Plant Tour reviews

At IPG, A Relentless Focus on Business Value

MLC members tour IPG's plant in Utah and learn about the company's digital transformation journey.

For Intertape Polymer Group, a manufacturer of paper- and film-based packaging products, the last six years have been a time of significant growth – and change.

Revenue during that period doubled from $750 million to $1.5 billion at the end of 2021. With 10 companies brought into the fold through acquisition, as well as through greenfield plant expansion, IPG more than doubled its worldwide factory footprint. The company, with dual headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and Sarasota, Florida, now has operations in 34 locations, including 22 manufacturing facilities in North America, and approximately 4,000 employees.

But one of the most significant changes along the way, and one that will most certainly shape its future, is a digital transformation that began in 2018 that is now being rolled out in 10 of the facilities.

To see how IPG’s digital journey has played out in one of those facilities, approximately 70 members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council toured IPG’s Tremonton, Utah plant in April. Built in 1997, the plant makes shrink films such as StretchFLEX. MLC members saw how IPG uses data from plant floor equipment such as extruders to more rapidly identify and remediate problems; how it more effectively manages parts with an automated storage system called VIDIR; how it uses so-called “hackathons” and a digital-first mindset to problem-solve; and how it uses 3D printing to speed parts making.

In a briefing before the tour, Jai Sundararaman, IPG’s Vice President of Business Transformation, described why and how IPG undertook its digital transformation journey.

He said IPG was facing a set of issues as it contemplated its digital strategy – gains from lean manufacturing were plateauing, the workforce was ageing and retirements were underway, and the potential of new technologies was looming but not yet embraced. Moreover, digital was seen as a way to “homogenize” the company’s operating culture, an important requirement as a result of the acquisitions.

To prepare for the development of its digital transformation strategy, IPG undertook a series of explorations and activities, including studying 20 different technologies, attending more than 10 industry conferences, holding multiple technology summit with vendors, and engaging in more than 25 networking sessions with fellow MLC members, Sundararaman said.

The company then adopted a phased approach to digital transformation anchored on delivering business value.

Phase one of the digital transformation was designed to reinvent operational excellence for the digital era by, in particular, using its foundational Intertape Performance System (IPS) to closely align strategy and execution and “homogenize” the company’s operating culture.

“We have cracked the code in delivering bottom line results,” said Sundararaman, who is also a member of the MLC’s Board of Governors. “And we have uncovered three to five years of opportunities for driving sustained competitive advantage with operational excellence leveraging digital technologies and processes.

“So it was about raising the game to a higher level. I would characterize it as a ‘breaking the four-minute barrier’ moment. It was truly a watershed moment when the Tremonton team broke the yield numbers and sustained it for several months. Now, the records are starting to tumble down for other lines.”

Phase one also includes systematically up-skilling and retaining talent with digital and process knowledge. Phase two will be about driving revenue and margin growth by applying digital technologies at scale in other functions such as customer engagement, he said. And Phase three, which is probably a year away, will be about business model invention leveraging digital technologies.

One of the most significant changes had to do with how IPG thought about the process of problem-solving. Before its digital transformation, as it was explained during one of the tour stops, problem-solving was undertaken using a traditional sequence – hypothesis, questions, data, and answers.

The digital sequence, though, is different. It begins with big data, followed by exploration, correlations, and, finally, insights.

During an hour-long panel discussion following the tour, IPG plant officials answered questions from MLC members concerning data standards and analysis, measuring the return from M4.0, and how to get buy-in from employees and leadership teams for M4.0 initiatives, among others.

The panelists were also asked about the future possibility of achieving so-called light’s out status in a plant and the role of artificial intelligence in operations and continuous improvement.

“We have different camps with our own groups,” one panelist said. “However, we are very surprised at the tangible results we’ve seen in the initial stages of writing these algorithms and what’s possible with AI and how self-correction could become much more common.”


Business Operations

Outlook Hazy for Manufacturing 4.0 Progress, Survey Shows

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, many manufacturers raced to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies as a way to mitigate related disruptions. But there are signs the implementation is falling short of expectations, according to a new survey from the Manufacturing Leadership Council.

Is M4.0 adoption increasing? Respondents to the most recent survey were nearly evenly divided as to whether they were increasing digital-tool adoption in the wake of the pandemic: 30% said adoption had accelerated, 32% said it decelerated and 35% said it had not changed. Prior surveys overwhelmingly revealed that manufacturers were accelerating their digital investments.

Key findings: Other data points of note include the following:

  • Most manufacturers gave themselves a low- to mid-level grade on their M4.0 maturity—somewhere between a 3 and a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. When it comes to M4.0 roadmaps, the largest percentage of respondents (33%) said that formal roadmaps were still under development.
  • Nonetheless, progress is being made in some areas. Customer support made the most strides in M4.0 adoption, with 12% of respondents rating themselves as advanced in this area compared to only 4% last year. Additionally, 20% of manufacturers surveyed said their plant floors are extensively networked and IP enabled, and 52% said they have digitization for production and assembly processes.
  • More manufacturers are keen to take advantage of M4.0 technologies: 43% of respondents said they use machine learning, and another 27% said they plan to bring it online in the next two years.
  • The biggest jump for planned usage is for digital twins: 32% of respondents said they plan to implement this technology in the next two years, on top of the 25% who are using it now.

