Manufacturers consistently tell us that, as they advance on their Manufacturing 4.0 journeys, they face a major challenge finding and developing leaders who are equipped to excel in a digital future. The challenge is multi-faceted. On one hand, they say, the current generation of manufacturing leaders is beginning to retire. But, in seeking to refresh their leadership ranks, manufacturers still struggle to attract high-quality, high-potential candidates, many of whom still hold outdated ideas about working in the manufacturing industry.

At the same time, the experience and capabilities that will be required of the next-generation of leaders is changing in the M4.0 era. Clearly, next-generation leaders will need a greater understanding of the potential and practical applications of technologies such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality systems. But they will also be required to think creatively about the new business models that will be enabled as such technologies bring greater agility to manufacturing.

And, manufacturers tell us, next-generation leaders will need to be able take a much more collaborative approach to managing teams and driving positive results.

Fortunately, we do see examples of manufacturers who are taking creative approaches to mold cadres of next-generation leaders with just such capabilities. IBM Corp., for example, two years ago kicked off what it calls a Competency and Talent Acceleration Program for Advanced Manufacturing. The program first identified young engineers in manufacturing sites across four geographies with the potential to become leaders for the M4.0 era. IBM designed training and mentoring programs that put these candidates on a steep learning curve and, ultimately, created a group of next-generation leaders that has been deployed in the company’s systems supply chain.

For this successful project and others, IBM was recognized earlier this year as the Manufacturing Leadership Awards’ Manufacturer of the Year (Large Enterprise).

This example and others like it, in fact, also inspired us at the Manufacturing Leadership Council to make improvements to the Manufacturing Leadership Awards, adding a category specifically for outstanding manufacturing leaders under 30. In creating this new category, we want to encourage and recognize not just young individuals who embody the characteristics required of M4.0-era leaders but also the organizations that are nurturing the development of these next-generation leaders.

The nomination period for the 2019 Manufacturing Leadership Awards has just opened. Manufacturing Leadership Awards Judges evaluating nominees for the Next-Generation Leadership Award will be looking for young leaders who have “pioneered and executed disruptive strategies, inspired and managed high-performing teams, and raised awareness of the positive impacts of manufacturing on society,” according to the category description.

We encourage all those who know of such outstanding young leaders to submit a nomination before the December 21 deadline.

The 2019 Manufacturing Leadership Awards will, of course, continue to recognize outstanding manufacturing projects and individual achievements across a wide range of categories, including Operational Excellence, Engineering and Production Technology Leadership, Supply Chain Leadership, and Industrial Internet of Things Leadership. And, in 2019, the ML Awards will explicitly recognize manufacturers that are leading the way in using artificial intelligence technologies and techniques to transform operations.

The ML Awards program will also continue to feature additional categories for individual achievements, including the Visionary Leadership Award for established outstanding manufacturing leaders as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Also new for 2019, manufacturers submitting ML Awards nominations will be able to create, and submit their nominations online. We believe this new capability will make it easier for organizations and individuals to share, refine, and submit their final nominations.

More information about the ML Awards categories for 2019, the judging criteria, the submission process, and more is available at http://mlawards.manufacturingleadershipcouncil.com/

Receiving a Manufacturing Leadership Award is a great way to demonstrate to customers, suppliers, partners, and employees that yours is a world-class organization and a Manufacturing 4.0 leader. We encourage all manufacturers to participate in the 2019 ML Awards by submitting nominations.