HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA–Tomorrow’s successful enterprises and dominant economies will be those that most successfully navigate the digital transformation now taking place across the global manufacturing landscape. But industry leaders alone cannot realize the promise of Manufacturing 4.0. They will need to collaborate more effectively with government, academic, and labor leaders to come out on top in the race to a digital future, said David R. Brousell, co-founder, vice president, and executive director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC) in his opening speech at the fifteenth annual Manufacturing Leadership Summit.

“The digital trend is too big, too pervasive, too all-encompassing,” said Brousell, noting that digital technologies and business models are transforming everything from how products are designed and made to how organizations are structured. “We need to bring all constituencies to the table – industry, the academic community, government, labor – and harness that power to drive change,” said Brousell.

The stakes are sky high, said Brousell, noting that manufacturers and policy makers in China, Germany, and India have made digital transformation of manufacturing a national priority. “M4.0 is an international competitiveness issue of the highest order and, in my view, the most important competitiveness issue facing our industry and our country’s future,” said Brousell. “Manufacturing leaders all over the world see and want the brass ring of M4.0 superiority.”

Transitioning to a digital model while competing in increasingly tough, rapidly changing global markets is proving challenging for many manufacturing leaders, Brousell noted. According to a new leadership survey published in the MLC’s Manufacturing Leadership Journal, only 13% or manufacturers say M4.0 concepts, requirements, and challenges are well understood in their companies. Manufacturing leaders will need to quickly expand this understanding, in part by enhancing their own digital acumen and learning to think digital first, said Brousell.

But they will also need to collaborate more closely with government, academic, and labor leaders to drive digital transformation and win against global competitors. The Manufacturing Leadership Council, which is now part of the National Association of Manufacturers, will play a role in building that coalition, Brousell said.

If it succeeds, said Brousell, U.S. manufacturers have an opportunity “to win the battle for digital transformation now underway globally and enable the United States to regain its rightful position as the world’s largest manufacturer.”