Business Operations

The Companies Leading the Way into Manufacturing 4.0

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We all learn by example. That simple principle lies behind an ambitious undertaking by the World Economic Forum: to build a network of manufacturers that have succeeded in adopting Manufacturing 4.0 technologies, and that can act as ambassadors and educators for the whole global industry.

It’s called the WEF Global Lighthouse Network, and it’s already yielding fruitful partnerships and useful information. Recently, WEF Head of Advanced Manufacturing Francisco Betti sat down with the MLC to explain how it works.

Lighting the way: The Global Lighthouse Network emerged from a research partnership with McKinsey, which looked into what holds manufacturers back from embracing M4.0 technologies.

  • After talking to more than 400 senior leaders, the researchers discovered that only 30% of companies were benefitting from technology adoption in their facilities and supply chains.
  • As Betti puts it, “The majority were stuck in what we define as ‘Pilot Purgatory.’ There were massive investments being made in new technologies, and thousands of pilot projects underway, but very few were making it to the shop floor or delivering real operational financial value.”

That’s where the Lighthouse companies come in—the WEF decided to ask some of that 30% to open their doors and teach the rest of the industry how to make the digital jump.

How it’s going: Currently, the Lighthouse network has 69 members, assessed by a rigorous and independent review process. Betti says, “What is interesting is that we have companies from a large variety of sectors, and that is by design. . . . The opportunity for cross-learning here is massive.”

  • The project is looking for use cases at factories, but also beyond. Many of the real winners in the digital game transform their entire supply chains, and the WEF is also looking to add those sorts of companies to their network.

Get involved: Companies can apply to be a part of the network, says Betti. The process involves an application, which covers both achievements and strategies, and culminates in a site visit.

  • “The panel convenes on a quarterly basis to assess all the applications, vote and decide on those who finally get recognized as Lighthouses in the network.”

The transformation: Betti sees the M4.0 technologies as transforming whole economies and enabling “a new era of economic growth.” He makes a bold prediction about its effects on manufacturing leadership:

  • “We are under the impression that there is a trend that we will most likely see going forward where chief operating officers will become the next generation of CEOs. Those who know how to successfully run operations by transforming them digitally are most likely going to provide top leadership positions in the near future.”

The last word: “If you transform digitally, and you do that by bringing your people on board, you have not only become more productive, you’re not only becoming more resilient, you’re not only becoming more sustainable, but you are setting your organization for growth in the years ahead.”

Business Operations

The Six Factors of Manufacturing 4.0 Success

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In a world that only ever speeds up, manufacturers need to embrace technologies that let them shift operations quickly and seamlessly. Manufacturing 4.0 technologies like machine learning and robotics provide that power, but the scale of the M4.0 transformation can seem overwhelming.

In a recent edition of the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Manufacturing Leadership Journal, Oracle Senior Director of Transformational Technologies Anant Kadiyala lays out six factors that make all the difference for successful M4.0 adaptation. Below is some of his advice.

Technology Adoption: Companies that consider the full range of technology’s benefits are setting themselves up for success. Some trends to consider:

  • Software is becoming more integral to business operations and product functionality—allowing products to be configured and monitored in real time using analytics.
  • On the operational side, the industrial internet of things and machine vision are enabling a whole host of advances in real-time monitoring, anomaly detection and worker safety, among other uses.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Companies that make good use of data achieve higher margins than their peers, according to a McKinsey study, but that requires some key ingredients, including:

  • A unified data infrastructure, including APIs, applications, analytics, real-time systems and much more;
  • The right tools to process the data; and
  • Employees who are skilled in data-driven operations.

“In most companies, 90% of the data goes unused. In addition, more than 70% of the time and effort in data science projects is often spent on moving, cleaning and preparing data,” says Kadiyala.

New Business Models: “Modern technologies, such as cloud, IoT and AI/ML, enable every manufacturer to have the sophistication of business operations and real-time feedback loops that were only enjoyed by the big players,” says Kadiyala.

Innovation and Experimentation: Manufacturers can pursue different options for innovation, with partnerships being a common choice. Other methods might be design workshops or R&D investments, Kadiyala notes.

  • “With the right people, processes and tools, companies can navigate faster and realize value quicker. The lean methodology that the manufacturing industry is renowned for also works very well for innovation.”

Well-Integrated Teams: The right talent is critical to business transformation—and good data, process automation and collaborative practices clear the way for employees’ success.

Culture: As Kadiyala puts it, “Successful companies start early innovation on the edges of their business, deliver a few wins and then gradually build their way into the rest of the organization. All successful transformations need employees to enjoy a strong sense of purpose and mission for the change.”

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“The Culture Is the Company”: An Interview with ALOM’s Hannah Kain

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With 19 global locations, ALOM Technologies Corporation specializes in technology-driven supply chains for Fortune 100 companies. ALOM President and CEO Hannah Kain recently sat down with the Manufacturing Leadership Council to share her thoughts on the state of the industry and the keys to successful leadership.

Taking on challenges: Over the long term, Kain sees workforce development—finding and training the next generation of manufacturing leaders—as a significant priority. But in the short term, she cites COVID-19- and trade-related supply chain disruptions as the most pressing issues.

  • “Shifts in demand have increased the need for agility in manufacturing, yet U.S. infrastructure, from ports and roads to cybersecurity, is under extreme strain, and geopolitics have made goods movement more complex,” she said.

Meeting the moment: During the COVID-19 pandemic, ALOM manufactured millions of COVID-19 test kits for the medical sector while ensuring its own workers remained safe, Kain said. The company also met the past year’s challenges by investing in digitization to improve its productivity.

