Business Operations

Business Operations

How Manufacturers Can Navigate Supply Chain Challenges

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As the global supply chain, worker shortage and wage inflation challenges many had hoped were transitory dig in their heels, manufacturers everywhere are wondering how best to get around them.

Panelists at “Successfully Navigating Current Supply Chain Disruptions,” a webinar hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Institute, Manufacturing Leadership Council and professional services firm PwC, sought to answer that question.

We rounded up the speakers’ top tips for manufacturers seeking to sustainably and profitably maneuver the several sizable hurdles they still face going into 2022.

  • Break down siloes. Now that manufacturers are having to replace traditional supply chain models, changing their company operations to have staff work across siloes is more important than ever, said PwC Partner Debjit Banerjee.
  • Expect disruption. If it taught us nothing else, COVID-19 conveyed the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. Going forward, manufacturers would do well to not just plan for the possibility of disruption, but to assume it will come. To that end, preplanned “differentiated customer service” and disruption drills should become the norm, Banerjee said.
  • Advance your supply chain planning. Increasingly, Nexteer Automotive, a global maker of steering and driveline components, is focusing on advanced supply chain planning, programs that help predict shipments, supply and demand for smoother operations, said Nexteer Automotive Vice President of Global Manufacturing Operations Dennis Hoeg. With it, “decisions can be made smarter, earlier.”
  • Automate. Manufacturers should consider automating repetitive “transaction” work and reserving their employees for analytical tasks that only humans can do, according to Hoeg.
  • Balance agility and resilience. Before the pandemic, “we were working on a strategy that was based on agility,” said Rockwell Automation Chief Supply Chain Officer Ernest Nicolas Jr. “Through the pandemic … we had to reprioritize. We had to take a step back to balance agility and resilience.” Manufacturers that want a better agility-resilience balance can do so “through data, process and technology” enablement, according to Nicolas.
  • “Relentlessly prioritize.” Nicolas so believes in this advice that he ended his presentation with it. “There’s so much going on right now; we want to be certain we manage our priorities,” he said. “So, there’s a lot we’re saying ‘not now’ to …. but it’s not a matter of ‘no.’ It’s a matter of, ‘We’ve got to get these things finished so we can lay the foundation’” in this new normal.
Business Operations

What Will Manufacturing Look Like in 2030?

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Given the many uncertainties brought about by COVID-19, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and more, it might seem as though what happens in the coming decade is anyone’s guess. But on closer examination, there are signposts signaling some of what’s to come—and a closer look at them can help manufacturers plan for the coming years.

At the recent “Manufacturing in 2030: The Shape of Things to Come” event hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council, in-person and virtual attendees heard from experts, examined trends, explored technologies and discussed upcoming challenges. The goal: to look into the future of manufacturing.

“We can’t be certain about what tomorrow will bring, let alone what might be in 2030,” said MLC Co-Founder David Brousell in his opening remarks. However, “we can project or extrapolate based on current trends and conditions, with a reasonable amount of probability, what the shape of manufacturing will look like in 10 years’ time.”

Why Manufacturing in 2030: Everything in manufacturing is changing, driven by technologies capable of giving decision makers more information than ever before. Prior to the pandemic, companies were already making changes to their organizational structures, shifting from hierarchical models to more collaborative means of organizing people and processes. COVID-19 has only accelerated this change.

Brousell explained: “All around us, conventional notions of what can be accomplished in production … are being reimagined.”

Challenges and opportunities: Upcoming challenges discussed included continued global supply chain disruptions, climate change and the redefinition of the human–machine relationship. Speakers examined the technological, organizational and leadership characteristics that can set manufacturers apart and provide them with a competitive advantage.

What’s next: The MLC will soon launch its yearlong “Manufacturing in 2030” project, which will help manufacturers explore, understand and plan for the future of the manufacturing industry in the next decade.

Said Brousell: “If we do things right in the next 10 years, we have the opportunity to create the greatest engine of manufacturing production humankind has ever seen.”

Business Operations

“What’s Ahead for 2022?” Predicts Growth, Continued Challenges

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Remote work, digital twins, an increased focus on sustainability and continued talent shortages: these are just some of the trends affecting manufacturers that we’re likely to see in 2022 and beyond, according to a group of expert panelists on the recent Manufacturing Leadership Council’s “What’s Ahead in 2022?” Critical Issues Panel. The NAM’s MLC is a global business leadership network dedicated helping to senior executives leverage digital transformation in the manufacturing industry.

