Thoughts from SAMA

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I was recently able to attend the San Antonio Manufacturers Association Trade Show & Conference (SAMA). Like all live events I have had the pleasure to attend this year, the predominate takeaway is “we are so glad to be back in person”. That being said, things are still most definitely NOT back to “pre-covid” normal. Here were my key takeaways from talking with folks at the event:

Supply Chain Headaches

Once upon a time, supply chain logistics and optimization were more about “just in time” ordering. If one could have materials available for manufacturing just as you needed them, you were able to keep that capital free until the last possible moment. Those days are unfortunately (at least temporarily) no more. Materials that you used to be able to procure in days or weeks now have runways of months to acquire. To stay competitive in their own delivery, we heard manufacturers turn away from the “just in time” strategy for a ”just in case” strategy, ordering materials well ahead of need.

This in turn, of course, has an impact on purchasers as well. While manufacturers use the insights they have from past purchasing behavior to do their best prediction of need, they don’t have a crystal ball. Things like finishes may become a “you get what you get” or you wait a LONG time.

Resource Shortages

When I take my family out to a restaurant these days, it seems there is always at least a 45-minute wait to be seated despite many open tables. The reason? Not enough wait staff to help. Staffing shortages are ubiquitous these days, and manufacturers are suffering these pains as well.  And less staff means slower delivery (only exacerbating the supply chain issues above).

In this instance, however, manufacturers do have some ability to at least overcome these challenges – not by magically hiring more workers, but by making the workers they do have more efficient. While there are some jobs that require a uniquely human touch, far too much time is wasted in repetitive manual tasks. 

We love to help manufacturers automate those tasks and processes to free up their people to do more of what requires their unique skills and let technology handle the rest. For instance, we are working with one manufacturer that has multiple people that essentially spend their entire day entering purchase orders they get by email or fax into their ERP. By automating this PO processing, those folks will be freed up to actually work with customers to provide a better experience or help sell more.

Support Programs

In addition to service providers such as ourselves, and manufacturers themselves, the next biggest category of folks that I met at SAMA were from government and other support agencies whose mission is to help manufacturers succeed. I was already familiar with some of the programs available (ArgonDigital is a small, minority-owned business ourselves), but there was one specific to manufacturers that I had not heard about previously. Part of the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute for Economic Development, the Southwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (https://swtaac.org/) has a program specifically aimed at manufacturers that have experienced a decline in sales and/or employment levels due to the adverse effects of foreign competition.

If your business has been negatively impacted by global competition, you can qualify for assistance (read as free $) to support all sorts of things to help your business – anything from marketing , employee training, even the types of automation initiatives I described above. If you think your business could benefit, I highly encourage you to reach out to them directly (or if you think we can be of help as well, we’d be happy to coordinate an introduction!). Drop us a line! We’d love to hear from you.

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