HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA–Manufacturing leaders are becoming better prepared to accept the challenges involved in driving digital transformation, and their companies are taking a more serious and strategic approach to embracing Manufacturing 4.0.

These were among the conclusions that were presented to over 300 manufacturing industry leaders on the opening day of the 14th Annual Manufacturing Leadership Summit by ML Council Co-Founder David R. Brousell. (View videos of other ML Summit presentations here: https://www.manufacturingleadershipcouncil.com/ml-summit-videos/ )

“We are entering a new phase with M4.0, one characterized by more companywide M4.0 projects, more work being placed around developing M4.0 roadmaps, and greater efforts to act strategically with regard to M4.0,” said Brousell.

The journey to Manufacturing 4.0—which the ML Council defines as the application of advanced technologies to re-imagined business models and processes—remains a challenging, multi-year process for most manufacturing companies. But, noted Brousell, ML Council research shows that individuals leading manufacturing companies, in the estimation of their colleagues, are better prepared for digital transformation. This transformation, according to ML Council research, will require a better understanding of emerging technologies, the ability to transition to data-driven decision-making, and the ability to lead collaborative organizations.

“Manufacturers have moved beyond the awareness phase of M4.0 and are now more actively engaged in undertaking M4.0 projects of different types,” said Brousell.

The stakes for manufacturing companies and for global economies are high, noted Brousell. Digitizing core processes represents an opportunity for manufacturers to drive lower costs and greater efficiency. But the opportunity goes much further, he noted.

“(Manufacturing 4.0) is an opportunity to reinvent yourselves for the future,” said Brousell.

And, said Brousell, it presents broader opportunities for global economies to become more competitive.

“The stakes go way beyond the fortunes of individual companies,” Brousell noted. “M4.0 is now an international competitiveness issue of the highest order. In fact, I would argue that M4.0 is far and away the most important competitiveness issue facing our industry and our country’s future, way beyond subjects such as tariffs and product content quotas that are dominating our national discourse today.”

While manufacturers are accelerating their M4.0 journeys, challenges remain, Brousell noted. ML Council research shows that the need to change corporate cultures to be in line with the realities of the digital era remains a significant barrier to progress for many, as does the need to migrate business models to the new paradigm. A close corollary to these needs is understanding the business case and return on investment from M4.0.

Based on the experience of ML Council members successfully navigating the path to M4.0, Brousell offered the following advice to manufacturing leaders:

  • Think big about M4.0, beyond incremental improvements in cost and efficiency. Go for breakthroughs in processes, products, and in delighting customers.
  • Develop an M4.0-based business strategy. Don’t try to align M4.0 objectives around conventional business strategy.
  • Explore new business models that can make you a market disrupter. Ask yourself: What’s going to be your competitive advantage 10 years from now?
  • Create a culture of M4.0 innovation and success. Do your employees feel they can take risks?
  • Embrace new insights from M4.0 technologies, especially data analytics.
  • Create collaborative, diverse cross-functional teams of employees, customers, and partners to generate and share ideas. Leverage every brain in your business eco-system.
  • Develop digital acumen in your leadership team. Talk the talk and walk the walk.
  • Be careful about applying conventional ROI metrics on M4.0 projects too fast. Experiment, learn, take risks!