Managing Challenges and Frustrations in Manufacturing Start-ups

In the movie Apollo 13, Ed Harris, playing NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, yells to the control room, “failure is not an option!” The movie tagline has since been used by U.S. Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, and, maybe, your boss to attach a sense of imperative to goals and plans.

There are challenges you will face when you start your own manufacturing business – it’s just inevitable. You’re not the first to experience these frustrations, and you certainly won’t be the last. Keep reading for some valuable insights from the seasoned pros at IntoCeramics.

Managing Failure in Manufacturing Plant Start-ups

Success can be relatively easy to manage. However, if you are in the happy position of being sold out, with customers clamoring for more, you will face challenges. Expansion, hiring, permitting, and other things associated with increasing production become urgent. These challenges can be intense, and naturally, you will have to do them uncomfortably quickly. Expansions can be complicated, but the difficulty pales in comparison to the skills needed to manage failures such as a poor plant start-up or a factory closure.

4 Crucial Steps

If you are charged with starting up a new operation, understand that failure is an option, but we can offer the following guidance.

1. Scope – Ground Zero. 

Welcome to Gilligan’s Island! No phone, no lights, no motor cars, not a single luxury! You may well be faced with this in a literal sense. A new facility might not be equipped with an IT network, copying machines, or even pens and pencils. Make an assessment, get the basics, and build from there. Remember that nobody is around to do it for you.

2. But It Works in The Lab?

Of course, it works in the lab, but that doesn’t mean it will work the first time in your brand new factory. You will fight many battles in a plant start-up, but the struggle to convince your R&D team and the top leadership of scale-up issues will be the most important. The only way to convince your R&D team that production situations are not directly scalable is through data.

3. Develop A Strong Support Network.

You don’t have to be alone, but you will be unless you understand the need for a good network. The manufacturing start-up experience is so intense that there will be little time to figure it out as you go. You need places to find answers and resources. Strong relationships with suppliers, the chamber of commerce, and economic development groups are likely candidates for the network. Don’t forget internal resources, either. The homegrown supervisor you just hired to run a sequence might be able to lead you in the direction you need to go to find a fabrication shop or a contract welder.

4. Have an Exit Strategy.

You may give your heart and soul to the start-up company, make good decisions, and bleed company colors but still not be able to make it work for you. Discontent multiplies in this bitter soil, and you will need to recognize the impact on your effectiveness. Be alert and understand that the business plan results should determine your exit, not your emotions.

Learn more about leadership in manufacturing.

Breaking the Cycle of Frustration, Stress, and Failure

In start-up operations, John Maxwell’s principle of “Everything rises and falls on leadership” is paramount.

Start-ups will require you to have an entrepreneurial spirit with high levels of skill and inner resources coupled with a high tolerance for risk. In addition, you will need a strong sense of autonomy, self-control, and optimism. If you don’t possess these characteristics, you may fail — but you will become more resilient with that failure and be better prepared for what the future will bring. If others around you have not yet had the privilege of failing – be warned! Your experience is critical to the organization’s success; without it, the firm has a high probability of failure.

Gain More Insights from the Industry Experts at IntoCeramics

IntoCeramics specializes in manufacturing consulting and ceramic engineering for businesses of all sizes. In addition, our manufacturing leaders are available to provide more stress management advice for business owners. Contact us online for more information today!

In the meantime, check out our educational book, On The Plant Floor: A practical guide to daily leadership in the manufacturing factory.