It probably goes without saying that door and window manufacturers learned a lot in the past few years, as we dealt with the pandemic and its aftereffects. Supply chain issues, hot demand, sky-high lead times … you probably don’t need me to remind you. We worked through it together. And amidst these challenges, there was opportunity, including increased sales and the drive to optimize production from top to bottom in order to stay successful.

As of mid-2023, things have settled down. Demand has slowed but has nevertheless remained healthy. Supply chains may have not returned to “normal,” but they’re more manageable than a year and a half ago. These aren’t reasons to let our attention to operational excellence lapse. And it’s worth asking how—if possible—can we still improve? That brings me to today’s tips (that’s right—there’s three this time):

Apply a continuous improvement mindset to your logistics.

Supply chain woes forced every manufacturer to become more fluid, dynamic and efficient in their efforts to optimize inventory. You probably sharpened your understanding of the raw materials you use each day. You may know how to better minimize waste to maximize what you have available and you might be more in tune with the everyday demands of your customers.

These skills will continue to serve you well no matter the market conditions, and they’re worth your continued attention and investment. Your ongoing success depends on it.

Take full advantage of your equipment.

The benefits of automated equipment are well established: less labor, better quality and consistency, and higher production numbers. But for some organizations, higher volume might not be a huge motivator and may not be the goal if demand has slowed.

In terms of operational efficiency, though, the benefits are real and clear-cut. An automated line can help you better predict waste and how many units you can produce during a shift. Taken together, these things can grant you deeper insight into how much raw material you’re likely to use during a shift—it’s another way to improve your logistics focus. You’ll also be paid back in quality and labor benefits.

Forge clear and open lines of communication.

As an organization, a major part of your success is, of course, keeping your customers happy. This often involves getting them the products they need, when they need them.

Needless to say, this had oftentimes been a challenge over the past few years as lead times were stretched. In challenging scenarios like these, keeping clear and open lines of communication is essential to setting the right expectations with your customers. The same is true in the opposite direction. Working closely with your suppliers and maintaining a clear picture of what they’ll be able to deliver for you are essential to setting the right expectation for the customer. All of this remains true whether or not an unprecedented supply chain crisis is happening. Strong relationships that you can rely on are forged with open and honest communication.

There are valuable lessons to be taken away from the pandemic and its fallout, and it’s worth their continued application to maintain a commitment to organizational excellence.

John Ryba is Technical Services Manager for Quanex.

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