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Ideally, small manufacturers should aim for innovative thinking throughout the organisation – from board members who appreciate the competitive advantage innovation delivers, to innovation champions making it happen at supervisory and managerial level, through to shop floor employees and apprentices offering good ideas, enthusiasm and a fresh pair of eyes. The points below illustrate the importance of an innovative mind-set for small manufacturing businesses.
Innovative small manufacturers are better positioned to meet challenges now and in the future, more so than their conventional competitors. For example, the challenge of a new, low cost entrant in a market sector is a potential threat to any manufacturing business. An creative mind-set gives you the ability to start thinking quickly about responses, like added value through improved service, better functionality and an increased emphasis on quality. Alternatively, with innovation at the core of your business you have the confidence to consider value engineering existing products, to reduce costs and improve function, or go for a more radical solution like new product introduction.
Employees embedded deep within the business can also exercise innovative thinking to make all sort of improvements, which when combined, drive business success. For example, shop floor employees, perhaps working at a production cell or work station, can and should volunteer new and improved ways of doing things. This may include small but significant process improvements, as well as engineering design changes for the product. As such, lean manufacturing and product development through value engineering are at the heart of innovation for small manufacturers. An employee creative mind-set is key to making this happen.
A innovative mind-set gets all employees thinking about how this might be achieved. What can you specifically do differently to make improvements? In addition, employees with an innovative mind-set are more progressive, dynamic and prepared to try something new. The is a refreshing change from risk aversion, cynicism and good old fashioned ‘stick your head in the sand’ and hope the problem goes away. Countless manufacturing firms and whole sectors have perished because they’ve not responded, until it was too late.
Thinking creatively is aided by having an open mind - the very definition of an innovative mind-set. The innovative small business will encourage employees to keep up and be aware of develops in their industry and in others. Horizon scanning and formal continued professional development assist this.
Thinking more broadly about innovation is key to benefiting in full.
5 Practical Tips for More Innovative Thinking
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