As the New Year grows closer, the predictions begin to roll in on the future of manufacturing. Will it grow? Will it stay the same? Will it take a plunge? The MAPI Foundation predicts that growth in 2017 will be slow again this year, disappointingly slow. Their report, however, covers the entire manufacturing industry, from chemicals to housing. They break it down into more detailed reports for each sector, but they are still only predictions.

The real question, anyway, is not how well everyone else will do, but how well you will do. Oftentimes you can’t change the market around you. It’s influenced by a number of factors which you don’t have direct control over. If you’re an owner or a c-level executive, however, you can have some control over the decisions your company makes in the coming year. That’s a good thing, because those decisions will shape productivity, innovation, and profits for your company. In other words, the things that will help you grow.

The simplest way to do this, is to start with a list of what worked this past year and what didn’t. You’ll likely need to dig deep into productivity reports, cost of goods and labor, sales reports, and other indicators to get a clear view. It’s important to note company milestones, such as a spike in profits or a new acquisition, as it is to look at all the downtime caused by accidents or inefficiency. Using these you’ll start to see areas for improvement, or areas of success that you may want to recreate next year.

The next step is to look at building continuous improvement programs through boosting the “3 Ps of Manufacturing”, integrating the Internet of Things into your processes, or adopting other innovations. Make sure to pay particular attention to the costs involved in implementing these programs. These programs and improvements may help, but only if the costs don’t outweigh the benefits.

Once you’ve got a list of areas for improvement and programs to implement, build a timeline for how long it will take you to implement it in the coming year. Be generous with the time involved. Innovations and improvements often take longer than expected due to costs, adoption rate, and other factors.

Using these tips will help you evaluate how you can improve and grow in your manufacturing sector in 2017, despite the predictions.