Crystal Ball: A Futuristic Workforce Odyssey
For humans and machines to work together by 2030, the workforce evolution must start now
Extrapolating from the results of NTT DATA’s recent research report, Innovation Index: Shifting from Disruption to Growth, Kim Curley, NTT DATA’s Digital Evolution Leader and Vice President of People & Organization, shares her insights about the future of the manufacturing workforce in the first of our Manufacturing in 2030: Crystal Ball series.
Picture this: the year is 2030. Across the U.S., the manufacturing workforce has evolved into a symphony of humans and machines working in harmony. This dramatic transformation has made the workforce a technology-enabled powerhouse. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality lead the charge, transforming the factory floor into a buzzing and orchestrated hub of activity.
Workers use advanced technologies to perform their tasks more efficiently and safely, collaborating seamlessly with their robotic counterparts. The shop floor thrums with the smooth whirr of precise machinery and the hum of advanced systems. Augmented reality displays guide workers through complex tasks. And to make this possible, the workforce has become a melting pot of diverse talents and skills that is continuously learning and developing
It is a rosy view of the future, but realistic based on current data and trends that illuminate a path to this future state.
Changing Skillsets for 2030
The 2030 manufacturing workforce will be doing things quite differently than they do today. Four in 10 manufacturers have already begun leveraging augmented or virtual reality devices, and that will only increase. That usage will expand to support workforce instruction and training. One example of this could be teaching workers to switch over a production line. Providing that training in a virtual reality environment would mean the company doesn’t need to shut down real-world production.
As the usage of advanced technologies rapidly expands, the skillsets of the manufacturing workforce must expand, too. In addition to physical technical skills, workers will need to strengthen their understanding of technologies as well as problem solving, critical thinking and leadership skills. To build that workforce over time, you must start by expanding the skillsets of managers and leaders now. Starting today is critical to being successful in 2030, indeed, 39% of manufacturers report that they have already increased their investment in leadership development.
A More Resilient Enterprise
The evolved workforce will enable significant benefits. The big one is resilience. An augmented workforce better enables the company to respond to changes in the marketplace. With such a workforce, companies can train faster, reset the lines, and change worker skillsets more rapidly. Paving the way for this evolution, upskilling and reskilling programs for new and/or existing workers are underway today at 54% of manufacturers. More broadly, making your workforce future-ready entails steps such as improving safety, productivity and talent; incentivizing workforce agility; teaching new leadership skills; engaging the workforce; and maintaining a future-focused mindset. We’ll look at each in turn.
Improving Safety, Productivity, and Talent
The NTT DATA 2023 Innovation Index survey showed that businesses are increasingly addressing potential disruptions in strategic plans because these events present opportunities for those businesses that can act with resilience and speed.
So, it is not surprising that manufacturers are placing increased importance on their workforce and the workforce’s ability to adapt and move quickly. The more connected and engaged the workforce is, the better it can shift and flex when the unexpected happens.
Three vital areas come immediately to mind when considering how these coming changes address the problems facing today’s manufacturing industry. The first is safety. As noted earlier, one of the best commercial applications of virtual technologies is training. Training workers to complete physically demanding or potentially hazardous tasks in a completely safe environment — without the cost of physically constructing such simulated environments — is a game changer. Fully 77% of manufacturers report plans to use these technologies within the next two years. That’s well ahead of the cross-industry average of 64%. Using these tools for ongoing training programs helps ensure that workers know exactly what they need to do and how to do it. And it does that while protecting their safety and the safety of the products they manufacture.
A second area of lift is in productivity — specifically, decreasing production errors and downtime. The proliferation of sensors enabled by 5G, advanced computing and machine learning technologies gives us better insights than ever before. These insights enable us to better plan and use scarce resources, another game changer.
The third area is talent. Emerging technologies in the factory call for a new-collar workforce that understands both manufacturing and Manufacturing 4.0. As the industry increases its use of and innovation with advanced technologies, more visionaries will be attracted to manufacturing. At the same time, advocacy initiatives like the Manufacturing Institute’s Creators Wanted program help spread information about this shift in manufacturing work so the next generation of young talent is aware of these opportunities to work with technology. This shift in the reputation of the industry overall can help bring the best and the brightest talent into manufacturing. The workforce will transform from the outside in as it changes from the inside as well.
Incentivizing Workforce Agility
For people and technology to align more closely, it will be important that the workforce sees the benefits of change. Many additional technologies come into play with a technology-enabled workforce. Remote collaboration tools and digital twins can allow manufacturers to assess and optimize processes virtually. These tools may require their users to have specific skills, such as a familiarity with the way data is used to create digital twins, to realize their full value. An agile and augmented workforce will be prepared with those skills or will be readily able to develop them.
The heightened importance of the workforce will call for momentous changes. Historically, manufacturing has considered the human as a component of the manufacturing line. The concept of human capital itself came from the manufacturing industry. Shifting our thinking changes how we develop people and give them desirable career progressions. It also impacts how we pay and incentivize people.
Adopting practices for compensation, rewards, and training from other industries to attract and keep the best and brightest can be beneficial. In high tech, for example, companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook prioritize employee development and learning opportunities. They offer training programs, mentorships, and career advancement pathways. Some 84% of manufacturers have at least piloted investments in training for employees in areas such as factoring customer behavior into decision-making. To date, though, just three in 10 manufacturers report adjusting total rewards packages to increase their competitiveness when searching for new talent or retaining existing workers.
New Leadership Skills
The path to a future-ready workforce will include overcoming hurdles. One of the biggest is the need for a radically new style of leadership. Leaders in-house today often have massive institutional knowledge and a long history of viewing the workforce in a particular way. Having such leadership has often led to success. But going forward, that will need to change. That is a challenge. You have to teach the most senior leaders to see the workforce — both its potential and its needs—differently. But even incremental change comes slowly. Presently, for example, only 13% of manufacturers report being highly effective at delivering on worker-centric policies such as flexible working options and schedules.
Certainly, you cannot change a whole company’s culture unless you’re working from the top down as well as the bottom up. But once you do, you are positioned to develop and sustain a culture of innovation, experimentation, and resilience.
Engaging the Workforce
The workforce can and should be an active part of its own evolution. First, engage with your workforce – truly engage. Understand who your people are and what is important to them. Find ways to connect them to your company’s purpose and the impact you want to have on the world around you. The stronger those connections are, the more powerful a force your workforce can be in driving the transformation you’ll need over the coming years.
Second, expose more of the workforce to technologies and how these tools can help them and the business. Manufacturers are slightly behind the cross-industry average at the use of updated tools and technologies, with only 29% considering it important to employee satisfaction and engagement. Our Innovation Index shows that the best ideas to advance the business most often come from the individuals who already know the most — your workforce.
A Future-Focused Mindset
Mindset is everything. Without a growth mindset at every level of your organization, you will struggle to accomplish a transformation that will drive success between now and 2030. This mindset must be pervasive, encompassing everything from policies to hiring practices, investment decisions and the employee value proposition you put into the marketplace. When you embrace a mindset that says we are going to try new things and grow, and your workforce embodies it every day, you will create a resilient organization that is comfortable pushing boundaries to create the future.
