As disruption and change continue to race into your plant at hyper-speed, there are six key elements that will drive your heat-treating operation and determine your success in the coming decade. The 2020s will be the largest economic boom in our history, and you will miss the opportunity to succeed like never before if you aren’t prepared.

These six drivers will penetrate every industry. Your ability to recognize these drivers and build a plan to leverage them as opportunities, not challenges, will be the difference between succeeding in the next decade or being pushed aside. Here are the six elements that will be the difference makers.


Driver #1: Know Your Ultimate End User 

In 2020 and beyond, the customer is EVERYTHING. Now that we all live in a review, rating and recommendation society where customers are so interconnected and can share their experience in one post or video, your company’s success can change on a dime. Customers’ needs, wants and buying habits are constantly shifting … and shifting fast.

Because the supply chain is so connected electronically with Industry 4.0 business models, customer buying-habit shifts can cause immediate changes in business models throughout the supply chain in a short period of time. It is critical that your plant has a keen understanding of who the ultimate end user of your product or service is. The ultimate end user is your customers’ customer. Knowing these buying-habit changes will give you an advantage in shifting your business model ahead of the competition to stay ahead of change.


Driver #2: Constant Culture of Innovation

Many books have been written on the complexities of innovation. I like to always keep innovation simple because it really is simple in my opinion. In a decade where customers will reign supreme, your company needs to analyze the following three questions on a consistent basis:

  • What is desirable to our customers?
  • What is viable in the marketplace?
  • What is possible with technology?

If your company is paying attention to driver #1, ask these three questions throughout the year and evolve with your customers’ needs. This will put you on the front end of innovation and disruption.


Driver #3: Dynamic Work Culture

With the unemployment rate now at 3.5%, you cannot afford to lose any of your current employees. The most recent figures show that there are now over 1.5 million more jobs available than there are unemployed people. This means that your company must be a workplace that people enjoy on a consistent basis. If not, people will leave, and there are unlimited job opportunities now available to them.

Studies show that people aren’t leaving their companies … they’re leaving their bosses. You can’t afford to have a management team with zero people skills. Management needs to be trained on how to deal effectively with conflict, communication, leadership and coaching skills so they create an environment where workers feel valued. The current labor shortage will continue for most of the 2020s. Companies that thrive in the next decade will have a dynamic work culture that embraces the next generation.


Driver #4: Become a Smart Company

We used to talk about all the futuristic technology that was coming to our world. Well, the future is here with smart phones, smart cars and smart homes. Is your company a “smart company?” The Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 are changing and connecting every aspect in the supply chain – horizontally and vertically. With the labor-shortage problem, the only way any company will grow in the next decade is to become a smart company. This happens by implementing Industry 4.0 and the IoT and connecting the following five key components in your business.

  • People
  • Machines/equipment
  • Processes
  • Technology
  • Data/information

It is important that your plant embraces Industry 4.0 and the IoT if you want to compete at the highest levels in 2020 and beyond.


Driver #5: Phenomenal Customer Experience

As I mentioned earlier, we live in a rating, review and recommendation society where customer experience at every level matters. It is important that EVERY employee understand your company’s value to the customer so it is projected and displayed with every interaction. It has to start with the first moment you connect with your customer as a prospect all the way through the delivery of your service. Bottom line: If you take great care of your customer, everything else in business becomes really easy.  


Driver #6: Rapid Planning Process

The next decade promises to deliver change at a pace that we have never seen before. It is important you have a rapid planning process through which you can analyze where change is happening and evolve with it.

The days of year-end leadership retreats to build an annual plan and budget are gone. Companies need to think in terms of quarterly assessments, looking at their 6-8 key metrics that tell them if the company is running in the right direction or not. If not, identify the gaps quickly, change and execute with excellence. Companies who are not nimble in their decision-making process will be challenged to compete in the next decade because of how fast disruption happens in every industry.



My hope for your heat-treat operation is that you are executing a plan to implement these six elements into your business model. The next 10 years are going to provide great economic opportunity to those companies who evolve ahead of change and disruption. Will you be ready?