The importance of intelligenceThe manufacturing industry is just as vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters, regulatory changes, labour disruptions, conflict and political instability as any other sector. This means that the use of comprehensive and accurate commercial intelligence in its proper form is critical to success when setting up in potentially high risk areas. The primary aim of is to make sense of large quantities of uncertain, often conflicting information that is collected and analysed for the purpose of achieving the company’s objectives. This work delivers a detailed insight into the operating environment, whilst presenting issues in perspective with opportunities. Areas that should be addressed and answered by business intelligence include:
- Which competitors are succeeding and why?
- How can we drive the business forward?
- Can we match the aspirations of the key decision-makers?
- Where is the most advantageous operating environment? and
- Can limited risk be managed to gain from opportunity?
Managing predicted riskOf course, no matter how detailed your intelligence, it is impossible to predict everything. Natural disasters such as the 2011 Japanese tsunami which had an impact on global supply chains cannot be foreseen, but human made tragedies such as the collapse of the Savar building in Bangladesh last year, which housed several garment factories and thousands of workers, are more predictable. Unforeseen events often necessitate reactive measures with the potential for a negative impact on business success. However, predicted incidents can allow a proactive response, offering an opportunity to manage the situation to the company’s best advantage. If well prepared, with a thorough understanding of the operating environment and confident of the future, manufacturers can plan for the impact of instability, military action, economic changes or disaster on their operations. They can identify vulnerable links in their supply chain and develop contingency suppliers. Plans will also minimise potential threats so as to protect assets and safeguard personnel.
Business intelligence in practiceIn my consultancy role, I have recently been involved in a market entry project in a developing African country which benefitted hugely from the input of intelligence.
The region in question offers potentially lucrative returns for the right operation, but is isolated with limited infrastructure and high levels of poverty. The picture presented by the company’s security specialists was that the situation was stable; that there was a strong military presence in the area and that crime has reduced in recent years. Despite the current security situation appearing satisfactory, we were able to provide a broader appreciation of all aspects impacting their operations and incorporated an assessment of future scenarios and resolutions, highlighting the following:
- The local authorities were not being completely open as to the causes and effects in crime levels and their methodology in maintaining control;
- The military was unlikely to be located in the region in their current strength long term with a subsequent effect on law and order;
- Corporate social recommendations to influence the societal dynamics of an international company commencing operations in this region;
- The influence of other nearby foreign companies employing lower ethical business and environmental practices; and
- The prospect and approaches for improving the local infrastructure.
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