Major risk: Many manufacturers find themselves in a perilous cybersecurity position, according to the survey. Just 19% have a fully formed cybersecurity program that includes workforce preparedness plans, employee training and routine drills that simulate a cyberattack.

  • This is likely why 57% of respondents say that their company’s plant floor systems and assets are only partially secure against cyberattacks. The need to upgrade legacy equipment tops the list of potential challenges, with 59% of manufacturers reporting that they should do so.

 Other struggles: Not surprisingly, 53% of respondents cited a lack of skilled employees as their top challenge. Some 39% said access to an adequate budget for M4.0 investments was their chief problem.

The takeaway: Despite these issues, manufacturers still see tremendous potential in embracing M4.0, according to the survey’s findings.

  • Sixty-seven percent of respondents cited better operational efficiency as a top benefit of M4.0; 49% cited better decision-making, 47% cited greater speed and flexibility and 42% cited cost reduction.
  • Disruptions of the past two years have made manufacturers want to move toward becoming factories of the future, but the realities of the ambitious undertaking are proving daunting. Those who persist, however, are likely to find great rewards.

Manufacturing Tops Industrial Ransomware Hit List in 2021

Manufacturers are increasingly targeted for attack as cyber criminals refine their ransomware and adopt new business models to fund their operations.

Last year ransomware gangs turned up the heat against all industrial sectors, but manufacturers have the most to worry about amid this distressing rash of cyber extortion. The statistics show that in 2021 adversaries targeted manufacturing with industrial ransomware nearly twice as often as all the other industrial sectors combined.

It’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing down as adversaries increasingly recognize manufacturers as extremely profitable targets for ransomware schemes that encrypt and disable operational technology (OT) systems on the factory floor and beyond, requiring victims to pay for the keys to decrypt their files and restore functionality to their systems. Savvy ransomware groups recognize the value of uptime in the manufacturing industry and they’re ruthlessly profiting on the fact that manufacturers are often the least mature in their OT defenses compared to other industrial verticals.

Manufacturing Ransomware Statistics

Dragos identified the intensification of manufacturing ransomware through data compiled for its 2021 ICS/OT Cybersecurity Year in Review (YiR) report, an annual compendium of OT security statistics and observations.

YiR findings showed 2021 as a pivotal year for ransomware groups targeting OT systems, with ransomware becoming the number one driver for compromises in industrial environments. Weak boundaries and poorly understood interactions between OT and IT systems, coupled with the rise in remote access—especially as more organizations rely on their work-from-home staff—contributed to industrial ransomware’s rising trend lines.

Ransomware by sector. Source: Dragos YiR

Broken down by industrial sector, manufacturing accounted for 65% of all the industrial ransomware incidents last year. Manufacturers suffered six times as many industrial ransomware incidents as the second leading sector, food and beverage, which suffered about 11% of last year’s attacks. Transportation came in third, accounting for about 8% of industrial ransomware attacks in 2021.

Digging deeper into the category of manufacturing ransomware incidents, the top three most common subsectors impacted by these attacks were Metal Components (17%), Automotive (8%), and Plastics/Technology (6%).

Rise in Ransomware Attacks

While ransomware still mainly targets enterprise IT systems, Dragos intelligence shows there are growing instances of these attacks that impact OT directly and in integrated IT and OT environments. Often ransomware adversaries indirectly attack OT systems as targets of opportunity after gaining initial access in adjacent and integrated IT systems. They use the compromise of critical enterprise IT systems to move laterally into OT. Some ransomware groups specifically target OT systems.

For example, EKANS is a specific ICS targeted ransomware that has gone after companies across electric, oil and gas, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, and automotive sectors. Dragos analyzed multiple variants of EKANS malware and discovered that the EKANS variant has the ability to stop ICS-related Windows processes before initiating encryption.

In 2021 the most prolific ransomware groups to attack OT systems were Conti and Lockbit 2.0, which caused 51 percent of total ransomware attacks, with 70 percent of their malicious activity targeting manufacturing. A lot of the success that groups like these have achieved in cyber extortion can be attributed to malicious business models like ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) and sophisticated underground marketplaces where ransomware developers outsource operations to affiliates who execute the attacks. Affiliates do not require high-level technical expertise because the ransomware software has been developed and they can purchase access to systems and hackers for hire, which significantly lowers barriers to entry.

The DarkSide gang (now rebranded as REvil) offered customer service with real-time chat support andbrought in at least $60 million before it announced it was closing its operations. Investing in their business, ransomware groups are also funding research and development, which is fueling their industry as their extortion methods become more extreme. These are criminals, but they’re also savvy businesspeople, so manufacturers should expect them to continue to knock over vulnerable factory systems if they stand to make a handsome profit through ransoms readily paid by manufacturers who can’t afford to have their production ground to a halt.

