Small manufacturing needs regearing

How could you do small manufacturing in your community?

Gear up small manufacturing in your community

Many people don’t bother to look at manufacturing because they think they cannot be involved or achieve in it anymore. Often this is a mindset and not the reality. A fixed mindset is the belief that the skills and capacity are fundamentally attached to a person’s genetic makeup. Either you have it and are good at it, or you’re not. There are countless products being manufactured in home-based businesses. This bears testament to people becoming more involved in small manufacturing.

Small manufacturing has come a long way in recent years, with  the focus on communities to increase available jobs. The number of manufacturers with less than 10 employees is increasing and will continue to do so as consumers demand more and more unique products. More opportunities are being opened up for small manufacturing. For people willing to tackle exporting and taking advantage of trade agreements and government incentives.

The interest in entrepreneurial activity, as a foundation for economic development, continues to grow across the world at a rapid rate. Various communities are using different tools and methods, but the core concept is still the same. Build nurturing environments for growing small manufacturing businesses.

You must strive to develop local entrepreneurs and encourage investment by home-grown small manufacturing businesses. This is the only way most communities and businesses, can feasibly integrate themselves into the global marketplace of the future.

How are small manufacturing businesses doing?

There are a growing number of smaller manufacturers in many countries around the world. In the United States manufacturing both large and small is responsible for 60% of exports in that country, which is nearly 12 % of the United States gross domestic product. Based on these numbers, it’s plain to see that small manufacturing is a booming business.

By contrast manufacturing in Australia peaked in the 1960s at 25% of the country’s gross domestic product and has since dropped below 10%. An unfortunate consequence of Holden, Toyota and Ford’s decision to cease manufacturing cars in Australia is the negative impression that all local manufacturing is similarly doomed. Yet there are plenty of small local manufacturers that are doing well. You just don’t hear much about them because they are too busy making money.

The things that make small manufacturing more viable today include

  • Information technology and communications.
  • Attitude to creativity and innovation.
  • Making customers the core of your innovative manufacturing business.
  • The market demand for more specialised and niche products.
  • The expertise that is available to help so you can set up and run a manufacturing enterprise.
  • A lack of political will to create more manufacturing and to create new jobs.

Family businesses account for 67% of all Australian’s companies and employ more than half of the workforce. This is where the action is, this is where resources need to be directed. Without large capital expenditure, creating jobs, growth and business prosperity can only come about through increasing entrepreneurial activity.

With a strong focus on innovation and productivity, along with fresh directions for industry policy, change for the better is taking place. Major initiatives being delivered through new government manufacturing strategies will create more opportunities for small manufacturing. Including growing and becoming more productive and competitive in the global marketplace.

Small manufacturing trends and issues

Unlike larger manufacturers, small manufacturing businesses follow different trends when it comes to production. By creating an atmosphere of fast and agile production schedules in combination with product customisation. Smaller manufacturers are able to prosper and compete with larger businesses.

Unfortunately, academics and governments still tend to discuss how global forces shape the choices you need to make. About your communities and job creation, rather than the needs of the real people who live there. It’s great to think in terms of ‘regional development’ and ‘economic strategies’. But it is the individual choices and actions that are the primary drivers, which require a catalyst.

In order to keep production costs low, smaller manufacturers are following the made-to-order trend. Instead of building up an inventory, small manufacturers are making products on demand. This allows smaller manufacturing to customise products with each new order while avoiding overstock situations. In addition, the made-to-order trend also allows small manufacturing to decrease supply chain costs by not over ordering raw materials and components.

A manufacturing comeback is being driven by  the cloud, social, mobile, analytics and robotics. These things are becoming an essential technology toolkit for small manufacturing. The need to innovate is forcing cultural change within a historically conservative industry. These new advances are helping early adopters in small manufacturing to increase efficiencies and adapt to changes in their marketplace.