About the author
Kim Curley is Digital Evolution Leader and Vice President of People & Organization at NTT DATA.
Hannover Fair 2023: It’s Not Technology Anymore. It’s All About Data, Data, Data.
Whatever advanced technologies manufacturers adopt, future transformational success will ultimately depend on data, from powering the latest digital tools to deliver more value, to creating entirely new industry-wide data ecosystems, to the foundation of enticing new Industrial Metaverse applications for the future, reveals this year’s Hannover Fair in Germany.
Emerging from three years of COVID disruption, the world’s largest industrial fair in Hannover, Germany, began to bounce back this year with a renewed sense of optimism about the future of digitally enabled manufacturing, hosting more than 4,000 exhibitors from 62 countries showcasing their latest innovations, and over 130,000 visitors from around the world.
Many of the impressive and varied transformational solutions on display, however, also revealed a fundamental change of emphasis from years gone by. This year, Hannover was a lot less about promoting individual products and technologies, and much more about the underlying power of data to fuel those advanced digital tools in order to drive greater efficiencies, resiliency, value, and sustainability, for both internal operations and entire manufacturing value chains.
“Without data, we will never take manufacturing to the next level and scale,” declared Rainer Brehm, CEO of Factory Automation at Siemens, launching the company’s new Industrial Operations X approach, which is based on the three pillars of software-defined automation, data-driven production, and access to an open, industry-wide data ecosystem.
The use of the letter X in the Siemens’ nomenclature is highly significant. It echoes a new and rapidly emerging industrial data sharing initiative in Europe called “Manufacturing X”, an approach showcased by multiple companies throughout the 17 busy exhibition halls at this year’s event.
Manufacturing X aims to create a safe and agile next generation data infrastructure for manufacturing industry players to network, share, and exchange key product and other information with approved partners and customers in a compliant, standardized way, solving many of the current issues companies face in creating end-to-end real-time visibility across supply chains and making it easier for manufacturers to drive and scale transformational change.
The concept envisages a federated cloud-based “data space” where companies can upload dedicated “data containers” housing fully detailed, standardized information on any manufactured product or service, whether that is a factory machine tool or a wind turbine. Each data container can include key information ranging from authenticated product documentation (sometimes known as a Product Passport) to full maintenance and service manuals, compliance details, lifecycle frameworks, performance data, CAD files, ready-made digital twins, and even details of the carbon footprint of each unit or component.
In the same way that standardized freight containers revolutionized the freight transport industry, explained the team at German automation company Phoenix Connect, Manufacturing X aims to create an industry-wide data ecosystem where standardized containers of data can be easily accessed and securely shared across qualified partners and customers within a manufacturing value chain.
Easy access to the digital twin of each manufacturing asset, for example, can make it far simpler for companies to build plant-wide virtual digital twins, or train service engineers to troubleshoot equipment issues, and detailed production specifications can be instantly shared with key manufacturing partners to help cut time to market for new products or mitigate sudden supply chain disruptions.
Based on open standards and interoperability, Manufacturing X also aims to break industry dependency on today’s proprietary systems and networks by building an open and trusted framework that allows all industrial companies, automation providers and manufacturing customers alike greater control and sovereignty over their data in the future.
Many examples of this new X data space concept were already in action at the Fair, including the advanced Production Level 4 ecosystem created by German research group SmartFactory KL, in which a rapidly reconfigurable, modular, shared production line harnesses interconnected machines and technologies from multiple suppliers, combining advanced digital process tools, AI, collaborative robotics, its own implementation of the data space concept called SmartMA-X, and the Asset Administration Shell (AAS) specification, which creates detailed standardized descriptions of each individual asset.
“Manufacturing X represents the next stage of Industry 4.0,” Dr. Gunther Kegel, President of the German Electronics and Digital Industry Association, ZVEI, told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the packed audience of senior industry leaders and dignitaries at the Hannover Fair’s high-profile Opening Ceremony on the eve of this year’s Fair. Manufacturing X, he continued, is an important element in the creation of a safe and secure industrial data economy of the future that fosters increased networking, resiliency, sustainability, and climate protection among all industry players.
Foundations of a Future Data Economy
Manufacturing X is only one implementation of a much broader data ecosystem concept called Gaia-X, initially conceived as a European initiative in 2019 but now with evolving global ambitions.
Gaia-X aims to build the foundation of a future data economy across multiple industry sectors based on the same idea of a shared and secure data ecosystem, explained Gaia-X CEO Francesco Bonfiglio, in an interview with MLC.
Other implementations include Catena-X, designed to support auto industry companies to share data on products and parts across their value chains. It has already attracted many leading auto industry partners, including BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Ford, Volvo, Renault, and tire maker Continental, plus technology innovators including Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Siemens, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, and many more. A health industry X-version for the pharmaceutical and medical devices sector is also preparing to launch in the near future, with future plans for similar data ecosystems covering other sectors including aerospace, agriculture, energy, logistics, and more.
Such next generation industrial data ecosystem initiatives are both innovative and ambitious, but they are still in their early stages and there are many challenges yet to be overcome, from political infighting among European members, to the practicalities of sector-wide implementation.
In a panel discussion entitled “Towards a Federated Industry Data Ecosystem”, representatives from the Industrial Digital Twin Association (IDTA), Gaia-X, BMW, and German automation company Festo were candid about a host of challenges ahead for companies, as well as the industry as a whole, in building data ecosystems.
Chief among the challenges the group identified were establishing trust among participants; assembling a critical mass of participants to make an ecosystem work properly; understanding and adopting a common legal framework to enable intellectual property protection, an important foundational element of trust; and dealing with the technological complexities of such elements as data spaces and data containers.
But perhaps the most significant challenge voiced by the panel was bringing along small and medium size manufacturers, a group that often doesn’t have the focus, expertise, and financial wherewithal to undertake what by any measure will be a significant effort to adopt and operate data ecosystems.
To help bring the small manufacturers along, the panel recommended the development of technology tool kits to simplify the development of new business models based on the data ecosystem idea. One such example already exists within the Catena-X group.
The other emerging consideration for any manufacturers adopting the data ecosystem idea is how it will affect their competitive profile as well as the competitive landscape of the markets in which they do business. Will participation in such ecosystems, should they take hold in a substantial way, become essentially a requirement in order to remain competitive? By establishing a common data playing field, will manufacturers then be able to compete on higher level factors such as more targeted products and services?
And what of potential legal issues? Will such data ecosystems be viewed in some countries in an antitrust light, prompting challenges by non-participants and government bodies? There will clearly be more developments to come in the months ahead.
There was certainly no shortage of inspirational technologies on the stands at this year’s Hannover Fair, of course. Advanced digital twins were everywhere; AI is being embedded into almost every kind of offering; 5G is now the connecting technology of choice; and systems specifically designed to support sustainable operations – from advanced energy efficiency algorithms and on-site hydrogen production units to digital threads and twins supporting full circular economy strategies from initial product design to end of life reclamation.
AI Everywhere: Now It’s Time to Scale
The critical importance of data to drive these ever-advancing digital tools is perhaps most evident with AI systems, which were extensively showcased across the Fair this year.