What to Expect in 2022

Unfortunately, many manufacturers are still ill prepared to buffet these ransomware attacks before the adversaries have already stopped production. Dragos YiR analysis based on professional services engagements last year shows that 90% of manufacturers have limited visibility into their OT systems and the same percentage have set up poor network perimeters. Meantime, 80% of manufacturers have external connectivity exposed in OT systems and 60% utilize shared credentials that can easily be leveraged by ransomware groups to compromise systems.

Ransomware trends are likely to continue shifting as groups reform, reprioritize, and as law enforcement pursues them and takes them offline. As this evolution continues to evolve, Dragos analysts believe with a high degree of certainty that ransomware will continue to disrupt all industrial operations and OT environments through 2022, in manufacturing and beyond. Manufacturers should prepare now because ransomware actors’ extortion techniques will continue to grow in severity and intensity as adversaries deploy any means available to maximize their ransom profits.

To read more on OT cybersecurity trends, see the full Year in Review (YiR) report:


Peter Vescuso is Vice President of Marketing at industrial cybersecurity provider Dragos and a member of the Manufacturing Leadership Council.



5G Will Help Unlock M4.0’s Potential

5G networks vastly increase the speed and scope of data transmission and capture. Could it open the door to the factory of the future?

Transformative technologies can take years to develop, and widespread adoption, especially among manufacturers accustomed to hardwired factories, can take even longer. Think artificial intelligence. Introduced as a concept in the mid-1950s, AI underwent a growth spurt in the 1980s, but still is in a relatively early stage of adoption by manufacturers 40 years later, though it is gaining ground rapidly.

Cellular communications technology is following a similar path, said David R. Brousell, Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director of the MLC, a division of the National Association of Manufacturers, in a recent Master Class Series session titled “Transforming the Factories of the Future: 5G and Data”. After first surfacing about 50 years ago, cellular technology has undergone multiple generations of development and maturity. These range from 2G in 1991, which brought digital voice text messaging and dial-up capabilities, to 3G-supported email photos and web applications, to 4G, which began supporting streaming video in 2009.

And now we have 5G. According to the MLC’s latest Transformative Technologies survey, results of which were published in October of last year, 26% of respondents had already invested in the technology. But more than half expect to either invest or are considering investing in the technology over the next two years to take advantage of 5G’s speed and capacity advantages. 5G networks can send data round trip in milliseconds, and they can capture data from hundreds of thousands of sensors per square mile.

5G and the Digital-First Revolution

Research from IDC’s Manufacturing Insights Group explored some of the drivers behind this push toward 5G adoption in the industry. The constant disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have helped to accelerate change. But the need for greater operational resiliency to meet increasing customer expectations for more personalized products and services was clear even before the pandemic, said Reid Paquin, Research Director, Manufacturing Insights, IDC.

“It’s clear that the importance of having a digital-first strategy is now being embraced across the industry,” he said.

Manufacturers know that data is essential to becoming more efficient, resilient, and competitive. While IDC research shows that AI tops the list of current technology investment priorities over the next five years, manufacturers’ two main areas of focus now are connectivity, leading to investments in IoT, edge computing, and wireless, and maximizing the value of data, which means investing in analytics-related technology such as AI and machine learning.

But while creating, gathering, and analyzing critical data throughout operations can improve the decision-making process, the explosion in the amount of data now available makes turning data into actionable insights more challenging than ever.

That’s where 5G comes in, because to remain competitive, manufactures need the bandwidth speed and low latency 5G offers to fully realize the benefits of new technology such as IoT. “That’s why you see so many manufacturers realize that the wireless connectivity piece is so critical to achieving the operational excellence and resiliency (needed to future-proof the factory of the future),” said Paquin.

According to one of IDG’s IoT studies,16% said they have already started to use 5G, while 35% said they are considering it. Among the top considerations for adoption is 5G’s ability to enable new use cases, as well as maximize current use cases for mobile robotics, augmented reality, and other applications that place a high demand on manufacturing networks, Paquin said.

However, a manufacturer’s goals for adopting 5G differ depending on the type of manufacturer. For example, discrete manufacturers such as automobile makers tend to concentrate on how 5G can help enable new capabilities for products and for customers. Discrete manufacturers’ goals for 5G tend more toward enabling new capabilities for the organization itself, complying with regulations, and replacing older 2G to 4G technology.

For all types of manufacturers, it’s important to remember that 5G is not simply a technical upgrade from 4G, said Sameer Joshi, Senior Director, Manufacturing, Industry Solutions and Strategy, NTT DATA, one of the webinar’s panelists. “5G represents a massive leap forward.”

What’s Driving 5G Adoption?

“Businesses need to focus on how to monetize 5G as a technology that is now available on the market,” said panelist Anisha Biggers, Managing Director, Intelligent Automation Advisory, NTT DATA. The main business drivers she identified were leveraging 5G to grow revenue, optimize the cost of doing business, and reduce stresses in the system. “We can’t simply identify random 5G use cases and implement point solutions without thinking through how that impacts the business strategy and objectives. We need to start with understanding: why do we need to invest in 5G? What is the value we will get out of it?”

