility, informing more accurate orders. One of the most important changes to make is implementing an electronic tracking solution, like a warehouse management system (WMS). These systems will help keep track of stock levels, eliminating downtime from inventory issues.

2. Predictive Maintenance

Equipment breakdowns are another one of the most common causes of unplanned downtime. While these situations are common and highly disruptive, they also have a fairly straightforward solution. Supply chains should implement predictive maintenance systems to keep all machinery in optimal condition.

Predictive maintenance analyzes equipment performance data to determine when it will need upkeep. While this comes with high upfront costs from the necessary equipment, the results are impressive. Operating off these predictions lets facilities prevent unplanned downtime from breakdowns and unnecessary repairs.

These benefits aren’t just theoretical, either. Studies show that predictive maintenance increases equipment availability by 5%-15% and reduces maintenance costs by up to 25%. Those savings across an entire supply chain add to a tremendous reduction in downtime.

3. Distributed Sourcing

Another common source of downtime in supply chains is delays or interruptions from suppliers. Many supply chains get parts or products from a single source, which keeps costs down but exacerbates these disruptions. When an unforeseen event occurs at these suppliers, everything else comes to a standstill.

For example, in 2017, a fire at an auto part supplier in the Czech Republic stopped production. An automaker who relied on this plant as its single supplier consequently couldn’t produce 20,000 vehicles in time. Supply chains must embrace distributed sourcing to avoid massive disruptions like this.

When a supply chain has multiple suppliers, a shortage at one won’t affect the entire operation. Other companies can make up for it, and if not, the overall loss still won’t be as significant.

4. Contingency Plans

Similarly, supply chains must also create contingency plans for likely or potentially disruptive events. Companies can’t afford to expect that no unexpected circumstances will ever arise. Having a backup plan for any possible emergencies reduces downtime from these situations and shortens the recovery period.

Some emergency response plans can be relatively simple, but companies should still standardize and record them. For example, if a vehicle dies, drivers can start it without jumper cables fairly easily if need be. However, if there’s no standard practice in place for this situation, they may waste time thinking of what to do and who to contact first.

Having a specific, codified contingency plan ensures workers can respond quickly to any eventuality. The faster they can adapt, the less likely an unforeseen event is to cause significant downtime.

5. Employee Training

Some strategies to eliminate downtime are relatively straightforward but can have a significant impact. Employee training is the perfect example. While a single worker’s mistakes may not seem to have a considerable effect on overall operations, most downtime comes from user error.

Mistakes in data entry can lead to incorrect inventory information, causing order-related shortages. Similarly, machine usage errors can end in equipment failure, leading to downtime for repairs. Employee errors can cause substantial disruption, but that also means better training can prevent many stoppages.

Periodic refresher training can ensure workers remember proper techniques and best practices. Supply chains can also look to employees themselves for information on how to improve the training process. Workers can report what types of onboarding experiences they wish they had, revealing how to improve.

6. Emphasizing Workplace Safety

On a similar note, improving workplace safety can help eliminate supply chain downtime, too. On-the-job injuries have a considerable impact on productivity, resulting in 105 million lost days in 2019 alone. That figure doesn’t include non-disabling injuries, either, which may still hinder worker efficiency, making downtime more likely.

If supply chains can reduce employee injuries, they’ll decrease these days of lost work. One of the most important parts of improving safety is better safety training. When employees know what risks they face and how to avoid them, they’ll pay more attention to workplace hazards.

Other steps like automating the most dangerous tasks and using data analytics to find where most injuries occur will also help. Even seemingly small improvements can have a substantial effect on reduced downtime.

7. Improving Staff Communication

Another minor adjustment that can have significant ramifications is communication. Supply chains should ensure employees understand the causes of downtime and how they affect profits. This communication can help build a spirit of shared responsibility, helping workers understand their impact on the business as a whole.

Improving communication also means making it easier for staff to suggest improvements. Supply chains should reward employees whose suggestions lead to meaningful reductions in overall downtime. This will encourage more workers to take an active role in ensuring operations run as smoothly as possible.

Supply Chains Must Actively Reduce Downtime

Reducing downtime in the supply chain can minimize disruptions across an entire industry. Similarly, if supply chains don’t eliminate downtime, they could cause massive, far-reaching damage.

These seven strategies represent proven methods for eliminating downtime. Supply chains that implement them can become far more resilient and efficient.

supply chain risk

Integrating Risk Management Into Supply Chains: 5 Points to Cover

Risk management is central to running any business, but it’s especially important for supply chains. Disruptions in the supply chain have far-reaching ripple effects, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made painfully evident. With logistics serving as the backbone of virtually every other operation, risks here are risks everywhere.

