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How Small Product Companies Can Adapt to an Ever-Changing Supply Chain

If you’re a small manufacturing company or product maker, you’ve likely felt pressures related to supply chain disruptions in recent years — whether you’ve experienced material delays, felt the pinch of increasing costs and labor shortages, or been impinged by limited warehouse space. You’re also likely hyper-aware that supply chain disruptions are unavoidable — and that you are more vulnerable to them than larger companies.

So how can Idaho’s small manufacturers and product companies prepare for and adapt to these kinds of disruptions, especially as concerns mount regarding a possible recession?

We asked three of our partners — leaders at Idaho-based companies who are product and supply chain experts — to weigh in. Here are their insights.

Gabe Bentz, CEO, Slant 3D

How can Idaho product companies/manufacturers recession-proof their businesses?

“This is the time for optimization over large amounts of innovation. Refine and perfect what you have and what you do before chasing something new.

Know what you know and control what you can control. Development of a product is sometimes based on hope. But in a recession, nobody wants anything. Unless the innovation is necessary for your survival, then I would optimize it because you know what it is and how to make it and how much money you can have moving forward. Make sure the house is built well. Make sure you have a handle on what you do and how you do it. Now’s a great time to do that because there is uncertainty about the future and you want to make as much predictable as possible.”

How does Slant 3D help these companies if they are running into recession- or inflation-related problems?

“Our fundamental offering is to eliminate the need for molds and warehousing which are large — and upfront — costs. And, because 3D printing is so flexible (and on-demand) we can produce 3,000 parts per week as opposed to 10,000 per quarter. It reduces the capital allocation needed for businesses to maintain or create new products.”

commercial 3d printing
Because 3D printing is flexible (and done on-demand), it may reduce the capital allocation your business needs to maintain or create new products.

James Wilfong, Business Development Manager, Verde Fulfillment USA

How can Idaho product companies/manufacturers recession-proof their businesses?

“While working with both Idaho product companies as well as manufacturers I see great success with companies who are providing their supply chain ample lead time to source the materials and to produce the finished goods. Far too often we see production being completed days before the products need to be on their way, or in the hands of a customer. Delays are unexpected and challenging when they occur but knowing your timelines and providing an ample lead time and buffer allows for challenges to arise and still allows for the production to be achieved and meet the dates and gates that are in place. Plan, prepare, and plan some more; a delay is bound to come up somewhere in the process, so plan for the delay.”

How does Verde Fulfillment help these companies if they are running into recession- or inflation-related problems?

“We have established partnerships with companies across every aspect of the process from product manufacturing and sourcing packaging materials to LTL and FCL transportation. These partnerships allow Verde to use our resources to find the best solutions for each brand we work with while achieving specific timelines — and being cost conscious while overcoming their recession and/or inflation-related challenges.”

three men shaking hands in warehouse
Are you providing your supply chain with ample lead time to source materials and produce finished goods?

Ryan Gray, CEO, SGW Designworks

How can Idaho product companies/manufacturers recession-proof their businesses?

“With regard to competitors: play offense. If you have the fortitude (and cash reserves) to do it, identify market space that is likely to open up. Position your business to fill the void when other companies don’t make it through the downturn. If done correctly, you can come out of the downturn with more market share than you did going into it. But it might take some bravery, and a willingness to invest when others are cutting back.

With regard to product end-users: think back to previous downturns. Consider how purchasing habits changed back then — and consider what today’s analog of that looks like, then act accordingly. This could mean prioritizing marketing dollars to increase visibility of your products that are lower price / lower margin. In some cases, it can make sense to quickly develop lower-cost versions of your products to keep buyers interested in the downturn. For products that are currently in development, consider de-featuring them to enter the market at a lower price point – or at least planning ahead so that you can quickly make this move as a downturn hits.”

How does SGW help these companies if they are running into recession- or inflation-related problems?

“By applying the thoughts above as inputs to the product design and engineering process. Products that made sense six months ago might not make sense to the market six months from now. We can help clients think through how to tweak a product to reduce cost – or how to develop multiple versions of a product at multiple price points. The intent is to maximize the chances that the product’s features and price point will still be attractive to buyers in the downturn, or in light of inflation.”

person holding laptop and credit card to make online purchase
What steps are you taking to ensure buyers remain interested in your product during a downturn?

Jared Brodd, Logistics & Inventory Management, Vessel

How can Idaho product companies/manufacturers recession-proof their businesses?

“Auditing your current supply chain processes within your business — with the intent of identifying your weaknesses — is a great place to start. Refining your processes may help you find areas for cost savings or improvement. Especially during a recession, it’s critical to understand your areas of strength and where you may need to improve to guide your focus. Investing internally to build your team to support your needs is key.”

How does Vessel help these companies if they are running into recession- or inflation-related problems?

“With the supply chain beginning to even out a bit, it’s a great time to improve your strategy to better put your product in your customer’s hands. We can help you identify strategies to assist your team when thinking through a plan to reduce costs or mitigate risks within your supply chain. Having a backup plan is crucial during a recession or times with high inflation as it gives your team the opportunity to remain cost competitive.”

A Final Note: Consider Domestic Sourcing and Multi-Sourcing

In light of continually changing economic conditions, it’s time to think about reshoring as a risk management strategy for overcoming supply chain disruptions. There’s arguably never been a better time to pursue domestic sourcing for materials and supplies.

truck driving on highway near mountains
Domestic sourcing and multi-sourcing can increase a company’s options while decreasing its risk.

There are several benefits of reshoring, including:

  1. Better reliability. Local suppliers may be less impacted by disruptions than those overseas (that may be influenced by global politics, economic uncertainties, and natural disasters).

  2. Increased trust. Building relationships is easier done in close proximity to potential partners with whom you share a common language and culture.

  3. Ethical assurance. Because the U.S. has strong intellectual property protections, working with domestic suppliers can help reduce the risk of IP theft.

Multi-sourcing is another creative way to overcome supply chain disruptions. This approach can increase a company’s options for obtaining materials, parts, and components — while decreasing its risk of shortages and backlogs.

If you’re an Idaho manufacturer or product company, how are you de-risking your supply chain? Have you successfully implemented any of the above changes? Drop us a line; we’d love to hear from you.

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