We rounded up some of the top predictions as they pertain to manufacturers.

Economy

  • Manufacturing production will continue to be strong, said panelist and NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray. Toward the end of 2021, it was 2% above February 2020, “a sign that we’re continuing to move in the right direction despite … continuing supply chain challenges.”
  • S. labor-force participation is not likely to return “where it was pre-pandemic,” Moutray said. “A fair share of that is coming from retirement … [and] some people who are continuing to worry about child care and schooling.”
  • The economy will grow about 4% in 2022, Moutray predicted.

Policy

  • Washington will make moves to ease supply chain problems. “Congress knows they must do something to unleash the bottlenecks,” said panelist and NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse. Legislation could involve workforce-participation incentivization in the form of training programs, as well as giving additional resources to ports.
  • The vaccination and testing Emergency Temporary Standard will be “an area for continued movement” in 2022, Newhouse said.

Technology

  • Technology will find ways to cope with what are likely to be ongoing workforce shortages, IDC Energy and Manufacturing Insights Group Vice President Kevin Prouty said. These will include automation and technologies to enable virtual and remote work.
  • More manufacturers will begin using vision analytics, Prouty said, owing to the increased affordability of cameras and the ease with which footage can be analyzed, shared and moved in the cloud.
  • Use of artificial intelligence will start to become the norm among manufacturers rather than the exception, panelist and MLC Content Director Penelope Brown said. “We’re seeing manufacturers move away from that research phase and much more toward a roadmap” for how they’re going to use AI in their plants.

Environment

  • There will be greater, more widespread movement toward sustainability. In a recent MLC survey of manufacturers, 87% said they believed manufacturing had a responsibility to society to be more sustainable, Brown said.

Dive in deeper with the MLC’s recently redesigned website, and ensure your team has access to the MLC’s full network and suite of intel, events and other resources.

Business Operations

The “Megatrends” Are Coming: Global Predictions Manufacturers Should Know

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Several “megatrends” affecting manufacturers and the world at large will begin unfolding in coming years. University of Cambridge Judge Business School Dean Dr. Mauro F. Guillen made this prediction during a presentation at the recent Manufacturing Leadership Council’s “Manufacturing in 2030: The Shape of Things to Come” event.

Three trends: “Three kinds of trends … are coming together to produce a very different situation by the year 2030,” said Guillen, the author of “2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything.” He categorized them as “population trends, trends about emerging markets and technological trends.”

Here, we break down some of the highlights from these three umbrella trends.

Durable-goods demands will start earlier—and extend later: Owing largely to immigration patterns, large durable-goods purchases will, on average, start to come earlier in life, Guillen said.

  • Thus, in coming years, durable-goods manufacturers can probably expect their customer demographic to broaden to include younger people.
  • At the same time, Guillen said, given that people are living longer and better, consumers will wield purchasing power for longer than they did in decades past. “There is a massive concentration of wealth in the upper age groups,” Guillen said. This will mean greater demand for certain goods, such as robotics capable of caretaking, later into people’s lives.

Purchasing-power centers will shift: Currently, the U.S. and Europe are the world’s largest consumer economies, but by 2030, those distinctions will belong to China and India, Guillen said. And by 2040, India will have eclipsed China in this regard, due to population growth.

  • While older people will hold onto their purchasing power, younger consumers will hold sway for larger buys as they spend their money on homes, cars and other major purchases.
  • Meanwhile, wealth accumulation will continue to grow everywhere in the world, he said, fueling the appetite for manufacturers’ goods.

Emerging markets will overtake developed ones: Manufacturers can soon expect to see emerging markets become larger than developed ones, Guillen said.

  • That trend will mean a shift in manufacturer focus away from the U.S. and Europe and toward Africa and India. Said Guillen, “Sooner or later consumer markets will gravitate toward where the population is.”

The last word: Guillen’s main point of advice for manufacturers? To “identify the wave that you want to surf and take that opportunity, go with that wave. It’s so much better than going against the prevailing winds. You’ll be aligning yourself with the global economy.”