Supply chains must identify, document and respond to all potential dangers to maximize efficiency and resiliency. However, while many organizations are aware of this need, fewer understand how to implement proper risk management.

Why Supply Chains Need Better Risk Management

According to a PWC survey, 60% of supply chains pay only marginal attention to risk reduction processes. The study also revealed that most of these companies focus on maximizing profit, minimizing costs or maintaining service levels. Ironically, had they prioritized risk management, they’d be better equipped to meet those goals in the face of disruption.

Widespread supply chain issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic further illustrate the subpar state of risk management. Early in the outbreak, 75% of U.S. companies saw capacity disruptions from the pandemic, and many continued to face similar challenges throughout the year. The world’s supply chains were clearly unprepared to handle these risks.

Understanding the importance of risk management is the first step towards improvement. As supply chain managers start to create a risk management plan, here are five points to cover.

1. Identify and Organize Risks

Risk management in any operation begins with identifying the risks an organization faces. These can be internal, like poor user behavior leading to a data breach, or external, like a natural disaster. This may also take careful analysis, as some risks, such as changes in customer preferences, may not come to mind immediately.

Supply chain managers should break down every node and link to find risks. When recording these, it’s also crucial to determine their potential impact on the company, which is often more substantial than initially evident. For example, worker’s compensation claims can incur ongoing care expenses and disability payments on top of the original cost of care.

After compiling a list of risks and their potential impacts, supply chains should prioritize them. Weigh each hazard according to its likelihood and the size of its consequences. The most likely and most disruptive deserve the most attention in planning to prevent and mitigate them.

2. Create Response Plans for Known Risks

This organized list represents a supply chain’s known risks. These are the things that a company can predict and quantify, and as such, managers can create a response plan for them. Businesses may not be able to create a detailed plan for every item, but they should for at least the most threatening eventualities.

Some hazards don’t require extensive planning and preparation. For example, if a truck battery dies, drivers can start it without jumper cables if need be to take it to a repair shop. Even though the solution here is fairly straightforward, businesses should still write down what to do to ensure quick responses.

Other events need a more detailed and lengthy response plan. A supply shortage from an overseas supplier, for example, may require backup sources, a transition plan and steps to mitigate customer reactions. Creating these plans can take tremendous effort, but emergency responses will be slow and ineffective without them.

3. Ensure Flexibility for Unknown Risks

Of course, supply chain managers can’t predict every possible eventuality. In fact, unknown risks like the COVID-19 pandemic can be the most disruptive because businesses don’t have a specific action plan for them. While supply chains can’t predict the details of these events, they can prepare for them.

The key to preparing for unknown risks is to ensure flexibility. When a supply chain can’t predict a disruption, it must be able to adapt to it in the moment. If the chain is flexible by design, it can adapt more easily, minimizing the effects of unforeseen events.

Segment, stock and plan (SSP) strategies can reduce part shortages by 50 to 90%, helping supply chains become more flexible. Supply chains should also consider distributed sourcing, which mitigates the impact of a disruption in one location. Creating more transparency through internet of things (IoT) technology and data analytics will also help.

4. Build a Risk-Aware Culture

One easily overlookable point of supply chain risk management is cultivating a risk-aware culture. Supply chain managers can’t expect to discover every potential disruption on their own, much less fully understand their impact. Employees throughout the supply chain may have a more personal understanding of these things, making them indispensable assets.

Just as effective cybersecurity involves all employees, so does the rest of risk management. All workers should be able to report risks they notice, requiring easy and open communication tools. Similarly, management must be open to change and ensure employees that bad news is a welcome alert, not something to punish.

Some supply chains may even consider rewarding employees whose insights lead to meaningful risk management improvements. When everyone can report and discuss potential hazards, supply chains can get a more comprehensive picture of their risk environment. This communication will also improve flexibility for unknown risks.

5. Monitor and Review Risks

Finally, supply chains must understand that risk management is an ongoing process. Some experts claim that constant monitoring is the best way to strengthen the supply chain, as it enables quick, effective responses. The first step here is expanding visibility through data collection and reporting.

Regular reports from all supply chain nodes provide an updated picture of a supply chain’s risk environment. Similarly, IoT tracking and data analytics can enable real-time visibility across an organization and help predict incoming changes. When relying on data analytics, supply chains must ensure they’re gathering extensive, high-quality data, as poor or insufficient datasets can be misleading.