Some priorities where 5G can play a part include:

  • Automation. While automation has been a focus in manufacturing for a long time, 5G can help provide faster data transmission, allowing for better optimization of production and operations.
  • Visual-based inspection. This area is seeing a sharp increase in interest from a use case standpoint when it comes to improving product quality and scrap waste rework.
  • Robotics/AGVs/Cobots. Is 5G essential in realizing the potential for investments manufacturers are already making in these technologies? It’s important to set a goal first, then align the technology investments needed to achieve that goal. 5G enables manufacturers to offload data to the cloud and network edge. And as the complexity of tasks that robots can do increases, it will allow manufacturers to increase their use of cobots and AGVs.
  • Remote monitoring/diagnostics of assets and processes. “Asset monitoring and maintenance are clearly the low-hanging fruits that show the ROI and production efficiencies” that can be gained by using 5G technology, Joshi said.
  • Workplace safety and lone worker protection. This is another low-hanging-fruit area of clear ROI that’s ripe for picking, the panelists said.
  • Talent recruitment and retention. COVID accelerated an already significant challenge in recruiting and retaining staff. 5G is one of the technologies that younger workers are already accustomed to in daily life and could be important to attracting qualified applicants. “The younger workforce is more comfortable with changes in technology because they are born into a world where technology is changing all the time,” said Biggers.

Keep in mind that while there are benefits to adopting 5G technology, it is still emerging, as are ancillary technologies such as AI, augmented reality, edge computing, and robotics. Some may wonder if they should hold off on investing in a rapidly evolving technology — will it become obsolete before they reap the benefits of their investment? And if they do decide to invest now, will it create a sufficient value to prove a significant ROI? To answer those questions, manufacturers should determine how they can incorporate 5G in specific use cases that show it can drive tangible outcomes.

Also, as the technology continues to mature it will become more plug-and-play. However, there still will be the need for more bespoke 5G deployments for niche areas that require additional customization or configuration. And while 5G promises a high level of reliability, the open connectivity to cloud can cause significant security concerns. Manufacturers — and their vendors and service providers — will have to undergo a cybersecurity paradigm shift along with the paradigm shift that 5G represents, the panelists said.

Because manufacturers tend to be risk averse — as NTT DATA’s Joshi said, “they would prefer to be fast followers rather than leaders when it comes to adopting a lot of this new technology” —it’s important to balance the short- and long-term benefits by developing use cases that can deliver value now, while also building out longer-term use cases that identify opportunities for this technology that manufacturers may not yet have.

But they are getting there. While autonomous operations, where the decision-making process is intensely data-driven, may not be realized yet in many factories, this is where the industry is headed. 5G technology could very well be one of the transformative keys to help make the M4.0 vision a reality.

Business Operations

How a 5G Smart Factory Doubled Ericsson’s Output

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How will the 5G transition affect manufacturing? If you ask Ericsson Senior Vice President Åsa Tamsons, enormously.

5G will help drive global transformation, innovation and sustainability in our sector, Tamsons recently told the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council. She sat down with MLC Co-Founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director Paul Tate at Ericsson’s new 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, to tell us more.

About Ericsson: Founded in 1876, Ericsson Inc. is a leading provider of information and communication technology. The company is now a $25 billion global enterprise with 100,000 employees serving clients in 180 countries.

About the Lewisville plant: Ericsson describes its Lewisville plant, which opened in March 2020, as a “5G-enabled, digital native” facility.

  • “We wanted to be able to obtain data from every single source, device, machine and person operating in the facility, both now and in the future,” she said. “One part was implementing 5G, but we also needed a data architecture to secure that and to use equipment that is able to extract both production data and operational status.”

Development process: In its journey to Manufacturing 4.0, Ericsson used a particularly agile development process.

  • “We had a mission to develop 25 use cases within a year,” Tamsons said. “In the first eight months, we launched seven of those 25 use cases. In the remaining four to five months, we launched the other 18. It just shows the power of doing that groundwork, while also demonstrating that you can launch end-to-end solutions in rapid time. Then you really start to have platforms that you can scale.”

Measuring impact: The Lewisville facility serves one of Ericsson’s biggest and most important markets in the world—yet it is operated by just 100 people.

  • The plant delivers 2.2 times more output than similar sites that don’t have the same degree of automation or technology in place.

Lighthouse status: Lewisville is also one of the world’s first manufacturing plants to achieve Global Lighthouse Network status under the World Economic Forum’s new sustainability category.

  •  A combination of recyclable and reused materials, renewable energy, an ideal location close to a major airport and advanced manufacturing technologies supported this award.
  • “Innovation is not all about technology,” Tamsons said. “It’s about how you apply it and how you can use the best of technology to create better solutions that are also more sustainable.”

What’s next: The Lewisville plant has plans for further innovation.

