Innnovation in manufacturing can take many forms.Companies can devise incremental improvements in their production lines to drive efficiencies and speed. They can innovate in design by modeling potential products. And they can use innovations in new materials and production equipment to produce better parts.

But now with the advent of pervasive connectivity and data generation manufacturers also have the opportunity to make greater progress in achieving a long-sought goal: becoming truly customer-centric in their innovation efforts. Genuinely reflecting customer wants and needs in innovation processes and outcomes may seem obvious, but getting there, and having manufacturing models support increasing demands for custom products, is anything but.

So it came as a pleasant surprise to us here at the Manufacturing Leadership Council to see that manufacturers are now striving to achieve customer-centricity in their innovation efforts with renewed vigor. As Executive Editor Jeff Moad reports in our new survey on Manufacturing Enterprise Innovation, published in this issue and entitled “Manufacturers Undertake a Course Correction on Innovation”, manufacturers are escalating the speed and collaborative nature of innovation in their companies.

“There is evidence that manufacturers are responding not only to a need to dramatically upgrade the pace and impact of innovation but also to redirect it in ways that will allow them to satisfy the soaring expectations of customers for everything from mass customization to shorter cycle times and smart products,” Moad writes.

A couple of other articles this issue underscores the importance of customer-centricity in innovation processes. In “Accelerating Innovation at the Speed of Industry 4.0”, Council member John Barcus of Oracle says that hyper-connectivity involving products and services can not only leverage customer data to resolve issues faster, but can also help drive innovation to new heights. And Council member Stefan Krause of SAP writes, in “How Manufacturers Can Become Intelligent Enterprises”, that by leveraging data, manufacturers can better respond to customer needs and even invent new business models and revenue streams.

Lastly, we are including in this issue a photo collage from the 14th annual Manufacturing Leadership Summit, held in June. Enjoy!   M