Monitoring this data to predict incoming disruptions is only part of the ongoing risk management process. Supply chains must also periodically review their risk management framework as their situation changes. What’s most threatening today may not be tomorrow, so these plans should evolve over time.

Risk Management Is Crucial for Supply Chains Today

The sheer size and complexity of supply chains today make risk management essential. Disruptions can come from anywhere and have far-reaching consequences if these organizations don’t prepare to counteract them.

As supply chain managers tackle their risk management framework, they must be sure to cover these five points. If not, they could fall short when an emergency arises. By contrast, following these steps can help them ensure ongoing efficiency and minimal disruption in the face of adversity.

international

Making Inroads Overseas: Strategies for Winning International Business

While the U.S. may have the largest third-party logistics market of any nation, there’s plenty of global opportunity to capitalize on. Companies that can break into international markets could reap considerable rewards.

The rise of e-commerce and other internet-based businesses has made the world more interconnected than ever. Consequently, there’s a rising demand for fleets that operate between borders. Smaller, up-and-coming economies with less saturated markets pose an enticing growth opportunity, too.

While expanding into overseas markets can be highly profitable, it’s also often challenging. These six strategies can help companies overcome these challenges to win international business.

1. Research Ideal Markets

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is expanding into new territory without researching first. Different countries come with different legal restrictions, economic considerations, and market atmospheres. Companies must understand these before choosing where to start their international growth strategy.

For example, Germany has the world’s highest-performing logistics market, which would make it seem like the ideal place for expansion. But since it’s also home to DHL, which holds 39% of the global market share, it may be hard to succeed there. Preliminary market research would’ve revealed that, informing more effective expansion.

Businesses should research the local markets in different countries to find the most profitable area to expand into. That includes looking at tax considerations, competition, and customer needs. Without considering all of these factors, globalization initiatives will likely cost more than they bring in.

2. Understand the Local Culture

Similarly, after deciding on the ideal market, businesses should understand any cultural differences they’ll encounter. Tapping into the local culture can make marketing initiatives more effective and help impress potential clients. Alternatively, if businesses don’t understand these differences, they may accidentally offend or disinterest customers and partners.

Understanding cultural divides can make or break a company’s success, especially when meeting potential international partners. For example, while it’s a rule of thumb in the U.S. to show up five to 10 minutes before a meeting, it may be longer or shorter in other countries. Not understanding that could hinder a meeting’s productivity.

Other countries may have differently structured workweeks and holidays that could affect business, too. The United Arab Emirates, for example, observes the weekend on Friday and Saturday, not Saturday and Sunday. Knowing this before going in can determine whether a business thrives internationally or struggles to get its footing.

3. Partner With Regional Businesses

Another crucial strategy for expanding internationally is partnering with overseas businesses. Companies based in the area will already have the cultural and legal knowledge needed to navigate the local market environment. They will also already have consumer and business connections, giving U.S. companies a foot in the door.

An important step in this strategy is to meet these potential partners in-person as much as possible. Taking the time and money to fly out to meet them shows a willingness to invest in their company. This can give businesses a leg up on any other competitors for the partnership.

Without a local partner, it can be challenging to succeed in a foreign market. Companies will have to establish their brand name, build a customer base, and navigate potentially complicated legal considerations. Foreign partners can cover all of these factors early, letting businesses get off the ground sooner.

4. Adapt Your Marketing Strategies

Since every country has its own culture and values, effective marketing materials are rarely universal. As such, logistics companies trying to expand into overseas markets must adapt their marketing strategies. Research and international partners can reveal local customers’ habits and preferences, informing more effective ads and promotions.

Large restaurant chains serve as excellent examples for adapting international marketing strategies. In France, McDonald’s offers a free illustrated book with every Happy Meal purchased on the first Wednesday of the month. This doesn’t make much sense in the U.S., but children in France don’t go to school on Wednesdays, making this an effective strategy.

Promotions that work in the states may not be as appealing overseas. Similarly, other countries may have holidays, customs, or trends that present unique marketing opportunities that wouldn’t succeed in America. If companies want to be as successful as possible overseas, they must adapt.

5. Localize Your Website

It’s hard to overstate the importance of having an appealing website in today’s market. In many countries, the number of internet users has doubled in the last three years, and websites often serve as customers’ first impressions of a business. While this may be true across borders, what constitutes an ideal website may not be as consistent.

Businesses must localize their sites to fit global audiences. The most obvious step in this process is translating all of the text, but that’s not all localization entails. There are also various cultural connotations and preferences about design and business practices to consider.