  • “We’ll continue to build out the data structure and cloud capability, really focusing on how we can scale up the value of existing use cases and applications and on what the next use cases will be,” she said. “We’re continuing to invest in upgrading our manufacturing sites to develop a reliable, sustainable, global supply chain, not only in Lewisville, but across the world.”

Attend a plant tour: Join the MLC in Texas for the Ericsson Lewisville Plant Tour on Oct. 4–5 to see Ericsson’s 5G-enabled digital native, double Lighthouse award-winning plant for yourself. Save the date and watch for more details.

ML Journal April 2022

POV: Resilient 4.0 Supply Chains

Building a resilient supply chain network cannot be achieved by any one company alone. True resiliency has to include empowering the whole ecosystem.   

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect describes a potential situation where small changes in initial conditions may initiate a series of non-linear effects that ultimately lead to large scale and unpredictable consequences in complex systems. Famously, it cites the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in a distant jungle that may initiate increasingly dramatic changes in climatic conditions which finally result in a typhoon on the other side of the planet.

In today’s world of global manufacturing networks and complex supply chains, butterflies have been flapping their wings a lot lately – whether it’s at a live animal market in Wuhan, or some suspect steering in the Suez Canal.

For manufacturing companies to be able to respond quickly to such potentially globally disruptive events, effective action demands multiple layers of insight and resiliency, and perhaps most of all, broad and deep visibility across multiple tiers of their supply chain networks, right down to the butterflies on the lowest tier.

To do that, supply chain networks need to be capable of gathering, analyzing, and sharing timely data that will alert every link in the chain about potential upcoming disruptions or shortages to allow all the partners in the chain the time to take appropriate corrective action.

But right now, that’s a problem. As the latest MLC survey reveals, the two biggest obstacles facing manufacturing companies as they strive to achieve true resiliency across their networks are the varying degrees of digital maturity of their supply chain partners and a lack of common data platforms across their networks.

Yet most manufacturing companies don’t yet have any strategies in place to solve these issues. Only one in five say they currently have specific policies to help support their supply chain partners in accelerating the maturity of their digitization efforts to ensure a more effective and resilient end-to-end digital supply network.

Unless larger companies start to collaborate more effectively and work more closely with their smaller partners at every tier to close that digital divide, this situation is likely to continue to undermine even their best efforts at preparing for, and coping with, future disruptions. Helping to empower the entire manufacturing supply chain ecosystem is becoming increasingly critical. And it’s in every company’s interest to do so.

If major manufacturers can do a better job of looking after the butterflies, future supply chain typhoons may never develop into anything more than a gentle breeze.  M

Paul Tate

About the author:
Paul Tate is Co-founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director of the NAM’s. Manufacturing Leadership Council.



ML Journal April 2022

Congratulations to the 2022 Manufacturing Leadership Award Winners

The MLC announces the high-performing companies and outstanding leaders who have been selected as winners for this year’s 2022 Manufacturing Leadership Awards.   

An outstanding group of high-performing manufacturing companies and exceptional individual leaders have been selected as winners for the 2022 Manufacturing Leadership Awards. A record 121 projects and 23 individuals were bestowed the honor by this year’s panel of judges. This year’s program included nine project categories and two individual categories.

The projects that were awarded this year represent cost savings of millions of dollars and the elimination of untold hours lost to inefficiencies, breakdowns, redundancies, and repetitive or paper-based processes. They were the engine driving new product lines, new markets, and improved customer experiences. The individuals among this year’s winners have demonstrated a dedication to furthering the mission of digital manufacturing and a more collaborative, data-driven future both within their own organizations and throughout the greater industry.

Since the program’s inception in 2005, more than 1,000 of these awards have been given in recognition of achievement in digital manufacturing. In the beginning, categories for awards included things like Business Model Mastery and Education and Training Mastery. Today, those categories have evolved to things such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and Sustainability and the Circular Economy.

The common thread between all winners is this: A commitment to creating the best possible future for manufacturing through digital innovation. For winners, Manufacturing 4.0 is not just a “nice to have”, but a must-do for competitiveness and future business growth.

“This year’s winners are exemplary for their compelling use of technology, innovative approach to problem solving, and overall commitment to furthering the movement of advanced manufacturing,” said David R. Brousell, Vice President, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council. “These achievements have helped manufacturers to boost their competitive position and realize significant performance improvements even in the most challenging business conditions.”

All winners will be recognized at the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala on June 29 at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Florida. Also revealed at the gala will be the High Achievers in each project category, the Manufacturing Leader of the Year, the Small/Medium Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year, and the Large Manufacturer of the Year. The 2023 season of the awards will open for entries in August.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners on a job well done.   M

About the authors:

Penelope Brown is the Content Director for the Manufacturing Leadership Council.



Press Releases

Manufacturing Leadership Council Unveils 2022 Leadership Awards

AI, Digital Supply Chains, Sustainability Projects Among Top Winners

Washington, D.C. – The Manufacturing Leadership Council, a division of the National Association of Manufacturers, today revealed the list of world-class manufacturing companies and individual leaders set to receive recognition as winners of the 2022 Manufacturing Leadership Awards, the industry’s premier awards program for achievements in digital manufacturing.

