We all know life isn’t simple. What we thought we knew one minute could be proven entirely wrong the next minute. Whether that’s predicting anything from what you’ll do during the summer holidays to something as small as predicting who will win the next football match, it’s almost impossible to predict anything in life with a good level of certainty. While it might only cause small problems for you, it can cause big problems for big businesses. Their ability to turn a profit could rely on a number of unpredictable factors going their way throughout the year. For example, outdoor leisure activities only reach their ultimate potential if they have a long, hot summer. If they invest lots of money in their attractions and it ends up raining all year round, they could lose out on a lot of revenue through no fault of their own. The same goes for the winter months. For example, if a manufacturer of grit and de-icer predicts that there will be lots of snow and ice this winter, and it then turns out to be a mild winter, they could well have produced too much of their product. If the product has a short shelf life or can’t be kept until next year, they could find that they have wasted lots of money on manufacturing too much stock, much of which they might have to throw away.
It’s not just the weather that many businesses pin their hopes of a profit on throughout the year. It could be anything from the popularity of a certain trend continuing to another company not coming up with a better or more advanced product to the one you’re selling. Nothing has proven the business’s unpredictable nature other than the coronavirus pandemic that’s occurred in 2020. While many businesses would have prepared a contingency plan to deal with poor weather or a change in their target audience’s mood, it’s highly likely that any company would have prepared to handle the level of disruption caused by the virus and the social distancing rules that have had to be put in place to tackle the virus. The fact is that because many businesses weren’t able to be flexible enough to deal with the sudden loss of revenue, they may have been forced to close their doors for good this year.
In 2021, it’ll be more important than ever for businesses to be flexible in everything they do. With that in mind, here are some of the things businesses should be doing to make sure they’re prepared for any outcome and, most importantly, still able to turn a profit no matter what happens.
Keeping manufacturing processes lean
The word lean can be used to describe a wide number of things. In terms of the human body, it can mean a very muscular body with very little body fat. When it comes to meat, a lean cut could mean one that is packed with more protein and very little fat. When it comes to manufacturing, it has a very similar meaning. Its main purpose is to reduce the waste produced by any brand. The term was created by the car manufacturing industry, but as this article shows, it is now used by a number of completely different industries around the world.
Lean manufacturing helps you adapt to what you’re manufacturing to make the perfect product for them. To use the meat metaphor again, you’re only giving them the juicy bit of meat and not the bit of fat around the side of the steak that many people may just throw in the bin. To get your operation as lean as possible, you first need to identify the value the customer puts on a product. For example, if you’re producing a box of chocolates, you might think the best way to create the best product is to use all of the finest and most expensive ingredients to create different flavors. The only downside to this is that those expensive ingredients will mean you’ll have to sell the product at a much higher price to turn a profit.
If the customer isn’t willing to pay such a high price for a box of chocolates, it’s unlikely that you’ll sell any of the product in its current form. Instead, it’s important to be flexible and review whether there are any ingredients you can remove from the box to help bring down the cost of producing the chocolates and bring down the retail price. Not only will the customer be happier with the price, but you’ll also be happier as you’ve reduced the cost of ingredients. This is only the first of five principles when it comes to lean manufacturing, so once you’ve mastered this one, it’s important to read up on how to master the other steps.
Adapting how the customer receives their product
As well as adapting your product to suit what your customer wants, it’s also important to adapt to how your customers get your products. A few decades ago, these manufacturers’ main priority was to get their brand on the shelves of the big retailers. These big stores held the monopoly of sales of goods until another way of purchasing goods became popular – online shopping. When the internet came along, many businesses rushed to get their businesses online before the rest of their competitors. Not only did they have to set up a website, but they had to photograph and upload photos of every single product they stock and then come up with a way to be able to send all of those products directly to the customer rather than the store. This has been such a huge change that some businesses even had to build new headquarters designed specifically to deal with these online orders.
Most recently, during the coronavirus pandemic, a huge number of businesses had to adapt how they deliver their products. For example, many restaurants around the weren’t allowed to open in their traditional sense. Instead of serving their customers at tables in their restaurants, they had to adapt and instead offered the same meals for customers to take away or have delivered. This isn’t as simple as just handing over the plate to the customer at the door. This meant sourcing enough take out cartons to be able to make sure all of those new orders managed to get to their destination okay. For other businesses, it meant hiring or even retraining their staff to become delivery drivers rather than waiters and waitresses. Even the chefs may have had to adapt what was on the menu, so either suit the slightly different target audience or even make sure their meals still looked and tasted good when they arrived at their destination.
It isn’t just restaurants that have adapted to the pandemic. Many customers now want to choose their products online and be able to simply collect them from the store at a time that suits them. There were many advantages to this during the pandemic. The first is that the customer would have had to spend time mixing with strangers while picking out their products separately in the store. The second is that the customer might have made an unnecessary journey to the store if you didn’t have what they wanted in stock, whereas with a click and collect, they know everything they want is there ready for them. The biggest advantage is that it gives you the convenience of being able to shop online without one of the big pitfalls, the wait for it to be delivered.
While many businesses will have introduced this in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s highly likely that the click and collect process will stick around long after the virus is gone. That’s because even without the virus, people want to be able to use their products as soon as possible. In this quick and busy world we live in, people don’t want to wait at home for a delivery person to deliver their goods. Many people also feel they’re too busy to walk around big stores looking for the products as well, so this service works as the ideal happy medium.
Keep an eye on what your rivals are offering and what your customers need
One thing that will never change is the fact that trends will always come and go. Some trends are almost impossible to predict. For example, it’s highly unlikely that anybody could have predicted the must-have toy from a few years ago would have been a simple fidget spinner. As soon as they were released and became a worldwide craze, both manufacturers and retailers were rushing to be able to offer this new product to their customers. Those stores that were able to get hold of some of the original stock before it sold out will have made lots of money. Not only because they would have sold lots of fidget spinners, but because it’s highly likely those who made a special trip to the store knowing they had the new toy in stock would have probably left with a number of other products as well.