While a decade of adoption of M4.0 technologies has made data better organized and more available than ever before, “An estimated 80% of data in industry remains unused,” noted Philippe Rambach, Chief AI Officer at Schneider Electric. “So, the time for AI in industry is now,” he continued, “and the next stage is to scale.”
A number of suppliers admit, of course, that overcoming the challenges of adopting and scaling AI is still a learning journey for many manufacturing companies, so products like Altair’s RapidMIner or Festo’s Automation Experience (AX) AI platform for predictive maintenance, among others, are designed to provide easier entry points for companies new to the AI arena.
Schneider Electric, meanwhile, is already applying AI in multiple ways across the company, explained Rambach, from energy optimization to driving an increasingly self-healing supply chain that supports a network of around 14,000 suppliers and 150,000 order lines a day. He identified three key areas of business focus for AI the company – to enhance customer facing services, to improve internal process efficiencies, and as an advisory tool to provide monetized consulting services in areas such as energy management and industrial automation.
Based on his experience, Rambach advises manufacturers to approach AI adoption with three key considerations in mind. First, don’t start with AI; start with a use case that can deliver value and then ask if AI can help. Secondly, build a joint AI team made up of data specialists merged with people who have real front-line domain knowledge. In fact, Schneider’s AI team is not allowed to launch any new product in the company until it has been tested and verified by workshops of domain experts and frontline workers. Finally, to help build trust and support in AI adoption, socialize successes within the company to get all levels of employees engaged.
And to help companies ensure the AI systems they develop deliver meaningful and unbiased results, the Fraunhofer Institute was also showcasing its “Trustworthy AI” toolset on a nearby stand. This provides companies with a framework to test the quality and worthiness of their AI solutions, especially in human-dependent applications such as plant safety, medical advice, chemical processing, or even traffic management. Such formal testing and approval criteria will become increasingly essential, says Fraunhofer, with the rapid emergence of popular new generative AI tools like ChatGPT.
Omnipresent Digital Twins
While AI permeated many areas of activity, there is also little doubt that digital twins have become a primary foundational technology in driving the future of digital manufacturing across multiple application areas. Almost every digital solutions provider at the event had one or more digital twins on show, from digital versions of individual products or factory assets to full plant floor planning and monitoring systems, to end-to-end lifecycle process and circular economy applications.
Many of those digital twin examples were built around the rapidly dominating Asset Administration Shell standard, which allows greater compatibility and interoperability between different digital twins and is backed by a collaboration between the OPC Foundation’s Open Architecture standard and the IDTA. In fact, digital twins are now so commonplace that many suppliers are proactively including digital twins of their products with every purchase so customers can more easily integrate them into their own systems for maintenance, plant floor planning, and other key use cases. These include companies like Siemens, Festo, or Harting with its product life-cycle digital twin.
The Sustainability Imperative
With Germany’s ambition to become the world’s first climate neutral industrial economy in the world by 2045, the presence of digitally enabled green industrial solutions was also far more in evidence than at any other previous Hannover Fair. Every company either had an explicit focus on energy reduction or showcased green energy production and infrastructure innovations – from improved plant-scale energy management applications to digitally supported processes for battery production and on-site energy storage, new low-scale green hydrogen production systems, systems for easier monitoring and reporting of Scope 3 supply chain partner emissions, and circular economy lifecycle digital twins with precise details of reclaimable content and dismantling procedures for recycling key materials and components.
One other innovative green-energy focused display was SEW Eurodrive, which has developed a family of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that know when their power is low and can autonomously replace their own power packs with new hydrogen fuel cells as needed.
Siemens, meanwhile, showed an impressive example of how combining multiple digital technologies including AI, robotics, and visual inspection can autonomously manage vertical farms capable of delivered 300 times more fresh food yield on a comparable area of ground, using 95% less water than traditional farming methods, but without the need for any harmful pesticides or fertilizer run off.
The Dawn of an Industrial Metaverse
But perhaps the most forward-looking and engaging displays at this year’s Fair, and there were many of them, were multiple examples of emerging Industrial Metaverse applications in action. These combine multiple technologies including advanced digital twins, embedded AI, VR/AR visors, and rapid 5G communication to show how early Metaverse use cases could create collaborative virtual spaces for training, e-commerce, remote operations, factory design, product maintenance, and troubleshooting.
Once again, it is data that will drive this latest digital evolution, believes Charlie Sheridan, Technical Director of Industry Solutions/Manufacturing at Google Cloud. “Data is the foundation of the Industrial Metaverse journey”, he believes.
On Microsoft’s stand, for example, partner Kawasaki was using an advanced digital twin, combined with embedded AI and engineers wearing HoloLens mixed reality headsets, to show how they could work together remotely from anywhere in the world using a collaborative mixed real world/virtual environment to exchange expertise in real time to troubleshoot and fix equipment problems. “It’s the beginning of a new era,” predicts Kawasaki.
Early Industrial Metaverse applications are not all just pilots either. Real life projects are already in place at auto companies such as BMW and Renault where they are being used to create virtual factory and plant floor environments, while global chemical giant BASF is reported to have 20 Metaverse projects underway, and Norwegian battery maker Freyer is now using Siemens Metaverse technologies to help scale production capacity at both existing and new plants in rapid time to meet the predicted 700-fold increase in global demand by 2030. “We are already paving the way into the Industrial Metaverse of the future,” asserted Siemen’s Brehm.
The momentum around Metaverse developments is certainly growing fast. The recently launched Metaverse Standards Forum, noted Dietmar Laß, senior researcher manager at the Fraunhofer Institute, already has over 4,000 members and is expanding fast. “We are only getting a glimpse of what may be possible now with the Industrial Metaverse, but the basics are already in place”, said Laß.
Perhaps the promise of an immersive world for future production operations, where virtual and augmented realities take digital twins and collaborative cultures to a new level, is closer than many industry leaders may think.
The Future of Data
When Stephan Weil, Minister of Lower Saxony, officially began the opening of the Fair on the Sunday evening, he hoped that the 2023 event would reveal how the power of innovation can help solve some of the world’s toughest problems, help companies balance sustainability with growth, and help foster an equitable balance between people and machines working together.
Yet, as the days went by, there was clearly more to the event than just a series of high aims this year in Hannover. There was also a fundamental sea change of emphasis across the Halls that revealed a new focus on data and perhaps a more mature ecosystem direction for future innovation and adoption to enable industrial companies to truly accelerate transformation and drive greater value.
As German industry 4.0 pioneer, founder of the German SmartFactoryKL research initiative, and former MLC Board member Detlef Zülkhe reflected: “Hannover is not about technology anymore. Today, it’s all about data, data, data.”
About the authors
Paul Tate is Co-Founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director at the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council.
David R. Brousell is Co-Founder, Vice President, and Executive Director at the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council.
Davos 2023: Takeaways for Manufacturing
A personal perspective by Augury CEO Saar Yoskovitz on his most important takeaways for manufacturers from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos last month.