Some colors may be appealing in the U.S. but carry a negative connotation in other cultures. While English reads from left to right, not all languages do, so websites in some countries may need to be mirrored to account for this. Turning to contacts in these countries or localization firms can help account for these differences.

6. Capitalize on Local Resources

Many globalization strategies involve taking steps to navigate unique challenges in overseas markets. While these are crucial, the most effective international expansion efforts also look for other areas’ unique benefits. Every country has unique resources to offer, so businesses should take advantage of these opportunities.

One example of a company implementing this strategy is the grocery store chain H-E-B. When H-E-B went international, it bought blueberries from Chile and Peru, giving it access to fresh blueberries year-round. Capitalizing on these warmer climates helped the company expand its offerings, pushing revenue higher.

Businesses should look for what resources different areas have, such as relaxed tax codes or cheap transportation markets. Taking advantage of these instead of keeping business models the same across all countries will maximize international success.

Make the Most of International Expansion

As the world becomes more interconnected, global expansion becomes an increasingly enticing strategy. Companies that can capitalize on it early will see the most success in the future. These six strategies provide a roadmap for doing so.

Winning international business can be a challenge, but it also presents several opportunities. If businesses can act on these steps, they can expand into foreign markets more effectively. They can then enjoy all international business has to offer.

DOT inspections

What Fleet Managers Should Know About DOT Inspections

Operating a trucking company typically means covering a lot of variables, from vehicle depreciation and traffic jams to driver sick days, broken-down equipment, conflicts with business partners and everything in between.

One thing fleet managers definitely cannot afford to overlook in this list of responsibilities is the importance of DOT inspections. What do fleet managers need to know about DOT inspections, and how can they prepare for the next one before it arrives?

What Are DOT Inspections?

First, what are DOT inspections, and why are they so important?

State troopers or other enforcers, working under the authority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) carry out surprise roadside inspections to ensure both truck and driver are in good working order.

The goal of these inspections is to keep truckers and other motor vehicle operators safe on the road. An inspector is tasked with determining whether a truck and its driver are following all of the applicable rules and regulations designed to prevent oversights and accidents.

The Six Levels of DOT Inspection

There are six levels of DOT inspection a truck and its operator may be subject to. Which one is carried out depends largely on the whims of the inspector. Drivers will never know what level of inspection to expect until they’re stopped, so it’s essential to be familiar with all six.

Level 1

Level 1 inspections are as comprehensive as they are commonly performed. There are 37 steps to complete for a Level 1 inspection, assessing both the driver and the vehicle as well as addressing the presence of any illegal cargo.

All of the truck’s systems will be inspected, from the brakes and electrical to the steering, seatbelts, and everything in between. The driver will also be assessed to determine whether they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Level 2

Level 2 inspections are nearly as thorough as Level 1, though inspectors are not required to go underneath the vehicle to ascertain its condition. The driver assessment to look for the presence of drugs and alcohol remains the same, however.

Level 3

Level 3 DOT inspections focus solely on the driver. The inspector will review all pertinent paperwork, such as driver’s license, medical examiner’s certificates, and skill performance evaluations, to determine whether the driver is in compliance with all applicable FMCSA regulations.

As with the first two levels, the driver will also be assessed to determine if they are under the influence of alcohol or another controlled substance.

Level 4

Level 4 inspections are not as common as some of the others, since they’re used for one-time examinations. They’re useful for tracking violation trends or other data, and they often don’t take up a lot of time for either the driver or the inspector.

Level 5

Level 5 inspections are the same as Level 1 inspections with one major caveat: the truck is the only thing being inspected. The driver does not even have to be present for this level of inspection, which frees them up to perform other tasks while their vehicle is being inspected.

Level 6

Level 6 inspections are only necessary for vehicles tasked with hauling radioactive materials. The Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments is the same as the standard Level 1 inspection, but it pays special attention to any radiological emissions.

Once the truck and driver have passed inspection, the truck is marked with a clearly visible nuclear symbol that is removed once the delivery reaches its destination.

Preparing Vehicles for a DOT Inspection

Getting ready for a DOT inspection is a two-fold proposition: it involves preparing both the vehicle and the driver. First, let’s take a closer look at getting fleet vehicles ready for inspections.

By far the easiest way to pass a DOT inspection is to be prepared. This can entail but is not limited to keeping the vehicle in tip-top shape, keeping it clean, and ensuring all required and recommended maintenance is carried out in a timely manner. Understand the systems that will be inspected and address any problems promptly.

