By Gerry Schneggenburger, Chief Operations Officer & IT Manager, NWIRC

Do you have a 12-month business plan which incorporates data and IT systems improvements? If not, consider this:

  • For your employees who will click on an unknown link within an email, 4 out of 5 will know the risks of doing so
  • It will take your IT staff, or provider, 6 months, on average, to identify a systems breach;
  • Your customer order’s fine print may require cyber, data interchange, and breach communication protocol as basic requirements for doing business with them;
  • Defense, aerospace, medical device, automotive, and energy industries do or will require adherence to international systems standards;
  • The U.S. is experiencing a 250% increase in manufacturing reshoring;
  • Over 55% of businesses reshoring believe IT systems and automation decrease operational costs and improve the economics of localized production (*sources: Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft, and Erlangen-Nuremberg University).

From reactive cyber breaches and insurance premiums to opportunistic automation, many northwest PA manufacturers we visit are somewhere along the above continuum of systems deployment and effectiveness. As a foundation, it’s advisable to ensure effective cyber, network, and applications systems deployment prior to attaining higher level of systems integration and automation. How can manufacturers improve systems effectiveness? By incorporating IT systems goals, project objectives, activities, and required metrics into your 12-month business plan. Just as a new runner needs a plan and new discipline to run a 5K race next summer, your business plan must address baseline customer and regulatory requirements, and can also incorporate advanced systems tactics to keep you differentiated and more operationally effective as compared to competitors.

So – how to start?

  • Ask your employees: What training will be required in the upcoming year? What improvements to existing systems will increase operational effectiveness? What new systems capabilities will improve efficiency and on-time delivery?
  • Push your providers: don’t accept baseline, commodity-like reactive IT systems services, but rather, invite providers into a strategic planning session to help identify industry-wide trends and best practices for your business to consider.
  • Ask an agnostic expert: ever feel like your systems provider has a built-in bias? Like they have a hammer and every need you have is a nail? How about bringing in an expert whose knowledge base is wide enough to point out deficiencies in your existing systems and processes? Such expertise exists and isn’t expensive.
  • Hire a business plan facilitator: perhaps you don’t have time, or have other priorities, so hiring a business facilitator who can square up IT systems needs and desires, help prioritize internal issues and procure assistance to move efforts forward, is a good next step. Plus having an external, fresh set of eyes can sometimes uncover latent issues holding up identification of problems and suggestions for improvement.

If you’d like more information, perspective, or IT systems assistance, don’t hesitate to contact your NWIRC business advisor – we’re here to help!

Gerry Schneggenburger has 30 years of executive business management experience with an IT foundation of systems development, programming, database administration, systems network engineering, and IT lean continuous improvement skillsets.