This year’s World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting at the Swiss resort of Davos was both intense and inspiring. Among the many attendees, world leaders in government, business, and social institutions were present. Speaking to them and hearing their thoughts is a unique opportunity as those conversations can shed light on global problems and innovative solutions. And since the previous WEF Annual Meeting last May, the mood has shifted.
Last year, during Davos 2022, the world was in the midst of a recession, the Russia-Ukraine War had just started, supply chains were at risk, and “de-globalization” was one of the most used words at the event. Any discussion about the environment or financial support for sustainability seemed hollow in those conditions.
This year, things appear to be considerably more stable: Ukraine is holding up, the energy crisis has been avoided in most countries, the world’s inflation appears to be under control, and supply networks are expanding. All these together made it possible to have a far more fruitful discussion on how to address the main problems manufacturers are currently facing.
In It Together
The first key takeaway was that manufacturers are increasingly coming together as the challenges smaller and mid-size companies are experiencing look very similar to those that some of the world’s largest companies are battling with at the moment. Everyone is looking for signs of economic certainty over the next couple of years. Leaders of all types of companies are trying to balance the need for expansion with wise resource management.
Simultaneously, global issues such as sustainability, workforce change, efficiency, and the effectiveness of a global industrial and manufacturing base are all being considered seriously by manufacturers big and small, with workforce and skills-related topics being top of mind. Businesses of all sizes now understand that progress and growth still depend on the fundamentals: people coming together to work out the details, agree on a course of action, and put in a genuine effort to bring about change.
Technology’s Coming of Age
Each annual meeting brings a rush of studies on a range of topics. This year these included how the circular transformation of industries is unlocking new value, how over a hundred WEF Lighthouse Factories are showing the way forward to a more sustainable future, and how various industrial clusters are using technology to move towards Net Zero. What’s good about these reports is how they’re starting to focus more on what’s actually happening, rather than what should be done.
The next stage of this involves scaling those world-leading Lighthouses, highlighting the unique cases of transformational success that shine brightly across manufacturing. In many ways, this represents the next step in building a global society in which the combined efforts of humans and machines improve the quality of life in all respects.
Enter Glocalization and Friendshoring
While “de-globalization” was last year’s big word, in 2023 it was replaced by “glocalization”. This captures the idea that while our supply chains are becoming more localized, they still need to be internationally connected. Glocalization strategies can help manufacturers become more resilient, a trend that is also happening naturally as part of the global energy transition. Alternative energy sources are typically closer to home and more difficult to move. For example, solar energy is produced during the day and wind energy during windy conditions in multiple locations but, at the moment, neither the bulk storage nor transportation methods exist for these two types of energy to be easily transferred any significant distance, which naturally leads to more decentralization. Factories will tend to be located where the cheapest and cleanest energy is available, as previously happened with data centres.
Friendshoring was another emerging term at the WEF this year. It is swiftly replacing the traditional strategy of offshoring and reflects how manufacturers are now turning towards countries that share similar values and have more compatible trading approaches. Friendshoring can also help reduce reliance on a single source. This is especially evident in the semiconductor sector where approaches like the US/EU IRA and CHIPS laws represent a significant step forward.
Circular Supply Chains
Larger organisations are also giving more sustainable and circular supply chains top priority as a result of impending regulations around carbon reporting, like Scope 3. This reporting looks at a product’s whole footprint by taking into account the upstream and downstream environmental impacts of its supply chain.
Some people have already called such developments “a nightmare.” It can definitely be hard. Many companies are doing their best to track supply chain emissions effectively, but there is a severe lack of the necessary frameworks or tools to do so. To make matters worse, Scope 3 also varies depending on the manufactured product. For example, Scope 3 only accounts for 6% of the emissions from a cement factory, but it might account for 80% of emissions in the automobile or food sectors. As a result, manufacturers need to come together as an industry to make the reductions needed to their overall carbon emissions.
Talent and Talent Again
Access to talent is still a hot topic, but with a new twist. Now, companies are shifting their focus from Labour Cost Arbitrage to Skills Arbitrage when making investments in new geographies. In other words, people are asking themselves about the locations of the best talent that can make better use of automation and digital tools to increase productivity. This shift towards skills is expanding the talent pool.
A Way Forward
In short, this year’s WEF leaves space for optimism. Manufacturers have more clarity on the challenges that lie ahead, they understand more about how to overcome them, and they have the right tools to do so. It certainly won’t be easy, but by working together, manufacturers, governments, and wider industries, have a better chance than ever to make a difference and chart a clearer path forward for the future.
Saar Yoskovitz is Co-Founder and CEO of machine health company Augury.
A Guide to Digital Transformation in Manufacturing
Digital Transformation (DX) is a broad business strategy to solve traditional business challenges and create new disruptive opportunities using digital technology – such as maximize revenue, reduce cost, improve quality, and increase flexibility. Use cases range from asset optimization to workforce productivity to industrialization.
Why Manufacturers Need Digital Transformation
To remain competitive, DX for manufacturers is a necessity. Global market intelligence firm IDC predicts that in 2025 global DX spend among manufacturing industry companies will total more than $816 billion. Forrester Consulting found that more than 90% of manufacturing leaders believe that DX is important for their success. Clearly there is a lot at stake and developing a DX strategy is critical to capturing the most value.
The range of opportunities for DX in manufacturing is both a positive and negative. On the one hand, for whatever challenges facing an organization, there is likely a solution out there to address it. But manufacturers are faced with dozens of challenges. Such initiatives are usually driven by a scattergun, technology-driven approach. Ultimately, this results in resources being misdirected and just a small set of initiatives driving true transformation. Instead, companies must employ a laser-focused approach, that emphasizes impact, speed, and scale.
Manufacturers that have successfully adopted DX strategies are more efficient than their competition. That efficiency may be generated by greater worker productivity, asset uptime, better cross-organizational collaboration, or other DX opportunities. Ultimately, regardless of how efficiency is gained, it can be leveraged to increase revenue and/or reduce costs.
Achieving Transformation with Impact, Speed, and Scale
Regardless of the many different challenges an organization faces and the many different solutions on the market, there are fundamentally four objectives for manufacturers that have not changed: maximize revenue, reduce cost, improve quality, and increase flexibility. Impact, speed, and scale are the three key success factors for delivering transformational outcomes, and each must be tied to at least one of the objectives. Here’s how:
Impact – Focus resources on the most important constraints to drive P&L. Based on the dynamics of an industry and strategic roadmap, manufacturers should determine which of the fundamental goals are most important to improve upon and which are most likely to impact these goals in order of their criticality to the business.
Speed – With impactful opportunities identified, attention should turn to speed and scale. Quick wins can make or break a good initiative by building early, positive momentum. A quick win will generate team buy-in and can be leveraged for greater executive support. This rapid time to initial value is best achieved with proven off-the-shelf solutions.
Scale – Scalability must be considered early. No initiative should take place without a comprehensive and actionable scaling plan. If a project is slow to scale it is more likely to lose support and fold. If it cannot scale, then it is not delivering transformational value. The most reliable way to build a scalable plan is to model it after approaches that have already proven to be successful. The key here is finding repeatable use cases, that check off the high impact requirement and can be deployed with off-the-shelf solutions.