Fleet managers may wish to seek out a DOT Inspection Certification as well. While this will not prevent an inspection from occurring if there is an obvious violation to address, it can help streamline the process a little bit in some situations.

Keeping the vehicle clean may not be a requirement for DOT inspections, but it can ensure the inspector is focusing on the details of the inspection rather than becoming vexed because of the state of the truck.

Preparing Drivers for a DOT Inspection

Drivers are the other part of the equation when it comes to successfully preparing for a DOT inspection.

Driver inspections tend to require a lot of paperwork. Inspectors will go over everything from the driver’s commercial licensing, to their medical card, waivers, daily logs, and hours of service. They will also assess the drivers to see if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and will verify any HAZMAT requirements.

Start by ensuring all of the driver’s paperwork is up to date. Then keep a copy of all the necessary paperwork in a folder in the cab — as well as backups located elsewhere in case something happens to the originals. A lot of this information, such as the daily logs and hours of service, can sometimes be accessed digitally, depending on how the fleet is set up. Fleets that haven’t switched to digital data collection for hours of service and daily logs may wish to consider doing so to speed up the inspection process.

Make sure your drivers are always polite and professional when dealing with inspectors. It’s always a good idea to treat these individuals with professional courtesy, even and perhaps especially if they’re flagging a violation.

Don’t Fail an Inspection by Lacking Preparation

DOT inspections might be a hassle, but they are an unavoidable part of operating a trucking fleet. The easiest way to fail one of these inspections is to go into them entirely unprepared. As long as the fleet is operating properly, all violations are addressed as quickly as possible, and drivers and fleet managers are working to keep themselves and other drivers safe, then passing these inspections with flying colors should be easy.

They say that failing to plan is planning to fail, and that is a rule to live by when it comes to preparing for DOT inspections.

supply chain

6 Emerging Challenges for the Supply Chain and How to Address Them

The past 18 months have exposed major weaknesses in the global supply chain. For many companies, the pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic stretched logistics to their limits, revealing inefficiencies and areas for improvement.

These existing weaknesses are being compounded by new supply chain challenges and changing market conditions. Here are six of the most important emerging challenges for global logistics — and what businesses can do to address them.

1. Lead Time Expectations

Consumers and business clients both expect increasingly quick turnaround times on new orders. In part due to the rise of ecommerce giants like Amazon, many consumers consider it normal for an item to be delivered a day or two after an order is received.

For the global supply chain, however, this is often unrealistic. International shipment can take weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the item ordered.

These consumer expectations aren’t likely to change any time soon. As a result, more effective demand forecasting and supply planning will be essential for businesses. Flexible supply chains that are capable of expediting orders as needed — for example, taking advantage of backup air freight contracts when land or sea would be too slow — will become an invaluable asset.

Strategies that keep goods close to buyers can also help businesses meet these expectations. Distributing warehouse space, if possible, can make it more likely that items are nearby buyers when ordered, making them quicker to ship.

2. Port Congestion

Port congestion, in part caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, remains a major challenge for logistics. Right now, ports around the world are experiencing record levels of congestion, meaning freight shipped by sea is likely to be delayed significantly.

Businesses are experimenting with different solutions to this problem. In the United States, some major retailers have begun chartering their own ships to import goods ahead of the 2021 holiday season. Chartering these ships allows the retailers to unload at less-congested docks, like those in Portland, Oregon.

Most businesses likely don’t have the resources to charter their own cargo ships. Instead, demand forecasting and carrier choice may help companies keep sea freight moving. Staggering shipment containers across multiple vessels may also help businesses avoid the worst of a port’s congestion while also mitigating risks in other ways.

The diversification of sourcing in a supply chain strategy can also help. If port congestion makes it nearly impossible to obtain a good or raw material from one supplier, there may be other suppliers available via air or land freight.

3. Aging Equipment

As they age, vehicles become less reliable and more prone to failure. Regular replacement of fleet vehicles is essential to keep the supply chain running smoothly, but the high expense of a new truck or tractor-trailer means businesses are continuing to use legacy equipment for longer than they would typically.

Vehicle failures can happen suddenly. Even simple issues can cause massive problems when a part that’s been on the verge of failure begins to break down.

Replacing old vehicles with new ones is one way to minimize downtime due to failures. An upgrade is also an opportunity to investigate alternative fuel vehicles and electric trucks.

For businesses that can’t afford the capital expense of a new fleet, knowledge and careful maintenance can keep vehicles running longer. Preventive maintenance and effective upkeep is the best way to extend the lifespan of a vehicle.