“This year’s winners are exemplary for their compelling use of technology, innovative approach to problem solving and overall commitment to furthering the progress of Manufacturing 4.0,” said MLC Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director David R. Brousell. “These achievements have helped manufacturers boost their competitive position and realize significant performance improvements even in the most challenging business conditions.”

The 2022 awards season featured nine company-level categories to recognize high-performing projects in the areas of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning; Collaborative Ecosystems; Digital Network Connectivity; Digital Supply Chains; Engineering and Production Technology; Enterprise Technology Integration; Operational Excellence; Sustainability and the Circular Economy; and Transformational Cultures. Additionally, two individual categories recognizing outstanding leaders were Digital Transformation Leadership and Next-Generation Leadership.

Winners will be recognized at the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala, an in-person event taking place at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 29, at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Florida. The gala will also feature announcements of the High Achiever Awards in each project category, the Manufacturers of the Year and the Manufacturing Leader of the Year. See the complete list of 2022 Manufacturing Leadership Award winners here.

Select award winners will present their projects at Rethink: The Manufacturing Leadership Council Summit, the industry’s leading event for exploring manufacturing’s digital era. “This year’s theme for Rethink is Maximizing the Value from Manufacturing 4.0, and attendees can expect to discover new ideas and tactics for establishing or accelerating their digital strategy, along with many fantastic opportunities to network with other industry leaders,” Brousell said.

Rethink will take place at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Florida June 27–29. Details are available here. Nominations for the 2023 Manufacturing Leadership Awards will open in August.

ML Journal April 2022

SURVEY: Manufacturing Supply Disruptions to Last Well Into 2023

A new MLC survey warns that disruption could continue for as long as two years as manufacturers strive to adopt more resilient supply chain strategies.

Manufacturing supply chains may never be the same again. 

After more than two years of excessive supply disruption caused by an unprecedented combination of pandemic lockdowns, blocked shipping lanes, container scarcity, material and component shortages, extreme weather events, rising prices, and military conflict, fundamental shifts in supply chain approaches are now underway across the industry as manufacturers desperately seek to improve supply chain resiliency. 

And if you were hoping that those debilitating high levels of disruption were only a short-term problem, you may want to reconsider. Over half the manufacturers responding to the MLC’s latest Resilient M4.0 Supply Chain survey don’t expect the situation to improve for at least a year, or maybe two. Some don’t even think high levels of supply chain disruption will ever go away, at least for the foreseeable future. 

No wonder then, that managing the impacts of supply chain disruption now tops the action list for manufacturing leadership teams today. Supply chain organizations in every sector are urgently rethinking how manufacturing supply chains can operate more effectively and resiliently by reassessing traditional supply chain strategies, reducing network complexity, integrating key functions, redesigning processes, and harnessing the power of digital tools wherever they can to transform their supply chain ecosystems. 

Ultimately, the outcome of such moves may transform the dynamics of global manufacturing supply strategies forever. 

Universal Disruption

Manufacturing supply chains remain a predominantly global undertaking. While some companies are now supporting their operations with regional (15%) or local networks (12%), over half of companies (51%) continue to be dependant on global networks of suppliers to fuel their businesses (Chart 1). 

Yet irrespective of geographical strategies, it seems that the last few years of disruption have significantly impacted companies with all types of supply chain structures. A substantial 90% of all respondents to the survey report suffering either significant (52.5%) or partial (39%) disruption over the last two years. A mere half a percent say they have seen no impact at all (Chart 2). 

“The disruptive dynamics of the last few years have forced many manufacturing companies to take a long hard look at the vulnerability of their supply chains and reassess their levels of resiliency.”


The most severe aspects of that disruption have been in raw material shortages (36%), excessive cost rises in materials and shipping (34%), and component shortages (33%). But around a quarter of companies also say they’ve had to deal with significant issues in sudden demand surges (25%) and reduced productivity (22%) due to labor shortages and equipment failures too (Chart 3). It’s that debilitating combination of factors that is now driving many companies to reassess the vulnerability of their supply chains and their exposure to sudden global and regional events. 

And most companies don’t expect things to improve soon (Chart 4). Only a fifth see improvements by the end of this year in either Q3 (5%) or Q4 (16%). Another 13% think the situation will continue into Q1 2023. But 50% of companies predict that levels of disruption will continue much longer. A third don’t see an end in sight for over a year (36%), while another 14% believe it will take two years or more. The least optimistic, 5%, even suggest that we are entering a period where disruption will become the new norm for the industry, and that high levels of disruption will continue into the foreseeable future.

Improving Resiliency

Those disruptive dynamics of the last few years have forced many manufacturing companies to take a long hard look at the vulnerability of their supply chains and reassess their levels of resiliency. Many have already taken action to improve their exposure, but almost three quarters (73%) of companies admit that their current supply chains are still not yet fully protected and remain only somewhat resilient (Chart 5). A worrying 12% believe their supply chains still don’t have any effective resiliency at all. 

