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4 ways to take advantage of modern manufacturing trends

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Big companies are in a bit of a bind currently with ongoing trade issues and environmental impact, so wouldn’t local manufacturers be the way to go?

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A lot of trends are impacting the world economy and the manufacturing sector in 2020. We don’t always get to choose our circumstances, but we do choose how we react to them.

The following is a rundown of the four biggest trends affecting manufacturers today. Knowing how to meet these challenges — and when a problem is an opportunity in disguise — could be the key to survival in increasingly competitive markets.

Here’s how companies can weather ongoing and future changes and come out the other side stronger than ever.

1. Domestic Sourcing and Manufacturing

Multiple reasons exist for why domestic sourcing and manufacturing are trending right now in the United States. One is the environment — shorter supply chains lead to smaller carbon footprints. Another is ongoing trade tensions making international freight more complicated than it needs to be.
To figure out if switching to domestic sourcing of materials and local manufacturing makes sense, businesses have some questions to ask themselves. Domestic production is making a comeback because of higher buyer control and potentially lower costs. However, determining real-world ROI is more complicated. It requires an understanding of factors such as:

  • How large is a typical run for your company? Overseas manufacturers often require larger batches. This process, in turn, requires the storage of more inventory than you might want.
  • Is the product light or heavy? Transporting cumbersome items over a distance is more resource- and labor-intensive than shipping smaller ones.
  • How much collaboration do you require with your suppliers and manufacturing partners? Speaking the same language and having the option to visit a factory are major advantages.

2. Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

Additive manufacturing has the potential to change the game for small and large companies completely. The ability to quickly prototype new product designs or fabricate replacement parts in-house is exceptionally enticing for manufacturers. However, these are just a hint of the advantages.

Research points to a potential 41 to 74% energy savings for 3D printing compared to traditional large-scale manufacturing techniques, such as injection molding. Manufacturers that incorporate 3D printing into their operations may also reduce waste and improve productivity and efficiency.

Not every company produces the types of consumer goods for which 3D printers are best suited. Several questions should come up before adopting additive manufacturing, including whether 3D printing-based “manufacturing-as-a-service” is a better way forward.

Is the part highly complex? Does it require post-processing? Current 3D printers don’t always play well with highly convoluted shapes and may require post-processing that would occur in CNC machining anyway. How much assembly is required? It may be tempting to 3D-print one consolidated part instead of assembling five separately machined ones. However, 3D printing large pieces can be much more expensive than manufacturing them separately and assembling after.

Is the company not yet ready to purchase a 3D printer? Manufacturing-as-a-service could be the path forward for many companies that lack capital but not creative vision. Rolls-Royce was one of the first to offer industrial services on a per-use basis, but 3D printing is revolutionizing the concept thanks to collaboration tools, such as the easy exchange of digital blueprints.

3. The Industrial Internet of Things

The Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, is bringing smart manufacturing to the masses. Smart manufacturing refers to networks of digital and physical systems that make industrial data available anywhere and anytime it’s needed.

Many examples exist of how the IIoT delivers value to manufacturers. These instances include gathering equipment data in real-time to spot trouble and avoid downtime, tool monitoring to maximize product quality and consistency and the means to track and reduce energy usage across a facility or supply chain.

Choosing and implementing the right connected equipment and IIoT products isn’t always straightforward. It requires close attention to factors. Compatibility and interference, for instance, bring new connected devices onto the factory floor and require input from engineers who understand how different devices connect as well as how they can interfere with one another. LCD screens are standard in human-machine interfaces, but choosing low-quality components can introduce interference and other unpredictable behavior.

Physical and cybersecurity is also a point of concern. Not every IoT vendor takes safety seriously. Connected factory equipment requires new levels of training and vigilance. Physical assets should have reliable access controls to avoid purposeful or accidental tampering. Plus, all data transmitted off-site should be encrypted first.

4. The Skilled Labor Shortage

Estimates claim that around 2.4 million skilled and semi-skilled manufacturing positions could remain unfilled by 2028. This trend will continue to impact companies throughout the coming years if they don’t figure out how to turn the situation to their advantage.

If manufacturers find their way back to the apprenticeship model and other forms of onsite training, they can attract not just potential talent, but engaged expertise. Studies show that workers are likelier to stay with companies that invest in their development.

Manufacturers can also set themselves apart from the competition in the eyes of job-seekers by working closely with universities and trade schools. This strategy could open the door to students earning credits and degrees onsite instead of in classrooms. Jim Nelson, a VP at the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, says, “Every job should have a pathway to a bachelor’s degree. But not every job starts there.”

Plus, smart automation on the factory floor can pick up the slack during downturns in talent availability without displacing existing workers. Robotic inspections outperform human inspectors while allowing management to lift employees into more rewarding, more challenging, less repetitive positions.

Manufacturing in Flux in the Wake of New Trends

More than ever, success in manufacturing requires a careful balance of humanity, culture and technology. Companies with the right approach can benefit from these positive trends and learn to see the less-favorable ones as opportunities for reinvention.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Marketing

10 must-listen-to podcasts for business owners

(MARKETING) If you’re a business owner and want to learn something…anything…give one (or all) these podcasts a listen.

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As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.

From interviews with business leaders to industry-specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.

This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.

How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.

Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.

The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.

The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly popular show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.

StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.

The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.

One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America, and more.

Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.

Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further than Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.

Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.

One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.

The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real-world applications and cover everything from marketing to technology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.

This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.

This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo, or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.

The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.

This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.

Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help, and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.

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Business Marketing

Why your coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

Market your side hustle with these 6 tips

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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