Manufacturing Planning in an Unpredictable World

September 9, 2022 | Iowa Manufacturing Mike O'Donnell, Iowa State University CIRAS,

Our fourth consecutive year of major uncertainty amplifies the challenge of planning in manufacturing.

Too many questions remain regarding the economy, inflation, interest rates, supply chains, and geopolitical issues to know what 2023 will look like. One technique to help prioritize is to think past the uncertainty: In 2026, what will you wish you did in 2023?

Our assessment of the state of manufacturing in Iowa identifies some key needs leaders need to address now to thrive in 2026:

  1. Focus your workforce efforts on two to three initiatives that you can do well. Targeted initiatives with company-wide engagement such as changing your shift policies to meet working parent needs are more effective than scattered initiatives hoping for a win.
  2. Build your leadership pipeline. There are 15% fewer Iowans between the ages of 45-55 than 55-65. As the latter group begins to retire, leaders will have to reach for less experienced people to fill key executive positions.
  3. Reprioritize Growth. Manufacturers released fewer new products and shifted away from export markets during the past two years. Re-investing in long term growth opportunities will improve resiliency.
  4. Invest in flexible technology. Technology is continuing to accelerate, so when choosing technology investments, look for solutions that are designed for connectivity and upgrades.

We may not know what 2023 has in store for manufacturing, but we do know that continuing to build your foundation will help you respond to whatever comes next.