Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
As we struggle through the shelter-in-place pandemic and wonder how this will change business, we should consider the facts. As New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo often says, “Hope for the best and plan for the worst.” Experts agree that shutting down businesses will result in economic downturn. The only questions are how much, how long, and how I can prepare.
Since the Great Depression, there have been two notable economic downturns: in the early 2000s from both the dot-com collapse and the 9/11 attacks; and then the great recession that started in late 2008 due to the housing crisis and financial institution collapse. Now economists are predicting another recession. The National Association for Business Economics predicts a 26% decline in the second quarter.
Planning for a Decline
History often provides useful information. One thing to research is how the last two economic downturns impacted your in-plant’s business — in other words, how much volume declined and how many staff cuts (if any) you had to make. What we saw during those times were declines in print volumes and staffing between 10%-25%. For the companies we worked with, the staff reductions caused tremendous disruptions as staff struggled to learn how to learn and perform other people’s jobs.
How can you reduce the impact of possible staff cuts? There are two strategies: increase the use of automation and cross-train staff to handle more tasks.
How do you increase automation? Most companies have not taken full advantage of the automation they already use. You may only have a limited number of products in your Web-to-print ordering portal. You may still be using out-of-date hardware or software that could be updated, which could increase your productivity. Employees likely only know a small fraction of the capabilities of the software they use every day.
The other alternative is to fast track a cross-training program. If we look at the two previous downturns, you may find you experienced a 15% decline during the first and a 25% decline in the second recession. How would you react to those two scenarios? How many staff might you lose? Where would that likely occur? What gaps would that create? Who would you cross-train to accept those additional responsibilities? Start a cross-training program.
In does not matter if the worst or best possible downturn occurs. Simply increasing automation and cross-training staff will increase productivity and prepare your facility to operate more efficiently.
On a personal note, I am researching a remote coaching service using a Zoom-type application, maybe one hour a week to talk about issues and work through solutions. For someone whose business has depended on travel, this would be new. I am asking for ideas and feedback from the in-plant community about how that would work. If you have any suggestions, please email me at Howie@howiefentonconsulting.com.
Howie Fenton is an independent consultant who focuses on analyzing/benchmarking the performance of printing operations. Fenton helps companies use metrics, best practices and workflow strategies to streamline operations. Call (720) 872-6339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org