by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Autumn is underway and football has returned. October is Manufacturing Month, Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and International Strategic Planning Month. The COVID-19 pandemic and crisis continue to disrupt, alter the course, and force change in what and how we do things as individuals and as businesses. And, the NWIRC remains very active engaging manufacturers through the COVID Recovery Program (CRP) and our core services. Let me take the liberty to use the platform of football to offer some analogies and new realities to connect current times to these October events. In the end, after the fun play on words, my goal as always (in this column) is to provide meaningful insights, ideas, and practices to trigger new thoughts and actions.

Before I do that, in recognition of Manufacturing Month, please join me in a salute to the more than 560,000 manufacturing companies and their nearly 15 million employees across the United States. Perhaps more than ever before, the importance of producing goods in the United States is more fully understood and appreciated. Manufacturing continues to drive economic prosperity and will play a critical role in our economic recovery from COVID-19. In the face of new challenges, manufacturing companies continue to demonstrate incredible resilience, drive innovation, and produce high quality products that we need and desire. Pennsylvania is the 8th largest manufacturing state in the country. Here in our region manufacturing represents about 20% of the economy, which is nearly double what it is in the state and the nation.

Now to the football analogy. Game conditions changed when COVID-19 entered the stadium. For most manufacturers, the pandemic crisis smacked them in the chops without an official’s penalty flag and any consolation to follow. Game plans had to be altered immediately. The luxury of time to implement a new plan, with strategic play calling, went away. To respond to the crisis, manufacturers forfeited the traditional process of drafting a plan, collaborating with staff, revising, collaborating again, conducting a test (practicing), evaluating, and deploying action to improve. Instead, manufacturing companies were forced into a new cadence for Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) and were forced to execute in a 2-minute drill on a regular basis.

We’ve huddled (mostly virtually without face masks) with owners and managers of manufacturing companies to revisit their game (strategic) plans and to perform a current SWOT Analysis. We scouted for and booked double and triple parlay plays designed to leverage Strengths, reduce Weaknesses, seize Opportunities, and address Threats. We scored big tackling all 4 SWOT components on a single strategic play. For example, a company with a high concentration of business in the automotive industry and with only a few key customers (weaknesses), and machine capabilities for high volume part production and capacity to take on customers(strengths), entered new markets in the DOD Supply Chain and won business from other new customers (opportunities), and reduced business sustainment risks (threats) with NIST SP800-171 and CMMC compliance and developing a Business Continuity – Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Plan.

I hope this analogy wasn’t too cheesy and that it triggered some thoughts for actions you can consider for future strategic planning.