Do you have a secret weapon?

Do you have a secret weapon?

I re-read Sun Tzu every couple years – not in the original form – but in the “Sun Tzu and the Art of Business” version by Mark McNeilly (it’s much more accessible).  I find it a useful thought starter to agitate around the degrees of freedom that we have to create winning outcomes.

I’ve always felt that digital manufacturing particularly lends itself to being used in really creative ways to shift the battlefield and flank the competition.

For many, manufacturing is a baseline activity.  It is executed to minimize cost with innovation stifled as a by-product (but ironically costs often hidden inside workflow).  

The counter to this strategy is to embrace the agility of digital devices and workflows – be it a printing device, laser engraver, XY cutter, or shipping workflow – to create innovation that adds value to your offer and flanks the competition, but which does not add variable cost.

Rather than it being all about standardization, digital workflows (note you do need a really good digital manufacturing platform) can be used to put pressure on competitors in a number of ways:

  1. Know your range and margins (maximize intelligence).  So many firms understand their margins only as an average instead of being able to define their products as Stars, Cash Cows and Dogs. By truly understanding range performance, the firm’s efforts can be correctly focused.
  2. Enhance the offer (avoid competitor strengths and attack weakness) and offer new levels of personalization in workflow -I’ll write on this in detail at another time – but there are many rule based options in workflow to offer new levels of branding, packaging and insertions
  3. Expand the range (change the battlefield). We are evolving from “print on demand” to being “digital on demand” firms.  Our core capability is handling agile workflows driven by a digital file – we are no longer limited by substrates in defining who we are
  4. Manufacture faster to ruthless quality (speed of execution advantage) translates to being able to achieve a service advantage that can be backed with a guarantee that others simply can’t make

So, the core message this week is to not see manufacturing as a black box run by a capable Production Manager, but rather a place of creativity, a source of advantage.

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is the CEO of ZenSmart, a leading workflow automation platform that streamlines manufacturing in On Demand plants across the world.



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