At the Finishing '01 show, everyone was wondering when the economy would return. While the stagnating economy has been painful for many in the finishing industry, the slowdown can be an opportunity. Those companies that view the slowdown as a chance to improve their business will be the ones that fare better when the economy returns.
Like people, companies tend to over-emphasize their strengths and overlook their weaknesses. This is especially true when business is booming. When revenue is growing and profits are substantial, it is hard to see the factors that are keeping both numbers from being even greater.
But, this downturn in the economy is the perfect opportunity to put your strengths in check and improve your weaknesses. So, what should you be doing now?
Since business will pick up at some point, this is a good time to evaluate new equipment or coatings you might want to purchase or use when the economy returns. While everyone is always busy, it is much harder to take your attention away from what you are doing when there is a never-ending stream of parts to finish. Plus, doing this kind of evaluation can give you a leg up on the competition that is only making capital equipment plans when they have the money.
This is also a good time to evaluate your manufacturing process, especially for those shops that are sending employees home because there aren't any parts to finish. When business is thriving, employees are often too focused on getting the product out the door to properly evaluate process alternatives. So, instead of sending employees home, have them brainstorm and experiment with ways they can make their department more efficient.
Slow business cycles are also an opportunity to challenge any "sacred cows" the company might have. Are you taking a job because you have always finished parts for that company? Are you finishing parts in a particular industry because you have always serviced it? Should you be focusing on an industry that you don't currently finish parts for?
Sometimes employees don't feel that they are accomplishing anything when performing these activities. But, they can make a significant impact on the company when business picks up again. Plus, it's usually easier to do them when business is slow than when you're working at a breakneck pace.