Not surprising, then, that 80% of manufacturing companies say they are now urgently increasing their focus on developing more resilient supply chains for the future (Chart 6). Over half (52%) are actively working to increase their adoption of supply chain analytics and digital technologies as a way to increase visibility and predictability across their supply networks to better deal with potential disruptions. Two in five (39%) are now exploring partnerships with more regional and local suppliers to reduce global vulnerability, and almost a quarter are also considering more regional and local production footprints. Only 2% of manufacturers say they not making any changes. 

“Over half the manufacturers in the survey expect high levels of disruption to continue for at least a year, maybe two.”



Traditional supply chain strategies are also coming under close scrutiny. Over half of the companies in the survey (53%) are now questioning whether Just-In-Time approaches are still viable in today’s world and are now rethinking inventory levels so they have a better buffer that will help them deal with sudden shortages (Chart 7). Three quarters (76%) are also making specific efforts to reduce the overall complexity of their supply chains to increase their speed of responsiveness to disruption (Chart 8). And a third say they are moving away from the traditional SCOR supply chain model (Chart 9) and are now either moving towards more of an end-to-end value model approach (30%) or have already done so (4%). 

Integrated Supply Chains

Moves to overcome the legacy of siloed functions within supply chains are also set to accelerate over the next two years as companies seek to create more integrated and collaborative supply chain organizations that can more easily share key information and act faster and in a more coordinated way to resolve disruptive issues. While only 19% of companies say their supply chain structures are fully integrated today, this proportion is set to more than double to 47% within the next two years (Chart 10). The number of companies still depending on largely siloed operations, meanwhile, is set to fall from 14% to just 4% over the same period. 

Both internal and external supply chain functions are also becoming increasingly digitized (Chart 11). While over 70% of manufacturers have already partially digitized some of their supply chain functions, according to the survey, only 11% have so far digitized all their internal supply chain functions (plan, source, make, deliver), and only 6% have achieved this same level of digital maturity across their external supply chain functions (external suppliers, partners). 

Digital Opportunities

Nevertheless, the race to fully digitize ever more supply chain operations is accelerating rapidly. In almost every supply chain function, companies are now planning significant increases in digital adoption over the next two years to help streamline and improve their supply chain organizations (Chart 12). This is especially the case in supply planning and demand forecasting where around a third of companies now expect to have fully digitized operations by 2025. Similar increased adoption rates are also underway in S&OP, sourcing and procurement, manufacturing operations, and customer fulfilment and service.  

And while companies expect to maintain similar levels of dependence on more established technologies such as cloud systems and traditional supply chain management software to support their supply chain operations over the next two years, the use of other advanced technologies is predicted to almost double as companies explore new kinds of applications and use cases (Chart 13). These include more predictive AI and Machine Learning (up from 28% of companies to 53% in 2 years), collaborative robots (up from 18% to 35%), AR/VR technologies (up from 14% to 27%), wearables (up from 13% to 26%), and blockchain (up from 10% to 21%). 

“In almost every supply chain function, companies are now planning significant increases in digital adoption over the next two years to help streamline and improve their supply chain organizations.”


But it’s not just the technologies themselves that are key elements in this digital transformation. It’s the opportunity to use those new digital tools and approaches to support an extensive rethinking of basic supply chain processes at the same time. 

Almost 72% of respondents in the survey say that, as they continue to adopt more digital technologies across their supply chains, they are also taking the opportunity to redesign their supply chain processes too (Chart 14). The implications of such widespread digital transformation of both supply chain structures and processes for the future are enormous. 

Obstacles to Progress

The road ahead is not simple, though. Transforming a supply chain is not entirely under the control of any single manufacturing company. It takes a whole network of partners to work together effectively to create end-to-end resiliency. That’s where some of the key obstacles to future supply chain development now lie for the industry. 

Significant differences in the levels of digital maturity across various partners in a supply chain network are cited by over half the survey respondents (54%) as their most difficult challenge as they strive to implement a more resilient end-to-end digital strategy that successfully shares the key information they need to act swiftly in the face of sudden disruption (Chart 15). Over half the respondents (53%) also highlight the lack of common data platforms across their supply networks as one of the primary barriers to exchanging such key information in a crisis. Many also face problems in simply transforming traditional supply chain processes (29%), upgrading legacy equipment (26%), and dealing with a lack of skilled employees (22%) as hindrances to progress. 

“Almost 72% of respondents in the survey say that as they continue to adopt more digital technologies across their supply chains, they are also taking the opportunity to redesign their supply chain processes too.”


Yet despite the primary problems of disparate levels of digital maturity and incompatible data platforms across partner networks, only around one in five manufacturers (19%) have so far adopted specific policies to actively help accelerate digital maturity across their supply chain partners to overcome these key obstacles (Chart 16). Over 60% have no such network-wide policies in place. Perhaps this is one area that many more manufacturers will need to address as they seek to expand their digital supply chain strategies across their partner ecosystems in the future. 