Business Operations

9 Key Considerations for Digital Twins in Manufacturing

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Many manufacturers are ahead of the curve when it comes to digital 4.0, but not all may know about the numerous potential benefits of digital twins. A virtual replica of a physical product, asset or system, a digital twin makes the physical computable. It offers manufacturers a range of advantages, including better business visibility, increased product reliability and new revenue streams.

Is digital twinning right for your business? Below are some key considerations to weigh as you think about adopting this advanced manufacturing technology.

  1. Digital twins are not complete representations of a product.
    Digital twins are akin to algorithms. They are highly reliant on data input, and since it’s nearly impossible to turn every aspect of a physical product into data, digital twins are not precisely twins, though they are pretty close. A digital twin is created by outfitting a product with sensors that can track functionality. These can then be used to study simulations of the product’s performance. So digital twins are made up of models and data, but their complexity is reliant on the data used to create them.
  2. Digital twins evolve over time.
    As a product moves through its lifecycle, the information in its digital twin will shift in response to its performance, technical configurations and environmental parameters.
  3. Information and data are key across a product’s lifecycle.
    For a digital twin to remain relevant and useful over time, make sure you are utilizing a data structure that can be easily used and exchanged over different systems and applications.
  4. You can use digital threads to enable digital twins.
    Digital threads are a communication framework that link all elements of a product’s data, from design to obsolescence. Using them reduces the complexity of digital-twin implementation and increases digital twins’ accuracy.
  5. Transparency is critical.
    Identify, classify and correlate data across various sources so there’s transparency and automated information-identification processing. These are crucial for smooth digital-twin deployment.
  6. Open format is best.
    In contrast to a proprietary system, which ties an organization’s data to specific systems, limiting its use, an open format ensures that your digital twins can be easily updated, scaled and extended when new models and data representing new outcomes become available.
  7. Your device management plan matters.
    In addition to ensuring that data is in a format that can be accessed and used over time, you should make similar considerations for devices that will access that data (i.e., phones, tablets and laptops). Make sure that your device plan can keep up with your needs for monitoring, updating and security.
  8. The cloud is your friend.
    Cloud-based computing, storage, analytics and artificial intelligence/machine learning services enable operational technology and information technology managers to build, deploy and grow solutions quickly and affordably.
  9. There are costs and benefits.
    Digital twins today may be expensive to build and maintain, but they enable technical agility and speed that foster easier scaling—and save money in the long run to boot.

Learn more about digital twins: As decision-makers in manufacturing embrace digital transformation, it is imperative to consider digital twins as key pieces of the process. For more insights on digital twins in manufacturing, read Digital Twins: The Key to Unlocking Value and Innovation.

Business Operations

AI Roadmap: How Manufacturers Can Amplify Intelligence with Artificial Intelligence

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Artificial intelligence offers manufacturers a host of benefits. These include better visibility into supply chains, insights from predictive analytics and the ability to respond to unexpected changes in demand more efficiently and quickly. Here’s a six-step roadmap for manufacturers looking to integrate AI into their business.

Six-Step AI Roadmap for Manufacturers

  1. Acknowledge AI’s potential
    Engage the C-suite in dialogue about how best to use AI. Allocate resources for specific AI projects and set priorities across the business. Pick company AI “agents” who can create business cases, develop metrics and put AI solutions into action.
  2. Transform and plan
    Create an AI plan that includes key performance indicators in line with your business strategy. Establish a special data unit to address needs AI could help support, such as data collection and cleansing.
  3. Build your data foundation and structure
    Convert any remaining nondigital data, “clean up” other data sources so they don’t contain errors or duplicates and add structure to boost your data quality and effectiveness.
  4. Create an external “partnership ecosystem”
    If your business doesn’t have in-house AI expertise, engage outside experts such as start-ups, academic specialists and consultancies.
  5. Leverage in-house AI expertise
    Employ outside AI experts to teach other staff members about data science. Your existing workforce will need this information to learn new skills and fulfill new responsibilities.
  6. Create architecture and infrastructure
    Consider using standardized infrastructure service offerings that can slot easily into your existing business setup. This will make integration much smoother.

Why does AI matter? Manufacturers that create AI-friendly cultures today are positioning themselves to boost customer and employee satisfaction tomorrow—and they’re gaining a competitive edge to boot.

