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Leadership in Crisis: How Frontline Leadership Can Steer Manufacturers Through Uncertain Times

Frontline Leadership

The global manufacturing landscape is no stranger to crises. Challenges are intrinsic to the industry, from supply chain disruptions to legislative changes to market volatility.

However, amidst these challenges lies the potential for resilience and innovation, often driven by frontline leadership.

Manufacturers lean heavily on their frontline supervisors and managers. They are the most connected to the day-to-day production ups and downs, managing the shop floor’s systems, processes, and people.

But as a senior operations leader, have you equipped them with the skills they need to perform at their peak without burning out during a production crisis?

Here’s our list of best practices to help you equip frontline leaders to steer their teams toward stability during uncertain times.

1 Foster Agile Decision Making

The actionable step: Empower your frontline leaders. They’re on the ground and can make real-time decisions when facing production challenges or potential bottlenecks. Implement a decentralized decision-making framework, with the proper tools and training, allowing those closest to the action to make quick calls that can be critical to performance.

2 Prioritize Transparent Communication

The actionable step: Establish regular check-ins. Whether it’s daily huddles or weekly team updates, consistent communication can keep everyone aligned. Use these sessions to share updates, address concerns, and ensure the input and feedback of every team member feels valued, and they come away feeling informed.

3 Invest in Continuous Training

The actionable step: Identify knowledge and skills gaps. Use online training platforms or organize in-house training sessions to upskill your teams. Crisis often demands new skills, whether troubleshooting a new machine or understanding a different part of the supply chain. By equipping your team with the necessary skills, you’re not just preparing them for the crisis but for the post-crisis world. Often, this is where an outside consulting firm, experienced in your industry, can provide an objective perspective and a training and development program to boost performance.

4 Leverage Technology for Real-time Data

The actionable step: Introduce or optimize the use of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) or similar platforms on your shop floor. These systems and other management operating systems can provide real-time data on production metrics, allowing frontline leaders to identify and address inefficiencies instantly. This real-time data can inform critical decision-making on the production line and maximize uptime.

5 Promote Collaboration

The actionable step: Break down information hierarchies and silos. Encourage departments to collaborate, share insights, and brainstorm solutions together. This cross–functional and often cross-departmental collaboration could be through weekly huddles, team meetings, or even digital collaboration platforms. The more minds working on a problem, the more holistic the solutions will be.

6 Adapt and Overcome with Scenario Planning

The actionable step: Organize brainstorming sessions to identify potential supply chain, maintenance, resource planning, or other production risks and map out scenarios. For each scenario, develop a response strategy and plan. This best-practice ensures the organization isn’t caught off guard but has a blueprint to handle various challenges like changes in demand, input shortages, labor challenges, or other resource areas vital to production.

7 Foster a Resilient Mindset

The actionable step: Organize workshops focused on building resilience. Equip your frontline leaders with tools and strategies to manage stress, handle unprecedented challenges, and inspire their teams even during tough times. Keeping up with customer demand, production targets, resource planning, scheduling, and more can overload even your brightest frontline leaders. Ensure you check in with how they manage the stress of the job and mitigate any issues before they worsen.

8 Ensure Safety and Well-being

The uncertainty of a crisis can take a toll on your employees’ mental and physical health.

The actionable step: Regularly review and update safety protocols. Consider introducing wellness programs or resources to support employees’ mental health on the job. Employees who feel respected, listened to, and cared for are more likely to contribute effectively.

9 Strengthen Supplier Relationships

During a crisis, the supply chain can become vulnerable for manufacturers.

The actionable step: Regularly engage with critical suppliers. Understand their challenges and collaboratively identify ways to ensure smooth operations. This might mean diversifying suppliers, renegotiating contracts, or exploring local sourcing options.

10 Embrace Feedback and Iterate

Feedback, especially during challenging times, is gold. It provides insights into what’s working and what’s not.

The actionable step: Create an open channel for feedback from all levels of the organization. Consider anonymous feedback tools or regular surveys. But more importantly, act on this feedback. Iterate processes, make necessary changes and continually optimize.

Conclusions for Manufacturing Leaders

In conclusion, while the manufacturing landscape might be riddled with challenges, especially during a crisis, there is immense potential for growth, innovation, and resilience. The key lies in effective frontline leadership – leaders who are empowered, equipped, and engaged. By following the actionable steps above, manufacturing firms cannot only navigate the storm but also emerge stronger, ready to take on the opportunities of the post-crisis world.

The POWERS Difference

POWERS is a dedicated, experienced, results-driven team of manufacturing productivity consultants, uniquely positioned at the intersection of operational performance and an engaged workforce. We partner with growth-oriented manufacturers to cultivate a work environment of operational excellence that fuels productivity, drives efficiency, strengthens competitive advantage, and improves profitability.

Leveraging our deep industry expertise and innovative methodologies, we build synergies between people and processes, creating holistic, sustainable, and scalable change that translates into measurable business outcomes, increased competitive advantage, greater value, and a stronger bottom line.

POWERS remains committed to assisting manufacturing enterprises in realizing their operational potential. Our expert team is at your service for highly customized strategies and insights tailored to the unique needs of your business. 

To put our experienced team and proven track record to work for you, schedule an initial discovery and analysis by calling +1 678-971-4711 or emailing us at info@thepowerscompany.com.

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