The cannabis industry is growing in multiple ways: Legalization, revenue, and sophistication all are on the rise. As the industry continues on its trajectory to surpass The Arcview Group’s projection of $42 billion in revenue by 2024, many companies face challenges that come with rapid growth and increased consumer demand.
In order to keep up, growers, processors, packagers, and manufacturers alike are looking toward a future in automation to increase efficiency, lower costs, and bring products to market on an accelerated timeline. In addition, widespread labor shortages are challenging the manual-labor tactics the industry has relied on for so long. Almost every business could benefit from adding equipment and machinery that automate processes and impact long-term scalability.
The bottom line: There are outstanding opportunities for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to help businesses streamline their operations and pave the way toward industry standards and best practices. OEMs who want to join the burgeoning space should understand some of its unique characteristics and intricacies. Coming from a more traditional automation engineering and manufacturing background, I’ve spent the past six years learning the ins and outs of this industry. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.
Think ahead and get GMP-ready
While the industry is still in its relative infancy, the space is evolving rapidly and maturing every day. Right now, there are few specific standards, best practices, guidelines, or processes for manufacturers to follow to ensure safety and efficacy. With federal legalization looming on the horizon, OEMs should adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulations to guarantee consistent and controlled manufacturing. Businesses aiming for sustainable, future-proof success must consider GMP requirements as the regulatory landscape continues to advance. As the industry continues to shift in a more professional, legal, and standardized direction, invest your time and money in ensuring your equipment and machinery will be compliant and certified to meet any and all future requirements.
OEMs should consider additional certifications, as facilities increasingly require certified, qualified, and verified equipment. cETLus certification ensures products have been tested and certified for operation in North America and equipment is compliant with prevalent product safety standards. The certification includes Underwriters Laboratories safety requirements for measurement, control, and laboratory use.
Take your business and clients seriously
Yes, the industry is fun and fast-paced. There is a casual camaraderie among businesses that can be hard to find in other industries. However, a focus on professionalism, experience, and high-quality equipment will take you a long way toward enduring success.
Your clients have their own performance goals, operational requirements, and maintenance needs. Get to know them, their business, and what they are trying to accomplish. Consider what solution is best and most effective for each client’s unique set of needs. How do they operate, and how can you help them stay not just operational but also efficient? It might mean innovating a new product, application, or process.
Take your clients’ business goals seriously, and you will be one giant step closer to meeting your own goals.
Prioritize customer service
In the days of the legacy market, “customer relations” was nonexistent. As the legal industry continues to mature, you can stand out from the competition by prioritizing customer service and client relations.
Most businesses would agree high-quality machinery and customer service are the driving forces that keep customers coming back. Pricing doesn’t necessarily matter as much as credibility, honesty, and accessible support. Provide customer-service technicians to troubleshoot operational challenges, be responsive to customer requests and needs, and make sure your machines are solving operational problems for your customers, even as the industry continues to evolve.
The success of your clients should take precedence over sales numbers any day.
Flexibility and adaptability are key
The products and options available in the consumer marketplace have changed dramatically since legalization began. This evolution will continue, and it will fall upon OEMs and other ancillary businesses to stay ahead of the progression in consumer requirements and priorities.
In an emerging industry, companies must focus on evolving and innovating in order to serve the needs of a changing marketplace. As the industry grows, businesses must grow with it by developing new technology and services that will meet the challenges of the times. Think about potential changes from the get-go, whether that means building revisable equipment that can be updated over time or developing new machinery based on market trends and requests. Make sure equipment delivers as new technology, regulations, operating procedures, and other rules emerge.
The pace of change is accelerating. To keep up, companies must learn to take advantage of more efficient manufacturing practices and automation of manual tasks. This creates an exceptional opportunity for OEMs to find success. As long as they keep a few key lessons in mind, they will help shape the future of an industry that shows no signs of slowing down.
M. Hogan is managing director at Thompson Duke Industrial, a leading original-equipment manufacturer supplying cannabis oil vaporizer device filling and capping equipment to the cannabis industry. With more than three decades of automation engineering experience, Hogan oversees the team that designs, manufactures, and distributes a line of patented filling and capping machinery to help cannabis processors optimize accuracy, consistency, and efficiency.