QMS International. At the start of 2021 many of us were hoping that things would soon go back to normal, but the lingering effects of the pandemic have meant that many organisations have continued to struggle to get back on their feet. As the year draws to a close, now is therefore the perfect time to take stock and lay down the foundations for a stronger 2022. But what should be on your checklist?
1. Review and reflect
Before you set new ambitions plans or targets in place, it is vital to look back on the year and review your successes, shortcomings and lessons learned. This information can then be used to inform your strategy going forward, helping you to improve your business’ performance.
Make sure that any lessons or new solutions that have been found are clearly communicated to the rest of your business. This will boost efficiency and ensure the same mistakes aren’t made in other business operations.
2. Think about employee retention
The manufacturing and engineering sectors have been plagued by a skills shortage for a number of years. Even in 2019, the British Chambers of Commerce revealed that 81% of manufacturers questioned were struggling to find people with the right experience and qualifications. This shortage has been compounded by the so-called ‘Great Resignation’, which has seen thousands of workers walk away from their jobs in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Putting aside some time to think about your current workforce should therefore be a key part of your checklist. To build loyalty with your workforce, think about communicating a clear vision to them, sharing your ambitions for the business and where it could go in the next few years. Make sure you highlight how their individual roles will contribute towards this success to illustrate their importance and value in the business.
To avoid gaps when people leave, try to create a new recruitment policy which proactively looks for talented people. This will prevent a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction when a notice is handed in and will reduce the risk of having essential roles lying vacant when your business can ill afford it.
3. Time to innovate
By reviewing the strengths and weakness of your current business you can begin to identify opportunities to improve it. This can involve making things more efficient, for example, but it can also help you to spot areas to innovate.
Digital transformation could be one of the areas you may want to investigate. The fourth industrial revolution is becoming reality for more and more manufacturers and engineering companies, and this means you may need to look at increased digitisation sooner rather than later. A report by manufacturing consultancy HSSMI (From survive to thrive: a pathway to digital transformation) warned that UK manufacturers need to accelerate their adoption of digital technology in order to avoid being left behind.
By implementing greater digitisation and data mining, you can uncover inefficiencies more easily, decrease errors and complete more timely maintenance, all of which will aid stronger business performance in the future.
4. Time to train
Another essential part of your checklist is planning and coordinating training for the next year. Assessing and ensuring competence is a key requirement of quality management systems such as ISO 9001 because it is so important for maintaining strong and consistent business performance. Recruitment difficulties and the potential of greater digitisation also mean that you are likely to have gaps in the skills of your workforce, which could be filled with training.
As part of your checklist, you should therefore create a skills matrix which highlights all of the skills of each member of your staff. This will reveal where you have gaps and guide you to the kind of training that may be required.
5. Examine procurement
Supply issues have dominated 2021 and look likely to linger. Indeed, two-thirds of companies surveyed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reported that shortages of components would continue to impact production for the next three months. This is the highest proportion of businesses who have recorded supply chain warnings since 1975, a year of large-scale strike action.
Re-examining your procurement processes and accepted supplier list should therefore be an important part of your 2022 checklist.
6. Look at customer satisfaction
A business is nothing without happy customers, which is why the gathering and analysing of feedback is such an important part of quality management systems.
Take the opportunity now to review customer feedback and identify any shortcomings. If you don’t collect feedback, you can use this time to plan a survey of your current customers so that you can gather ideas for better service. For instance, perhaps they would like a customer-facing portal so that they can review orders without needing to pick up the phone.
7. Think about sustainability
The Race to Zero is underway and industries such as manufacturing, and engineering are only going to come under more pressure to do something to contribute to the country’s carbon reduction.
Start planning a review of your business’ operations so that you can assess their environmental impact. This will reveal what your business can do to control these impacts and improve its green credentials. You may also want to review your energy supplier to see if you can switch to renewable sources for a much smaller carbon footprint in 2022.
8. Think about quality management systems
To create a robust framework of processes that can help you to work through this checklist and much more, you may want to investigate taking the next step and implementing a quality management system such as ISO 9001.
With a strong focus on leadership, resources, communication, customer feedback and the identification and solution of errors, a QMS could give your engineering or manufacturing business the strong footing it needs to get 2022 off to a fantastic start.
Claire Price, QMS International