A recent PTC survey found that there is a stark difference between the companies that succeed in DX and those that do not. Companies that meet ROI goals expectations beat them by an average of 50%; those that fail miss expectations by an average of 30%.
This insight underscores the requirement for strategic DX for manufacturing organizations, and the PTC Impact, Speed, and Value Framework described here creates a foundation for DX success.
Will Hastings is Director of Product Marketing, PLM for PTC.
Achieving Measurable Value through Data-Driven Manufacturing
“Data collection doesn’t equal success” and other observations from a powerful visit to EY’s Digital Operations Hub @ MxD
The Manufacturing Leadership Council recently partnered with EY for a two-day event focused on preparing for the future of manufacturing. Hosted at MxD in Chicago, Ill., the event focused on data-driven manufacturing and included a tour of EY’s Digital Operations Hub, several discussion panels and presentations, and a collaborative workshop.
Diving deep into manufacturing at EY’s Digital Operations Hub: Day one featured a round-robin visit to a selection of experience modules within the EY Digital Operations Hub. Participants had the option to visit five of the hub’s 31 modules where they heard about topics including workforce upskilling, intelligent demand forecasting and planning, digital performance management, digital worker enablement, edge computing, and more.
As participants made their way around the Digital Operations Hub, led by EY’s Mark Heidenreich, who leads the Digital Operations Hub, EY’s expert team and partners shared a deep dive into each topic, demonstrating the latest technologies and thinking on this important array of manufacturing topics.
Focusing on the future: The second day of programming kicked off with a conversation between David Brousell, MLC’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, and Scott Dixon, EY’s Managing Director – Advanced Manufacturing Technology Leader. The topic at hand was MLC’s latest white paper, The Next Phase of Digital Evolution and what it tells us about the future of manufacturing.
The two focused on data and its important role in manufacturing. While data may be difficult to get to – particularly on-demand – it is an important driver of decisions and value. However, they cautioned that data collection doesn’t equal success. Instead, Brousell and Dixon urged organizations to balance resilience while adding complexity. Brousell recommended that organizations not focus on data’s ability to “knock down silos.” That phrase, he warned, can be scary for subject matter experts. Instead, he recommended weaving silos together so that systems are integrated and domain expertise can be maintained.
Becoming data-driven: Next up, the event covered the top challenges for data-driven manufacturing with a presentation by EY’s Sachin Lulla and Amy Burke, the Americas Consulting Sector Leader – Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility and Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility Markets Leader, respectively. With a survey of 400 manufacturing companies as its basis, the presenters shared how only 10% were experimenting with digital, while only six percent were tackling digital at scale.
Throughout the conversation Lulla and Burke emphasized the need to put humans at the center of any transformation, building digitization and operational excellence around that core. For Lulla, the purpose of technology is to augment human intelligence. The pair agreed that starting with an end goal in mind is important when formulating a data strategy. The organization and employees need to know “the why” behind the data collection and use.
Further, Burke and Lulla recommended that organizations should not just look at gaps in their current workforce, but at what employee skills exist on the team and how upskilling and a learning environment can cultivate a fertile ground for data to be used successfully.
Driving digital with data: Pfizer’s Vice President of Digital Manufacturing, Mike Tomasco, was on hand to share how the pharmaceutical and biotechnology company uses data-driven decision making to create value. Tomasco shared how the company’s initial failures with capturing and using data led to significant successes and allowed Pfizer to move beyond pilot purgatory to large-scale transformation.
Moving beyond: The idea of moving beyond pilot purgatory was explored further to start the final panel discussion moderated by Brousell. Panelist Jim Fledderjohn, Dell’s Manufacturing Vertical Field Director, advised organizations to align pilots to the bigger strategic vision and fail fast. According to fellow panelist Terry Davenport, Rheem’s Executive Vice President, Global Operations, leaders should use the scientific method to learn from pilot projects and prove the value before scaling. From a collaboration standpoint, Microsoft’s Americas Regional Business Lead – Manufacturing, David Breaugh suggests that cross-functional teams help keep an eye on the big picture and unlock insights faster. Meanwhile, James Zhan, PTC’s Vice President, Market Development, IoT Solutions cautioned the audience not to focus solely on pilot purgatory and to be sure to keep an eye on workforce skills purgatory.
The panel also tackled the topic of data measurement, with Fledderjohn urging organizations to be selective about what data they collect – a proactive strategy that will help ensure the data is used and useful. Any process should have a metric that makes things faster, safer, eases worker burden, and offers higher quality and cheaper outputs, added Davenport. To that end, panelist Steve Pavlosky, GE Digital’s Vice President of Product Management, shared that GE shifted its technology roadmap to help customers move data into a single system so operators could make decisions quicker.
Capping it off with idea sharing: The event was capped off by a series of collaborative breakout sessions during which participants brainstormed go-forward ideas and feedback around the topics covered throughout the course of the entire event. Beyond the content that participants absorbed throughout the event, the breakouts gave them a chance to add their own two cents to the discussion, share their own experiences, and take away new perspectives that can be applied to their organizations.
Visit https://www.mxdusa.org/partners/ey/ to learn more.
All photos courtesy of EY.
Effective Communication – The Start-Up’s Biggest Challenge
If you were looking for a dose of optimism to counter the troubling reality of the post-pandemic world, you could do a lot worse than turn to the start-up community. Even in the best of times, the odds are stacked ruthlessly against anyone considering starting a business. And these are hardly the best of times. Yet new ideas and the magic combination of hope and conviction that supports them, continue to pour forth in a torrent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans started 4.3 million businesses in 2020, a 24% increase from 2019, and by far the biggest number in a calendar year in the previous decade and a half.
As an investor, and a mentor for Creative Destruction Labs (CDL) I meet a lot of founders, and I watch a lot of introductory pitches. And while the enthusiasm is ever-present, it is not uncommon, after the founder has left the room, for those who have just watched the pitch to turn to one another and say something like: “I still don’t know what they actually do.”
The effective communication of a new product’s value and function is, I believe, the biggest challenge facing any start-up founder. This is about knowledge transfer. It is a prerequisite of every progressive step the company hopes to take. And it is particularly difficult for companies that are bringing to market – either as a core product or as part of a wider service or solution – a complex mechanical object (CDL focuses on science and technology start-ups).
These founders have to convince investors to fund their project; they have to explain defensible intellectual property to patent attorneys and granting authorities; they have to communicate requirements to sub-component suppliers and manufacturing partners; they need to convince buyers and users that the product can deliver; they must ensure anyone responsible for maintenance and repair knows exactly what’s required to keep it operational.
That is a broad audience, each with a specific set of knowledge transfer needs. So to be effective, communication needs to be highly versatile, and to deliver absolute clarity through the most efficient processes. If this capability isn’t baked into the organization from the outset, the best case scenario is that the challenge scales as the company becomes successful, creating a much bigger problem which can have a direct impact on operational KPIs.
As products come to market they bring with them a host of documentation and content requirements associated with that knowledge transfer. Creating and maintaining this content is a huge task and one that can easily become a bottleneck. If the content isn’t ready, the product can’t be promoted or sold. If it isn’t completely accurate, if it’s hard to access, if doesn’t tell the full story, you could be looking at fabrication or maintenance errors and costly downtime.
