Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the building blocks of the development of any country. While traditionally Small and Medium Enterprises have come into existence as cost optimisers for Big Enterprises, over the years they have become important partners in the progress of any Enterprise in view of some innate strengths by their very nature – better / faster breeders of Innovation/Productivity /creativity, faster response, lower cost / cycle time, better flexibility offered to end consumer /customer – big or small etc.
As the Enterprises are getting more globalised, Technology becomes key to Competitiveness. As Technology becomes the biggest value adder and /or enhancer, Small and Medium Enterprises need to get integrated into the Eco-system of Enterprises, Markets, Supply Chains, Technology and Customers / Consumers.
There is a general feeling that Small and Medium Enterprises tend to lag behind in this integration process especially adaptation to ever-changing Technology / Business Processes
Case for Small and Medium Enterprises in Engineering Industries
Small and Medium Enterprises are a lifeline for Engineering Industries, comprising a very wide spectrum – Capital Goods, Energy & Power Industries, Automobile, Mining Equipment, Aero-Space, Infrastructure, Defence etc. There is a wide range of Products, Systems and Services offered by the Engineering Industry. The Business Profiles of many companies represent a mix of Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, Services etc. Small and Medium Enterprises play a very important role in supporting the Engineering Industry at every stage of the business – Product Development, Manufacture, Installation & Commissioning, After Market Service etc.
Small and Medium Enterprises serving the Engineering Industries many times are structured to replicate the complexities of the Enterprises they serve-
• Engineering of Products /Systems may undergo some or substantial changes as the Project progresses
• Procurement of Material with test protocols and traceability
• Development of Manufacturing process plans
• First piece qualification, prove out of process
• Engineering and manufacture of Tools, fixtures
• Quality Plans, In process quality checks
• Final testing if required
• Performance validation
• Warranty Obligations linked to finish Project completion spanning a few years
• Some of the processes requiring Customer Approval – ex Final specification, design, quality plan, test protocol etc.
• Interface Engineering /manufacturing issues – one Small and Medium Enterprises Product /component may need to be redesigned /manufactured suiting the possible system changes, the matching requirements for some other product / component etc.
The Material, Production planning become complex in view of unpredictable product mix, customised engineering, planning and manufacturing. It is always a challenge to ensure optimum capacity utilisation with customer expectations. Many times Small and Medium Enterprises are not even sure whether they have the required resources to meet the customer commitments as per schedule
When it involves competitiveness, integrated real-time information is that the key: be it tracking the customer orders / material, stage of production, status of customer approvals, shipments to customer, billing or cash realization, in-process rejection, corrective /preventive actions, customer complaints etc. There’s not much difference between big Enterprises and Small and Medium Enterprises.