Business Operations

How BASF Uses Enhanced Reality to Help Workers Learn

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The human side of digital transformation was on full display at a recent virtual plant tour of BASF Chemical Intermediates Geismar, Louisiana, facility. Hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council, the tour gave participants an inside look at how the company is using Voovio’s enhanced-reality technology to transform employee training.

Who they are: BASF Chemical Intermediates, a division of German multinational chemical manufacturer BASF, makes approximately 600 distinct products sold worldwide to the chemical, plastics, agricultural and consumer goods industries, among others.

What is Voovio? The company has partnered with simulation-software maker Voovio to design a customized training solution for its employees: a virtually accessible digital replica of the BASF plant.

  • Using a computer or other digital device, employees can select plant components such as valves, pumps and control panels to get a detailed view of each. These components respond and perform virtually the same way they would in real life.
  • Using the software, trainees can click on any piece of equipment in any workflow to see how it fits into each process.

Why use it? BASF wanted to make worker training faster, more interactive and more self-directed so employees could learn new skills and review existing ones more quickly and easily.

Scalable training model: The tailorable Voovio software offers different training-module levels based on each worker’s experience level and skills.

  • Training modules include an equipment replica, tasks to be performed and an action checklist for completing a series of tasks.
  • Employees get feedback from the software as they perform each virtual procedure, letting them know whether they’ve performed a task correctly.

Real-world application: Voovio also lets companies take the training into the production facility. Using an approved digital device, employees can perform test runs at any time to ensure they’re prepared to complete a job on the ground.

The verdict: BASF has already begun to reap the benefits of the software. Since implementing Voovio, it has seen a marked increase in both worker competency and productivity.

Sign up for a virtual plant tour: Don’t miss the MLC’s upcoming tour of Johnson & Johnson’s facilities on Wednesday, Dec. 1, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. You will see how Johnson & Johnson uses mobility tools, advanced robotics and material handling, as well as adaptive process controls to drive improvements. After the tour, stay for the panel discussion on how to scale advanced manufacturing technologies to ensure a sustainable, reliable and adaptable product supply chain. Sign up today!

Business Operations

How Cloud Computing Could Help Chip Manufacturers

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One small component is creating big delays in global supply chains: the ubiquitous semiconductor or chip. These components are not only essential to our phones, laptops and other electronics, but to the production process in just about every sector of the manufacturing industry. So, what would help us produce more of these desperately needed parts? According to Birlasoft Vice President and Global Business Head of Communications, Media & Technology Nitesh Mirchandani, the answer is cloud computing.

Why the shortage? As COVID-19 unfolded, millions of consumers purchased new laptops, smartphones, game consoles and other devices as they spent more time at home. This shortfall was compounded by the existing high demand for chips brought on by the growth in smart products—everything from thermostats and appliances to robot vacuum cleaners and GPS-enabled dog tags. COVID-19 also caused a wave of semiconductor factory closures that also exacerbated the problem. The result? A shortage that industry experts say could last through 2022.

Why the cloud? Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of resources like data storage, software, networking and other services via the internet. Users either purchase a set subscription or pay by their level of usage—both cheaper and more flexible options than maintaining an on-site IT team for all needs. Cloud computing has several advantages for semiconductor manufacturers, according to Mirchandani:

  • It speeds up time to market through swifter design and development. Because they can be accessed anywhere, cloud services enable teams to connect and collaborate more easily. Development cycles become quicker as teams connect better internally and with other parts of the business, including partners and suppliers.
  • It enables data-driven business decisions. Thanks to the faster processing and analysis of cloud computing, manufacturers can get instant information on things like factory performance, supply disruptions or customer demand. Likewise, workers can be alerted to a machine that needs maintenance or to potential defects in materials or products.
  • It provides service continuity. Internal IT teams often have limited resources. Cloud infrastructure is managed by specialists who can ensure uninterrupted service, so in-house IT teams don’t need to continuously maintain software through updates and patches.

Why it matters: Semiconductor shortages threaten to drag down the economy just as recovery is getting underway. Businesses rely on chip-enabled technologies for creating products, managing operations and maintaining the flow of goods and services. Consumers rely on them for smarter, safer homes and connections to work or school. Unless chip manufacturers can shore up production to meet demand, the ripple effect will create added distress for many sectors of the economy.