Advances in manufacturing technology – the adoption of agile workflows and additive manufacturing – actually make things worse. These processes accelerate product development and iteration, making the documentation and content bottleneck even more damaging.
Macro realities compound the problem yet further. Once upon a time a new company would start by bringing a core team together at a new premises. However, full-time, on-site work looks like a thing of the past. Studies suggest 70% of the workforce will remain working remotely five days per month by 2025 with others opting to work part-time on-site and part-time at home. And, in any case, start-ups tend to rely on a distributed ecosystem of product and service suppliers from the outset, for obvious reasons.
And according to a 2020 McKinsey report, Unlocking growth in small and medium-size enterprises, SMEs have innate productivity challenges, exacerbated by lack of access to high-cost enterprise software solutions. So, to ensure effective communication – to give themselves the best possible chance of success – start-ups today must find a way to drive effective teamwork and collaboration among a distributed workforce and ecosystem, at an affordable price point, all while driving productivity, in order to become competitive.
But start-ups have an advantage. Their primary strength in addressing these challenges is their capacity for continuous innovation, not just in terms of products and services but also – crucially – in terms of processes. This owes a huge amount to that optimism which got them started on the journey in the first place. According to McKinsey, “Because they are unhindered by legacy systems and outdated strategies, new market entrants are often able to rethink established practices and cut through traditional industry boundaries.”
Here’s a great example: Impossible Sensing is a CDL alumnus that develops and manufactures autonomous exploration tools designed to function in extreme environments from deep ocean to deep space. Their products are used to detect valuable minerals in off-planet environments. Prior to the pandemic, Impossible Sensing’s founder used 3D-printed models to enable prospective buyers – a Mars scientist at NASA, for example – to get a tangible sense of the firm’s products.
Restrictions on face-to-face meetings put an end to that, leaving this CEO suddenly missing a key part of his sales pitch. He overcame this by using interactive 3D communication which allows customers to play with the 3D models of his product (the closest thing to handling that 3D-printed object) wherever they were located. Video calling is great for replicating the conversation, but there are a number of critical communication experiences that it simply cannot deliver.
Many people might have focused on the frustration of being unable to continue to operate as they had before. But the start-up’s optimism will always find another way.
A start-up’s Big Idea is only as good as the extent to which it can be understood by everyone whose participation is required to make it successful. Get in front of that effective communication challenge as early as possible – solve that knowledge transfer problem across the board – and not only will you be giving yourself the best possible shot at success, you’ll be future-proofing your business against problems which can undermine you as you grow.
About the author:
Patricia Hume is Chief Executive Officer of Canvas GFX.
Product Communication Disorder
How the documentation deficit is undermining Industry 4.0
The manufacturing industry has spent a lot of time, effort and money on making its processes more efficient over time. And now the industry is investing in the Industry 4.0 philosophy to minimize wastage and downtime, leveraging technologies including 3D printing, digital twins, and predictive maintenance. Powering all of these investments is data.
Late last year I had a number of conversations with manufacturing professionals who manage products throughout their lifecycles – from the 3D CAD design phase, through review, fabrication, sales and marketing, and even further into customer usage and after-sales. They each told similar stories of breakdowns in the processes for creating, distributing, and consuming content that transfers vital knowledge about their products. In addition, they all identified significant negative impacts stemming from these problems. Errors, delays, and missed sales opportunities were frequent complaints.
I came away wanting to know more about these problems, their outcomes, and the underlying causes. What is driving ineffective product documentation workflows and processes at organizations that otherwise appear to be investing heavily in efficiency-based initiatives and cutting-edge tech?
In a bid to find out, my company, Canvas GFX, surveyed over 500 manufacturing professionals across a broad range of verticals, including automotive and electric vehicles, aerospace and defense, new space tech, industrial machinery, and more. The results showed these challenges exist widely across the manufacturing sector, suggesting an endemic and interconnected problem.
We’ve dubbed this problem Product Communication Disorder. For many companies, Product Communication Disorder is perceived, managed – and often tolerated – as a series of departmental workflow challenges. The data suggests the problem cannot be solved unless assessed and addressed with a company-wide perspective.
Where have manufacturers gone wrong?
There are three distinct stages within documentation and knowledge transfer where problems arise, the first being the creation of product content.
As it stands, creating product communication content is time-consuming and complicated, requiring input from multiple team members across an organization. Our research highlighted how critically deficient current workflows are, with clear room for improvement. The stats lay the issue bare, with over 95% of manufacturing industry professionals reporting that projects or products at their company had suffered errors or delays as a result of inefficient workflows for the creation of product communication.
But the problem runs deeper than content simply being late or too time-consuming to create. While the data says these are both true, our survey also suggested that the processes underpinning the creation of content are themselves flawed. For more than one in three respondents (36%) workflow bottlenecks stemmed from too many people being involved in content creation. Meanwhile, the lack of skills or software needed to be able to properly visualize 3D models, the basis for many documentation illustrations, was cited by one third of respondents.
Collaboration is another area fraught with challenges. In fact, 73% of respondents in our survey said they had experienced product or project errors or delays in the past two years as a result of difficulty collaborating on content.
Just as content creation at manufacturing companies is fragmented in terms of departments, skills and software, the collaborative process also appears to want for some kind of central management. According to almost three quarters of survey respondents, a primary problem appears to be too many channels (including email, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and other voice and video calling solutions) being used to manage collaboration, review and feedback on product content. The result of this vital communication happening across a range of channels according to 3 in 4 respondents is that it is easy to miss feedback on important documentation and content.
Lastly, the survey revealed serious concerns around the ability of workers to access the most up-to-date documentation materials. For many organizations this appears to be a struggle, while the problem is aggravated by managing a range of different content formats. It’s vital to remember that consuming content is what this entire process is about.
Worryingly, 85% of respondents said that outdated documentation in circulation had resulted in errors and delays over the last four years, and over a third (36%) said their company struggled to manage the rate at which content becomes outdated. More alarming still is the large proportion of respondents who conceded that their company has difficulty ensuring everyone who needs access to content is able to access the most up-to-date version of each document (54%).
Solidifying Industry 4.0 gains
The overarching issue is that manufacturers spend heavily to update their processes to reduce defects and ensure products make it to market on time, documentation issues are continually undercutting those investments.
Perhaps the starkest illustration of the problem lies in the fact that 73% of respondents felt that inefficiencies in their product communication processes were undermining gains made through other technology initiatives.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, and there is a silver lining here. The findings pointed to evidence that manufacturing companies are looking to cure the problem, rather than simply manage the pain. While the data is clear, so are the actions companies can take.
By addressing their problems in product documentation, companies can take a huge leap in realizing the full potential that Industry 4.0 offers and maximize their investments in it.
About the author:
Patricia Hume is Chief Executive Officer of Canvas GFX.
Are Your People On Board?
Cultural Transformation Is the Key to Success in Digital Transformation
Though once considered a radical concept in the eyes of some, the necessity of digital transformation is now embraced by most organizations. The question is no longer whether to digitally transform — it’s now how to do it. But often, those discussions focus myopically upon the technologies involved.
