Plenty has been said about big companies investing or reinvesting in manufacturing their products in the United States. However, it’s easy to overlook the impact that the homegrown manufacturing resurgence might have on small businesses. For several industrial small businesses in recent years, the overhead and logistics of “owning” the entire product development process has been too costly. It’s hard enough to keep up with the well-known companies while staying profitable, but the shifting manufacturing landscape might make it easier for small businesses to find their little corner of the market. Here are a few ways they can do that.
- Find a niche and stick to it – Large companies are focused on providing products for the biggest possible customer base, often at the expense of special requests and needs. A small firm can narrow their focus within that huge customer base and focus all their efforts there, providing a specialized, specific product that large firms don’t have the time or resources to which to commit.
- Own the logistics network – While it’s common to source materials and components, the accessibility to specialized technology and equipment is more prominent now than ever. This means small firms can house as many steps of the production process as possible while keeping their overhead minimal. Reduced shipping costs of materials, a lean manufacturing process, quicker trucking routes and more are just a few ways a business can gain more control over logistics.
- Go local – There’s a layer of trust and accessibility a business gains when it is locally or regionally focused. If they’re based near the bulk of their customers, they can respond faster to customer needs, come on-site to consult, and minimize downtime in the purchasing process. Taking this approach can work in the opposite direction by collaborating with local material/part providers to establish a network.This expands to understanding the local climate better than a big manufacturer can. Are there city ordinances and restrictions to consider when doing business? Is there an active community focused around a particular issue? A localized business can better adapt and in grain itself with these issues.
- Be flexible – Expanding on the idea of finding a niche market, offering customization to that niche market makes the small business more valuable. They’re no longer just providing a product to a subset of customers that big manufacturers service, they’re now providing a range of options that make their products truly unique and one-of-a-kind.
- Be a service provider, too – Small manufacturers can establish an even stronger foothold in their market if they not only produce and sell a product but service it as well. That specialization insures consistent internal control from start to finish, an established relationship with the customer, and less downtime while equipment is being serviced.
Small businesses have always been the backbone to the American economy, regardless of their associated industry. With some focus and logistical considerations, small manufacturers could thrive in the coming years. What are some small business industries you’re involved with on a regular basis?
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