For example, the lifespan of tires that are underinflated by just 20% may decrease by as much as 30%. Proper tire inflation can keep vehicles on the road and decrease maintenance costs over time. Other common semi-truck issues, like brake failures, can also be avoided with the right maintenance practices.

Some businesses may also deal with niche-specific maintenance problems. For instance, transporting crops can put significant strain on the suspension of a vehicle or machine, especially its leaf springs.

Regular inspection and maintenance of these suspension components can help logistics companies avoid costly breakdowns and significant downtime.

4. Aging Infrastructure

A similar, related problem is emerging on the state side of logistics. Dated transportation infrastructure is beginning to show its age. In 2021, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave American infrastructure as a whole a C minus. Roadways fell behind even this low average and were given a D grade.

Bridge closures, roadwork, and infrastructure failures can all create serious difficulties for logistics companies. When essential routes are closed for emergency maintenance, companies may have few options for avoiding delays.

As with port congestion, diversification may be the answer for businesses. Distributing risk by partnering with a larger number of suppliers can help businesses create a more responsive and flexible supply chain network.

5. Digital Transformation and Cyber Vulnerability

Data has become one of the most valuable assets available to logistics companies. With the right customer information, a business can more accurately predict demand, anticipate crises, and mitigate risks.

This same information can also make a company much more vulnerable, however. The value of data stored on business networks makes these networks a more attractive target for hackers.

At the same time, digitalization, the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology and IoT devices, and the pivot to working from home have all increased the number of critical business assets exposed to the internet.

The consequences of a successful breach can be massive. Businesses that suffer a breach may pay multi-million-dollar ransoms, lose critical files, or face a badly damaged reputation. Downtime and fines from government regulators can further increase the cost of a breach.

Effective cybersecurity is the best way to reduce the risk of a breach. Investing in IT, developing best practices, and participating in industry conversations on cybersecurity will help businesses ensure that critical assets and digital infrastructure are kept safe from hackers.

6. Rising Freight Prices

Higher shipping costs are likely here to stay. For logistics providers and vendors, this can be a serious challenge. Already, experts are predicting that businesses will hike prices to offset the growing freight costs. The impact will likely be felt in almost every sector of the economy.

Better technology may help businesses adapt to these higher prices. Transportation management utilities that allow businesses to compare carriers and optimize routes, for example, can help them to both navigate around delays and minimize freight costs.

How Businesses Can Adapt to a Changing Supply Chain

The global supply chain is transforming fast. Businesses that want to develop effective logistics strategies will need to manage both old and new supply chain challenges.

Technology and diversification may both be essential. Partnering with a range of suppliers can help businesses distribute risk and avoid emerging issues like port congestion. New technology can make it easier to optimize routes and identify the most valuable carriers.

B2B

What B2B Marketing Trends Can We Expect to See in 2022?

Major shifts in the global market are impacting how B2B companies approach marketing. After 18 chaotic months, innovation is accelerating at a rapid pace. The digital transformation of the economy and the rise of e-commerce are likely to spark significant change in 2022.

Current data suggests these trends are likely to define B2B marketing in the coming year, so businesses would be wise to embrace them.

1. Spending Shifts to Mobile-First Strategy

In 2022, mobile and digital advertising will continue to become central to B2B marketing efforts. At the same time, marketers are also adjusting to a work-from-home reality. Around 70% of B2B buyers and decision-makers prefer remote or digital interactions with vendors.

Gartner predicts this number will tick up by an additional 10 percentage points by 2025. These buyers will likely respond better to more digital marketing strategies, as well.

Many marketers will likely shift to a digital-first marketing approach that prioritizes mobile advertising and content over offline and more traditional strategies. This will probably come with growing ad spend — though growth is on track to be slower next year than it has been in the past, partly due to the lingering effects of COVID-19.

As the amount of millennials in decision-making roles has grown, so has the number of buyers who want a seller-free experience. Less personal and direct approaches to marketing may become more popular among B2B marketers as a result.

2. Changing Lead Generation Channels

Generating quality leads remains a top goal of B2B marketers. How they are developed is likely to change significantly in 2022 and through the rest of the decade.

COVID-19 impacted how events are hosted. While some businesses pivoted to online events and others chose to delay or cancel, all marketers had to adapt quickly to the reality that in-person events were no longer always available to generate leads.

Jurgen Desmedt, head of marketing at Europe-based CDP vendor NGDATA, told CMSWire that social media is emerging as a major lead-generation channel.