That’s a mistake.
People, after all, are the ones driving change. Technology is the tool they use to do so. If the attitudes, behaviors and goals of your organization’s people — your culture — are not on board with your digital transformation goals, your transformation will likely fail even if you have the right technology in place. Having clear alignment between your technical objectives and your company’s culture is essential for success — in fact, organizations that take a human-centric approach to digital transformation are 2.6 times more likely to see success.1
Five common business blockers to cultural change
There are several common stumbling blocks that may significantly impede your progress along the path to digital transformation. The most vexing challenges revolve around five key cultural issues:
- Organizational data isolated in functional or hierarchical silos.
- A lack of the skills needed to enable digital transformation.
- The breakdown of inter-team communication and collaboration.
- Cultural resistance to change rooted in lack of understanding of transformation goals.
- Fear and worry about job insecurity, or a lack of psychological safety, among employees.
Any one of these cultural barriers presents a significant speed bump to the transformation process. The presence of all five within a single organization — not an uncommon scenario — wreaks havoc upon an organization’s efforts to transform.
Stepping over those stumbling blocks
Transformation undeniably involves change — and change and human nature often have a stormy relationship. People tend to resist change, particularly when it makes them feel isolated or left behind. How can companies overcome these stumbling blocks to enable and encourage cultural change in support of digital transformation? The answer involves a mix of technology and people-centric management.
To eliminate data and skillset silos without disrupting your key business processes, you need to gradually build cross-functionality across teams. Consider using tools and techniques such as Kaizen (a management strategy that supports ongoing, incremental change), which many organizations have found to be crucial for success. A top-down commitment to opening silos is equally important; however, the true key to breaking down silos is about understanding, engaging and promoting collaboration across both the formal structures and the informal networks that exist across the organization.
Recently, research has found that the key to identifying and engaging these informal networks is by identifying influencers across an organization and engaging with them. Each silo represents a comfort zone for the group of employees that operates within that silo, and employees may be reluctant to move away from those comfort zones. By activating networks across the organization, company leadership can promote collaboration without incentivization.
Similarly, it’s essential to nurture teamwide collaboration and communication in ways that are nonthreatening to individuals and team cultures. While specialized skillsets and knowledge specific to a team (or even a single task) is valuable to the entire organization, individuals who hold that knowledge often consider themselves the owners of that knowledge — an ownership that they may be reluctant to surrender for fear of diminishing their own value. Commending employees for exceptional knowledge sharing and skill development creates a culture of collaboration while promoting candid communication.
Innovation culture and success factors for digital transformation
Leadership should also be sensitive to the language used in communicating transformation initiatives. Phrases such as “breaking down silos” can feel threatening to people working in those so-called silos. Functional areas with their own domains of expertise and knowledge exist for important reasons — and will continue to exist — so leaders should instead talk about “weaving silos together” to achieve cross-functional integration while preserving the benefits of domain expertise.
Adopting agile approaches serves to foster the evolution of cultural shifts across teams, enabling them to be more cross functional. Another tool that can be highly effective in breaking down a range of barriers to collaboration and communication — including differences in age, gender and ethnicity — is reverse mentoring, where younger employees are paired with executive team members to help those executives connect with a younger demographic. Creativity, too, is important when it comes to breaking down cultural cliques. Even discouraging teams from keeping to themselves in settings like company cafeterias can be effective.
Finally, executive leadership, like all other members of the organization, must also evolve. They must embrace the goals of transformation and become comfortable with the higher levels of ambiguity that characterize today’s marketplace.
That said, technology does play a major role in supporting digital transformation initiatives. The right technology can make all the difference in fostering the cultural shift necessary for successful digital transformation. Today’s digital tools can guide effective collaboration, enhance efficiencies, enable standardization and encourage innovation. For example, Hitachi designed a cross-functional 2-day Smart Manufacturing Solution Envisioning Workshop for Logan Aluminum that helped key employees better understand the benefits of specific digital transformation initiatives.
Transformation is really about people
Business organizations are often perceived as lifeless, faceless entities. But in truth, each organization is a collection of people — people who must work together to make the business successful. That’s why it’s so important that everyone in your organization is on board with both the processes and goals of transformation.
Ultimately, fostering positive cultural shifts among your people is the best way — and, realistically, the only way — to ensure that your digital transformation goals can be achieved. Because, in the end, digital transformation is all about your people; a journey begun for your people and achieved by your people.
Hitachi’s Social Innovation imperative is all about unlocking value for society through the power of technology and people. For more tips about getting ahead by thinking ahead, visit our Social Innovation page.
About the authors:
John Brinegar, Director, IoT Solution Architecture, Hitachi Vantara
John Brinegar leads the Solution Architecture team at Hitachi Vantara, and has been leading IIoT projects at Hitachi customer sites for eight years. In addition, Brinegar led the architecture, development, and launch of Lumada Manufacturing Insights, an analytics platform for optimizing performance, maintenance and quality operations. He has extensive background deploying analytics systems into a variety of manufacturing sub-verticals, including electronics, pharma/biotech, metals, automotive, and others, along with IIoT software development and integration in telecommunications, health care, and enterprise markets.
David R. Brousell, Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director Manufacturing Leadership Council
David R. Brousell is the Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the digital manufacturing arm of the National Association of Manufacturing, the largest association of manufacturers in the United States.
In his role as head of the MLC, Brousell sets the strategic direction of the organization and oversees day-to-day activities across the MLC’s portfolio of live and virtual events and thought-leadership content generation. Brousell is a member of the NAM Leadership Team and is also a member of the MLC’s Board of Governors. In his more than 40-year career, Brousell has served in numerous leadership positions in companies large and small.
1Errol Gardner, Norman Lonergan, Liz Fealy, “How transformations with humans at the center can double your success,” EY, June 24, 2022, https://www.ey.com/en_gl/consulting/how-transformations-with-humans-at-the-center-can-double-your-success.
Digital Tech is Cornerstone for Sustainability
MLC Master Class session with NTT DATA and Microsoft lays out formula for net-zero success
In his introduction to MLC’s recent Master Class session, Harnessing Digital Technology for a Sustainable Future, Paul Tate laid out the high stakes involved in sustainable manufacturing.
“This is one of the most existential challenges and sources of opportunity for the manufacturing industry over the next decade,” said Tate, MLC’s Co-Founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director.
To get to a sustainable, net-zero future, application of both data and analytics are critical. During the Master Class, expert speakers Baskar Radhakrishnan of NTT DATA and Rebecca Christiansen of Microsoft defined the challenges and described how digital technology can help manufacturers accelerate decarbonization.
According to Christiansen, Microsoft’s Americas Azure IoT Specialist Director, nearly one-third of the world’s energy consumption and roughly 20% of CO2 emissions are attributable to the manufacturing industry. To help combat climate issues, she pointed to the 5,000 companies that have committed to net zero as part of the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign.
“While a lot of companies have made commitments, building the strategy, backing it with detailed plans and execution methodologies has been really tough,” Christiansen stated. “It’s really up to all of us, collectively, to figure out what technologies and what strategies should be implemented to go after this.”
