Customers love businesses that cater to their needs, wants, and choices, and there’s no better way to capitalize on this and build trust than by switching to an agile manufacturing strategy. Agile manufacturing is the practice of rapid consumer response — in other words, addressing the exact needs and wants of your customers quickly, based on ongoing feedback and consumer requests.
Agile Manufacturing Elements
As an agile manufacturer, you should base your manufacturing strategy around the following elements:
- Modular product design: building products that you can customize and implement variations on quickly, quenching your customer’s thirst for gratification without sacrificing speed.
- Information technology: swift communication between departments and employees to ensure the fastest order fulfillment possible.
- Corporate partnerships: mutually-beneficial relationships with suppliers, advertisers, and other B2B parties that can help you bring your products to market faster.
- Knowledge culture: employee training that focuses on flexibility and change in the manufacturing process.
When you build your business on these four pillars, you have a solid foundation for creating, manufacturing, and distributing products that your customers are excited to order and receive. You should also have a strong focus on quality and attention to detail, which sets your local business a notch above offshore competition, and makes your status as a local business a distinct advantage rather than a cost liability.
Tips for Success
Once you have the foundational elements in place, it’s time to start designing and sending out products. Here are some tips for making your first agile product a success.
- Modify an existing product. Do you sell candles? Add a custom swirl option, where the customer can add three swirled fragrances and put their own scent name on it. Many common products can be fully personalized without extending the manufacturing process beyond a day or two, making them perfect for agile.
- Don’t force it if it doesn’t work. If you don’t already have products and materials that lend themselves to agile manufacturing, then go back to the drawing board and create a new product that does work, rather than forcing variations onto a product that doesn’t need them.
- Fill a niche. If your market is already oversaturated with personalized candles, then agile candle-making may not be the most financially sound move. Find a product that isn’t commonly available in agile form and put a personal spin on it. Perhaps etched coffee mugs, blend-your-own tea flavours, or custom bath bomb blends are your calling.
- Communicate with your customers. Conduct research and ask your audience what options and variations they want to see. Customers love seeing that you added a special variation just for them, and they’re likely to reward you with their loyalty to your brand.
- Love your suppliers. Develop a close relationship with your materials suppliers by paying your bills on time, negotiating deals, and placing regular orders. The more consistent your materials are, the less time your customers spend waiting for their modular products to arrive.