B2B marketers are more often taking to social advertisements to generate leads that previously came from events. Uncertainty in B2B marketing may also be driving the pivot to social media. Marketers unwilling to commit fully to in-person interactions may instead look toward other methods requiring less commitment.

The most popular style of social media marketing is also changing. Many marketers are now more interested in highly targeted and personalized strategies. Many platforms offer targeting tools with extremely fine levels of detail so they can deliver niche content to specific audiences.

Scheduling apps may help smaller businesses and solo entrepreneurs manage an increasingly complex strategy that delivers niche content to various audiences.

3. Growing Focus on Customer Psychology

The “neuromarketing” strategy allows B2B marketers to spend more time than ever focused on the individual psychology of key buyers and decision-makers. In practice, this may look like a shift from topic-driven to persona-driven marketing in B2B. Marketers will focus on honing in on their target audience’s particular needs, desires, and interests to generate more effective ads, content, and events.

Client personas will become a more important marketing consideration as a result. There’s also likely to be a greater focus on matching searcher intent and developing deeper content calendars.

4. Innovation to Engage B2B Customers

Cutting-edge technology will help marketers create campaigns that more effectively engage potential buyers in 2022. Optimizing for new types of search — like image and audio — may be essential to capture traffic. AI and marketing chatbots could help marketers reach more customers and reduce the amount of time potential buyers spend waiting.

In some cases, new technology and the focus on psychology may also mean the growing use of high-tech advertisements that generate interest and secure potential buyers’ attention.

Interactivity in emails can increase conversions and improve ROI — helping businesses get more out of their email campaigns. AMP emails, which enable marketers to provide app-like functionality inside a message, are one common method for delivering this interactivity.

Similar uses of personalization and interactivity in other forms of marketing may also provide results like these.

5. Original Research and Top-Quality Content

Online resource centers, blogs, content hubs and more have become a valuable tool for B2B marketers. In 2022, original research is likely to become even more important for marketing efforts.

According to data from the 2020 Demand Gen Report, B2B buyers increasingly look to a business’s original content when making purchasing decisions. This has become a significant trust marker, signaling to buyers that the company puts stock in its organizational knowledge and experience. Research also provides some early value to a potential buyer,

Because content has become a trust marker, simply writing posts to generate traffic and leads will no longer be enough. Information needs to be top-quality to encourage buyers to investigate the brand further or get in touch with the business’s sales team.

Various content strategies will likely be necessary to deliver high-quality information relevant to B2B buyers’ interests.

Customer psychology will likely be important to content teams. Effective use and reuse of posts will allow marketers to take full advantage of what they develop. Breaking things up to enable the tracking of micro-conversions could provide marketers with additional insights into reader behavior and interests.

Certain content types will also probably be more valuable than others. A business’s niche, original research, white papers and other forms of highly valuable and in-depth content may provide the most value to readers — building trust and generating interest.

Video content remains one of the top content types, overtaking blog posts and infographics in popularity. However, the high cost of producing video content may be a barrier to its use by some businesses.

How B2B Marketing Is Likely to Change in 2022

Uncertainty and digital transformation will likely have a significant impact on B2B marketing next year. Marketers are beginning to leverage mobile-first approaches, invest more in social media and adopt cutting-edge technology, like chatbots and interactive emails. This will be vital to effectively reach people and boost sales moving forward.

These new strategies and tools may help companies adapt to a market where buyers are more interested in digital channels and personalized content. Marketers must be prepared to embrace the upcoming changes to effectively reach their target audiences in 2022.

innovations

5 Innovations in Manufacturing Processes and Their Effect on the Bottom Line

Manufacturing is a rapidly evolving industry. With a broad spectrum of sectors depending on manufacturing, modern facilities are often quick to adopt new technology that improves on their existing processes.

The rise of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and data have created a wave of digital transformation. As manufacturing grows and becomes increasingly competitive, capitalizing on Industry 4.0 innovations can determine whether or not a company will succeed.

Here’s a look at five of these innovations and how they affect the bottom line.

1. Cobots

Robots aren’t new in the manufacturing industry. But as automation has grown, new approaches and technologies have emerged that can take its benefits further. Collaborative robots, or cobots, are one of the most significant of these upgrades to factory automation.

In a 2021 study, 44.9% of surveyed businesses said that robots are an integral part of their operations. Of those companies, 34.9% had adopted cobots. Cobots have slowly become more popular as manufacturers have realized the limits of traditional automation. Other robotic solutions are expensive and inflexible, making it difficult to scale, but not cobots.