Examples of a small manufacturing business 

Despite economic conditions, small manufacturing businesses of all kinds are opening their doors and finding success along the way. Here are just a few ideas for small manufacturing:

  • Making specialise confectionary.
  • Making toys.
  • Building specialised machinery so important for local farmers.
  • Designing and building prosthetics for specialised use.
  • Designing and building aids for the growing older generation.
  • Making special furniture for disadvantaged people.
  • Utilising local timbers and other raw materials because you have easy access to them.
  • Creating new products for home-based and lifestyle businesses.
  • Setting up a 3D Printing service while manufacturing products for other businesses.
  • Building robots to solve a problem in your community.
  • Making new products for the emerging middle-class across the world.

What examples do you have in your community that can lead the way to start more small manufacturing businesses?

Setting your manufacturing goals 

Continuous innovation has to be a priority for small manufacturing. Bigger companies can quickly copy products and encroach on other markets. Innovation comes in many forms. Including technology, product development, management and marketing strategies along with greater use of design principles to enhance product value. These activities are not always mutually exclusive. The introduction of new manufacturing processes involving robots or 3D printing can require modifications to the business model and value chain.

In stimulating small manufacturing in your community some questions to ask

  • Is your region’s economy struggling to grow, so what could you manufacture to get things moving?
  • Are business opportunities being missed, because if they are your community will eventually suffer?
  • Are there opportunities that could be acted upon, given new capital so they can be implemented?
  • Does your region have a growth strategy, if not why not, is it due to the negative outlook of the community?
  • Does your region lack diversity?
  • Do young people leave because there is no future for them?
  • Do older people leave because of limited services for them?
  • Are you retaining visitors and making use of passing expertise so manufacturing can be stimulated?

By avoiding such manufacturing pitfalls as overproduction and poor scheduling. Smaller manufacturing businesses are better able to continuously meet sales, growth and profit goals. With small manufacturing businesses  generally increasing their quality control standards, there are fewer manufacturing defects. This allows smaller manufacturers to more accurately meet their budgeting goals. This is achieved by avoiding costly production problems and the resulting customer dissatisfaction.

Being “Investor Ready’ can stop the struggle small manufacturing business can have. Investor Ready is about building a real business, and getting it into the ‘fair dinkum’ department with real products and real management in place along with all the necessary facilities and equipment needed to get the job done. Luck favours the prepared business and this does not happen overnight. It will take many hours over many months. Of course, it will take longer if you don’t have access to expertise and your systems are not in place.  Become Investor-Ready and get lucky,

Organise the small manufacturing potential in your community

The job of the community leaders is to promote awareness of growth opportunities and help people to go beyond their limiting beliefs. Training and encouragement can help people strive beyond their perceived limits and make  a start in going down the manufacturing path. Community leaders who promote growth mindsets will find that their community becomes more learning-oriented and adaptive. This is crucial to job creation in the 21st-century.

Look for niche markets

A clear feature for many successful small manufacturers is the fact that they tend to operate in niche markets. But being niche doesn’t mean they are necessarily small. Cochlear Limited, for example, makes the bionic ear. A highly specialised, niche product that provides hearing to the profoundly deaf. In 30 years of operation, the company has grown to employ 2,700 people worldwide with 800 manufacturing employees. Many of whom are based in Australia.

On a smaller scale, but with a similar upward growth trajectory are Røde Microphones, A private company that makes high-quality microphones for the world market. The company employs around 200 people and recently doubled its Sydney-based manufacturing facility. Strong export growth over the last decade has also been seen in scientific and medical instruments and pharmaceuticals. These examples demonstrate that Australian firms can compete globally.


Can you learn the secrets of small manufacturing success?


Can you generate ideas and help arrest the overall decline in manufacturing’s contribution to employment and the economy? You bet you can. However, it will take a team effort in local areas to identify and support initiatives. Businesses meeting on purpose to do this will be the successful ones. Many just need a catalyst and reassurance that they can be a small manufacturer, making money and having fun. In a dying community, entrepreneurship needs to be stimulated with action. Rhetoric and talk-fests are a thing of the past.

Quotable quotes

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you are already good at doing, you will never grow”. Peter Sergeant

 “There are many experts on how things have been done up to now. If you think something could use a little improvement, you are the expert”. Robert Brault

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