Further, Baskar Radhakrishnan shared this must be looked at not only through the strategic lens, but also from a tactical, operational technology perspective.
“From a technology perspective, there is a lot of data available coming from the supply chain, coming from your OT systems, coming from all over your networks,” said Radhakrishnan, NTT DATA’s Strategic Advisor for Manufacturing. “But how you derive some meaningful insight out of that is a huge challenge.”
To show how sustainability investments can provide value, NTT DATA and Microsoft have partnered together to demonstrate quick return on investment for their customers. They have designed a production-level pilot that can be set up in a small-scale production environment at a customer site in less than 12 weeks. This allows the implementation team to show its organizational leaders the opportunity, value and positive ROI associated with investing in an energy management or a waste reduction system.
Beyond demonstrating ROI with this pilot, it is important to also look at sustainability from a business objectives perspective.
“There is a gamut of technologies involved,” Radhakrishnan said, “so technology is an enabler. It’s not going to solve your problem unless you have the process straightened out and unless you identify the range of possible options for transitioning towards the net-zero targets.”
In part because organizations cannot improve things they can’t measure, NTT DATA and Microsoft are using the Azure digital twin to help companies meet their sustainability goals.
“We tackle the problem of data by connecting directly to energy data sources – be it power meters, submeters on equipment, or utilizing building management systems. From there we create both real-time visibility to energy usage and provide analytics about the energy usage, trends, and patterns,” said Radhakrishnan.
According to the Master Class speakers, manufacturers shouldn’t be afraid or overwhelmed with the prospect of using digital twins in this process. While they can seem complex, they are simply virtual replicas of physical assets, or “high-fidelity digital representations of the physical world,” as Christiansen called them.
“Once you’ve got [the physical world] modeled, you can garner insights, you can look at consumption, you can look at interaction, you can think about how you can manipulate or even identify fault detection or anomalies in advance, which help you really optimize keeping your manufacturing line healthy, runtime up, and throughput maximized,” she said.
The outcomes from using digital twins are clear, including improved production capacity and inspection efficiency with reduced energy usage and CO2 emissions. Plus, the twin allows the user to look at energy management on many level: at the product, factory, or even supply chain levels. That includes progress toward net-zero goals.
“That’s extremely important because you’re completely taking the guesswork out of this,” said Radhakrishnan. “You need a systematic way of tracking, reporting, recording, and being able to model and show progress not only to your board but also to your external stakeholders as well as investors.”
In fact, he said, if you are not making progress, the digital twin in combination with artificial intelligence allows you to model and fix problems and see how you are progressing toward your vision.
Beyond the technology itself, the final piece to the puzzle is creating an organizational culture with proper funding, training, and resources.
“We’re seeing a lot of organizations hire chief sustainability officers,” said Christiansen. “That’s an incredible start, but that’s a single person. It has to come through the entire culture of a company.”
If the culture is not there, she warns, it will be a challenge to implement these changes.
As the Master Class demonstrated, net-zero goals are challenging, but they are also achievable. Digital technologies like NTT DATA and Microsoft’s production-level pilot can build a case to create sustainability programs that create substantial results. Establishing goals and a strategy, utilizing digital twins, analyzing the data and analytics, and creating an organizational culture where the entire company is behind the mission are all key to accelerating a decarbonization effort.
Visit NTT DATA’s sustainable manufacturing page to learn more about this topic.
Why Women’s Voices in Manufacturing Matter
What do women in manufacturing think about the business they’re in? It’s not something we hear a great deal about, which is perhaps not surprising. Manufacturing is a male-dominated industry, after all. For half a century women have represented around 30% of the U.S. manufacturing workforce, peaking at 33% in 1990, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB).
By number, most female employees are found in production, transportation, and material moving. They are assemblers and fabricators, says the USCB, inspectors and testers, among other roles.
But, proportionately, women enjoy far greater representation in the sales and office-based roles of manufacturing companies, where they are in the majority, holding 51.7% of the roles.
So it’s important to know what they think. Earlier this year we surveyed over 500 manufacturing professionals from a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, automotive, space, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, to understand the challenges associated with product-related communication and knowledge transfer.
In line with the USCB data, female employees accounted for 28% of responses. And while we did not set out to measure gender distribution across industries (and so, offer no conclusive insight) there was some interesting variation by sector. For example, women accounted for just 21% of responses in the aerospace and defense sector while in the emerging SpaceTech sector they accounted for 35%, and in the automotive sector 32%.
When it comes to existing product communication workflows – the ways in which documentation describing products and processes is created, shared, and consumed – the data was clear: 71% of female employees believe there is room for improvement in these workflows, and the same proportion believe documentation challenges at their organization are getting harder to manage as the company grows. Ninety-seven percent of female respondents said they had seen products or projects hit by errors or delays as a result of documentation being late, inaccurate or unclear, or outdated.
Digging further into specific elements of the workflows, and perhaps indicating areas where female employees may have greater insight, women were more acutely concerned about bottlenecks associated with the creation of product documentation than their male counterparts. Sixty-five percent of female respondents reported that creation bottlenecks are a frequent problem at their organization compared to just 51% of male respondents.
They also felt more strongly that managing distribution of, and access to, important documentation was a problem, with 43% of women saying this was difficult for their organization to manage, compared to 36% of male respondents.
With documentation creation and consumption routinely involving collaboration between separate departments, we asked respondents how well different disciplines such as engineering and marketing professionals were able to collaborate. Here, female respondents were perhaps more optimistic than their male counterparts, with 30% saying there were no difficulties, compared to only 20% for male respondents.
In terms of the outcomes of these workflow challenges, women again registered somewhat higher levels of concern than men. Forty percent of female respondents said they had witnessed wastage through product defects as a result of product documentation being delayed, inaccurate or unclear, or outdated, compared to 38% of male respondents. And 38% of women said the same problems had led to delayed or missed sales opportunities, compared to 32% of male respondents; interesting considering the USCB data which showed higher numbers of female workers in manufacturing sales roles.
Perhaps more worryingly, one in three female manufacturing employees believe their organization is not actively seeking ways to improve documentation workflows and processes, which suggests a huge opportunity for improvement if the problems these women are identifying can be highlighted and understood at the leadership level.
So what does success look like for women in manufacturing? Well, with 37% of female respondents saying the applications used in documentation workflows are unsuited to the task, 33% saying there are too many applications involved, and 39% saying there are too many people involved, the data suggests women want to see more autonomy and efficiency in these crucial knowledge transfer workflows.
More than 2 in 3 of female respondents said it would be beneficial to use a single application for the creation of all types of product content, while 62% said it would be beneficial if all collaboration were also to happen in one application channel. Meanwhile, 66% said they believed it would be beneficial if the company was able to track and measure document access and usage.
As in any sector, women have an important role to play in manufacturing and it is essential we understand their perspective on the challenges companies face. A clear takeaway from this research is that female employees believe the manufacturing industry faces a defining challenge when it comes to poor communication and product documentation, which is intricately connected to the success of the entire organization. And when the processes in place break down, the result is self-inflicted damage that could – and should – have been avoided.
About the author:
Patricia Hume is Chief Executive Officer of Canvas GFX.