Since cobots work alongside humans instead of replacing them, they typically automate fewer processes at once. Consequently, they’re often more affordable than traditional automation and easier to implement. Manufacturers can then automate one process at a time, slowly scaling up to meet demand or new challenges.

This incremental approach to automation removes the high upfront costs and disruptions of traditional automation. As a result, cobots enable manufacturers, especially smaller businesses, to scale up and down with ease. These companies can then enjoy quicker, higher ROIs.

2. IoT Sensors

Another growing innovation in manufacturing is the implementation of internet of things (IoT) sensors. While these technologies aren’t a manufacturing-specific phenomenon, they hold considerable potential in this sector. Perhaps their most popular and impressive use case is predictive maintenance.

Predictive maintenance improves on traditional maintenance schedules by avoiding both breakdowns and unnecessary repairs. According to a Deloitte report, it reduces maintenance costs by 25% on average. That’s an impressive figure on its own, but it also reduces breakdowns by an average of 70%.

Considering that an hour of downtime costs more than $100,000 in 98% of organizations, that adds up to considerable savings. Predictive maintenance isn’t the only application of IoT sensors in manufacturing, either.

Manufacturers can also use these sensors to gather data points throughout their operations. This data can then reveal areas of potential improvement, enabling ongoing optimization. The longer manufacturers use these technologies, the more they can save through them.

3. Additive Manufacturing

One recent innovation that is specific to manufacturing is 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. While this technology is most well known as a tool for hobbyists, it originated as an industrial production technique. Recent advances have made it a more viable solution, leading to a comeback in industrial manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing lets manufacturers produce parts and products as a single piece instead of assembling multiple smaller components. Like mil-spec buffer tubes, which are made of a single piece of aluminum, this improves products’ strength and resiliency. As a result, they produce fewer defects, improving the company’s bottom line.

Since additive manufacturing adds material instead of cutting it away, it also reduces waste. Manufacturers can get more parts or products from the same amount of materials. 3D printers also typically work faster than traditional production techniques, leading to a quicker time to market.

Additive manufacturing is also more energy-efficient. Some products, like car batteries, require a lot of energy to handle the sensitive materials they need, leading to higher costs. By reducing energy consumption through additive manufacturing, facilities can increase their profit margins. Alternatively, they could reduce end prices, selling more with consistent profit margins.

4. 5G Connectivity

Like the IoT, 5G isn’t strictly a manufacturing technology, but it has impressive potential for the sector. 5G networks aren’t widespread enough yet to bring substantial improvements to the consumer sector, but they’re ideal for manufacturing facilities. Their higher bandwidth, increased speeds and lower latency let smart manufacturing reach its full height.

5G networks can theoretically support up to one million devices per square kilometer, ten times 4G’s limits. That will allow manufacturers to expand their IoT infrastructure to virtually every machine in the facility. Lower latencies will allow these interconnected systems to communicate more efficiently and reliably, unlocking Industry 4.0’s potential.

With all of these machines connected to one another, manufacturers could create cohesive autonomous environments. If a disruption occurs in one process, machines down the line could know and adapt to it, minimizing its impact. As a result, manufacturers could maintain higher productivity levels, minimizing their losses from lost time.

5G lets manufacturers use technologies like the IoT and automation to their full extent. This leads to higher ROIs for these significant investments.

5. Machine Vision Error Detection

AI has many use cases in manufacturing, but one of its most enticing is machine vision. Machine vision systems let manufacturers automate quality control processes at both the front and back end of production lines. This automation, in turn, improves the efficiency and accuracy of their error detection.

When Heineken installed a machine vision quality control system in its Marseille, France bottling plant, it highlighted this technology’s benefits. The facility’s bottling machine operates at 22 bottles per second, far too fast for human workers to spot any bottle defects without stopping it. The machine vision system, on the other hand, can analyze bottles at speed with a 0% error rate.

Machine vision error detection lets manufacturers increase production while maintaining the same level of quality. Since these systems deliver a level of consistency impossible for a human, they’re also more accurate. As a result, facilities will also produce fewer defects.

Fewer defects translate into less waste, and faster checking enables increased output. These factors combined result in an improved bottom line.

New Technologies Make Manufacturing More Profitable

These five technologies aren’t the only ones pushing manufacturing forward, but they are among the most notable. As more facilities embrace these innovations, manufacturing is becoming a more profitable industry.

Technologies like these improve efficiency, minimize errors, optimize operations and more. Manufacturers that can capitalize on them early will ensure their future success, and those that don’t may quickly fall behind.