Finding opportunities: Kain cites a range of opportunities for manufacturers of the future, from fast-improving technologies to the availability of new manufacturing talent—if manufacturers can find and harness it.

The importance of culture: Kain believes in what she calls “servant leadership”—seeing yourself as a supporter of stakeholders like customers, employees and suppliers and working to put their needs first. She strives to create a culture of collaboration within her own company.

The last word: “In the end, culture is the company, and the company is the culture,” said Kain. “Our culture is inclusive, collaborative, improvement-oriented and quality-focused, with a strong sense of ownership. Supporting that culture may be the most important thing I do.”

Business Operations

How COVID-19 Accelerated Manufacturing 4.0

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Manufacturing leaders proved they were good in a crisis in 2020—creating new products, speeding up the production of essential materials and instituting safety policies in record time. And as they accelerated their production lines, they also focused on increasing their adoption of Manufacturing 4.0 technologies.

Now, the Manufacturing Leadership Council—the division of the National Association of Manufacturers focused on manufacturing’s digital transformation—is exploring what leaders learned during the pandemic about the importance of digitization. The MLC’s recent survey of manufacturing leaders gives us a window into their thoughts, expectations and plans for the future—after a year like no other. Below are some key insights. 

A big impact: A full 54.8% of respondents said COVID-19 increased management’s focus on digital transformation. The changes they cited included new procedures for remote working, new disaster preparedness plans and increased integration across teams and structures.

And here’s another important finding: these changes seem permanent.

  • 68.2% said new disaster preparedness plans and strategies will be permanent additions to their operations.
  • 57.3% said more collaborative organizational structures will stick around.
  • 62.2% expect to keep allowing both leaders and employees to work remotely.

The digital workforce: With baby boomers retiring, companies are looking for new manufacturing leaders and seeking to fill a range of jobs, even as the digital evolution of the industry requires new and different skills. Where are these workers coming from?

  • 45.5% of respondents said they would come from internal sources—a drop of nearly 5% from last year’s survey. Leaders felt somewhat more in favor of finding talent elsewhere in the manufacturing industry.
  • One-third of respondents said they would look within the industry for talent, while only 13.2% expected to find candidates from other industries.

But these results may soon change, as manufacturers are still figuring out what digital skills they need. Over time, leaders will likely develop different ideas about where to find workers—and how to train them.

  • As the survey shows, manufacturers have a big opportunity to ramp up their digital training: only 22.3% of respondents this year said they have formal M4.0 training programs for workers and leadership.

Organizational shift: The emerging digital focus means many manufacturers are shifting toward a flatter, more collaborative working style. The numbers tell the tale:

  • Nearly 48.5% of respondents identified understanding how the company should be organized as a result of new technologies as a key challenge—an increase of 23% from last year.

The MLC says: As MLC Executive Director and NAM Vice President David Brousell put it, “Many manufacturing executives acknowledge that the equivalent of several years’ change has been compressed into the past year. Now, manufacturing leadership has the responsibility to see these changes through. If they are successful in doing so, they will take the industry to a new and better level, raising the bar for all and redefining the rules of competition.”

Business Operations

Prepare for Hurricanes with the NAM

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This year, hurricane season—which officially began June 1—arrived early, as it has every year since 2015. But while 2021’s inaugural Subtropical Storm Ana did not make landfall in the U.S. in late May, meteorologists are expecting the remainder of the year to be a busy time for hurricanes—and as manufacturers know all too well, that can mean trouble is ahead.

In addition to endangering lives, a strong hurricane can cause severe damage to individual companies and the U.S. economy as a whole. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2019 that expected annual losses from hurricane and storm-related damage came to $54 billion.

Always be prepared: Better planning for these yearly occurrences can help manufacturers mitigate the costs associated with storm-caused devastation—and go a long way toward keeping employees safe, too.

Offering resources: In partnership with disaster-relief organization SBP and product-philanthropy nonprofit Good360, the NAM’s Emergency Response Committee works year-round to provide members with access to disaster-preparedness resources and training in advance of natural disasters, and helps manufacturers activate to help their communities when one strikes

For example, in a recent webinar sponsored by the NAM’s ERC, Amanda Gallina, SBP community engagement manager, and Matt Woodruff, vice president of public and government affairs for Texas-based tank barge operator Kirby Corporation, laid out some suggestions for hurricane preparation.

For businesses: Woodruff provided some commonsense advice for employers:

  • Ensure new employees understand the hurricane plan well ahead of hurricane season.
  • Create a checklist of duties that must be performed, starting with the first day of hurricane season.
  • Set up remote work sites for affected areas and employees.
  • Provide support to the families of employees who live in affected areas to ensure their safety.

For individuals: Gallina offered advice for all individuals facing a hurricane:

  • Collect hazard and emergency information from local and national sources like news and weather apps, NOAA Weather Radio and the Red Cross Emergency app.
  • Make a household emergency plan, which should include stockpiling supplies, establishing communication methods and emergency contact numbers and creating an evacuation and sheltering plan.
  • Identify and protect important documents by storing them in a fire- and water-proof box, while giving extra copies to a trusted attorney or friend. You can also use secure online cloud storage as another backup.
  • Get the right insurance by identifying any gaps in coverage and asking your agent the right questions.

The last word: “We are grateful for the partnership with Good360 and SBP, which allows us to better support NAM members in times of need, but most importantly, provide valuable resources and thought leadership to build resiliency in advance of a disaster,” said NAM Chief Operating Officer Todd Boppell. “Advance planning is critical for successful businesses, and the thoughtful approach demonstrated by our partners resonates with the NAM’s vision to support manufacturing operations.”

To contact the NAM’s emergency response committee or to be added to its mailing list, email [email protected].