Business Operations

A Manufacturer Goes Lean and Wins Big

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Consumer goods manufacturer Church & Dwight found that it needed to boost performance to meet customer demand. To meet this goal, it embarked on an ambitious Lean initiative at all of its 13 production facilities.

“We look at all challenges through the lens of Lean manufacturing—it’s the only way that we can operate,” said Bruno Silva, vice president of manufacturing operations.

What’s Lean? Researchers James Womack and Daniel Jones first defined the concept of Lean manufacturing as “a way to do more with less … while coming closer to providing customers exactly what they want.” Many manufacturers see mastering Lean as an essential springboard to operational initiatives like digital manufacturing and other advanced production practices.

Setting the stage: In developing its Lean program, Church & Dwight first held a weeklong leadership summit to decide on standards and expectations. The company’s leaders came up with a Lean assessment system with 16 standards and a definition for achievement at the gold, silver and bronze levels. But the essential part was ensuring frontline employees were driving improvement from the bottom up—not the other way around.

  • “This is not corporate pushing it down,” said Felipe Vilhena, director of Lean manufacturing – global operations. “We help workers overcome challenges and give them the right tools to do that. We created a mindset and expectation that improvements are part of the work.”

Putting it into practice: Initially, each worker was asked to list five potential improvements at his or her site, and then go out and make them. The company provided training and support to help with these fixes, while managers kept employees fully informed of their progress according to key indicators.

  • Workers formed self-directed teams and continued to seek out improvements, which they began making more and more frequently. Thanks to the trust and autonomy that employees were given, engagement and retention measurably increased at the same time.

Receiving recognition: The company’s achievements have received recognition from its peers in the industry. One of its top-performing facilities in Green River, Wyoming, earned the company a 2021 Manufacturing Leadership Award in the Operational Excellence category from the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council.

The last word: “It was important to create the right expectation and mindset,” Vilhena said. “From big to small improvements, we are seeing them happen every day.”

Business Operations

Nexteer Displays Advanced Manufacturing in Action

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Would you like to see the latest advanced technologies exhibited and explained for your benefit, all without leaving your office? The NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council’s virtual plant tours provide just such an opportunity, taking you inside cutting-edge processes and complex systems at manufacturing facilities across the country. Most recently, the MLC dropped in on Nexteer Automotive, where tour participants got to see its innovative Digital Trace Manufacturing™ (DTM) System in action.

Who they are: Nexteer specializes in electric and hydraulic power steering systems, steering columns and driveline systems, as well as advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving-enabling technologies. The company serves more than 60 customers around the world, including BMW, Ford, GM, Toyota and Volkswagen.

What is DTM? Nexteer’s DTM System connects and standardizes the company’s entire operations—including thousands of data-production components in 27 manufacturing plants around the world. To showcase the system’s capabilities, Nexteer took tour participants inside its Saginaw, Michigan, site, which includes six manufacturing plants comprising 3.1 million square feet of manufacturing floor space.

Tour highlights: Participants learned about the complexities of running a large-scale automotive component manufacturing plant, as well as how Nexteer uses the DTM System to maximize efficiency.

  • Nexteer team members explained how they design and program machines for data processing, showing how they determine where data will be sent and how they use barcode scanners and other methods to track components’ serial numbers.
  • Participants also got a virtual walk-through of Nexteer’s tracking system, which follows material from receiving and shipping through the production line with single-box precision. They also learned how Nexteer uses its Center of Analysis to correct any issues that arise.

Why it matters: It’s one thing to have a large system collecting data, and it’s another to be able to use that data effectively. The Nexteer virtual plant tour provided participants with practical takeaways, which will help them adopt similar innovations at their own facilities—for the benefit of employees, customers and shareholders alike.

Coming soon: Don’t miss the MLC’s upcoming tour of Johnson & Johnson’s facility on Wednesday, Dec. 1, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. You will see how Johnson & Johnson uses mobility tools, advanced robotics and material handling and adaptive process controls to improve its operations. After the tour, stay for the panel discussion on how to scale advanced manufacturing technologies to create a sustainable, reliable and adaptable product supply. Sign up here.

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