And as 89% of all survey respondents believe that digital technologies will ultimately be either a game-changer (44%) or at least significant (45%) to the future of manufacturing supply chains (Chart 17), it’s clear that as manufacturers continue to rethink their supply chain strategies in search of greater resiliency, digital supply chains will be one of their most important weapons in combatting future disruption. M


1. Global Supply Chains Dominate Manufacturing

Q: Geographically, how is your supply chain network structured?

Over Half Suffered Significant Supply Chain Disruption in Last 2 Years

  Q: Over the last two years, how would you describe the level of disruption in your supply chain?


3 Materials/Component Shortages and Excessive Cost Rises Caused Most Severe Impacts

  Q: Over the last two years, what have been the most impactful types of supply chain disruption you have encountered?
(Scale 1-5, where 1 is most severe)

More Than Half Expect High Levels of Disruption to Continue for at Least a Year

  Q: When do you expect the current high levels of supply chain disruption to subside?


Majority of Manufacturers Admit Their Supply Chains Lack Full Resiliency

Q: How would you rate the level of resiliency in your current supply chain?

6 80% Say Improving Resiliency Is Now a Top Priority; Over Half Adopting Digital Tools to Help

Q: What strategies are you now adopting to help mitigate future supply chain disruption? (All that apply)

Over Half Moving from JIT Approach to Rethinking Inventory Levels for More Resiliency

Q: Is the Just-In-Time approach still viable for your company or are you rethinking that model to provide more inventory buffer?

Three Quarters Making Specific Efforts to Reduce Supply Chain Complexity

Q: Are you making specific efforts to reduce supply chain complexity in order to simply your supply chains and help increase responsiveness and resiliency to disruption?


9 A Third Now Replacing SCOR With End-to-End Value Supply Chain Model

Q: Are you still using SCOR as the basic supply chain model or are you rethinking this in favor of a more end-to-end value model?

Major Shift to Fully Integrated Supply Chains Over Next 2 Years

Q: To what extent are your supply chain functions integrated today, and how integrated will they be in two years’ time?

Yet Most Internal and External Supply Chain Functions Still Only Partially Digitized

Q: Which description best characterizes the digital maturity of your internal supply chain functions (plan, source, make, deliver) and your external supply chain functions (external suppliers, partners)?


Significant Digitization Planned Across Multiple Supply Chain Functions Over Next 2 Years

  Q: Which supply chain functions are all digital today and which do you plan to be all digital in 2 years’ time?

Adoption of AI, Cobots, AR/VR, Wearables, and Blockchain Predicted to Almost Double Over Next 2 Years

Q: Which digital technologies are you using in your supply chain today and which do you plan to use in 2 years’ time?

14 Digital Adoption Driving Extensive Redesign of Supply Chain Processes

Q: As you adopt more digital technologies across your supply chain, are you also taking the opportunity to redesign your supply chain processes?


Digital Maturity of Partners, Disparate Data Platforms, Legacy Processes Are Main Roadblocks to Implementing End-to-End Digital Supply Chain Strategies

Q: What are your company’s primary challenges in implementing an end-to-end digital supply chain strategy? (Top 3)

16 Yet Only One in Five Have Specific Policies to Help Accelerate Digital Maturity Across Supply Chain Partners

Q: Do you have a specific policy to help support your supply chain partners in accelerating the maturity of their digitization efforts to ensure a more effective end-to-end digital supply network?

17 44% See Digital Technologies as a Game Changer in Creating More Resilient Manufacturing Supply Chains in the Future

Q: Ultimately, how significant an impact will digital technologies have on creating more resilient manufacturing supply chains in the years ahead?

Paul Tate

About the author:
Paul Tate is Co-founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director of the NAM’s. Manufacturing Leadership Council.

Survey development
was led by Paul Tate, with input from the MLC editorial team and the MLC’s Board of Governors.


ML Journal February 2022

DIALOGUE: Ericsson’s Sustainable 5G Lighthouse Factory

Ericsson SVP Åsa Tamsons believes 5G provides a digital backbone that can help drive transformation, innovation, and sustainability in manufacturing.

Ericsson SVP Åsa Tamsons believes 5G provides a digital backbone that can help drive transformation, innovation, and sustainability in manufacturing.

“We see an exceptional opportunity to create connections with 5G that will help make the unimaginable possible.”

Åsa Tamsons, SVP and Head of Business Area Technologies & New Businesses, Ericsson

Founded in 1876 by visionary telegraph engineer Lars Magnus Ericsson, Swedish communications and networking giant Ericsson Inc. has since grown into a $25 billion global enterprise with 100,000 employees serving clients in over 180 countries and reaching over a billion people worldwide through its mobile network managed services partnerships alone.

In the fall of last year, Ericsson’s new $100 million greenfield 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, which was built to serve the company’s U.S. customers and had already won World Economic Forum Lighthouse accreditation for its application of next generation manufacturing technologies, also became one of the world’s first facilities to gain Lighthouse status under the WEF’s new Sustainability Leadership category.

In our latest Dialogue with a manufacturing industry thought leader, Ericsson’s Åsa Tamsons, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Area Technologies & New Businesses, talks to Manufacturing Leadership Council Executive Editor Paul Tate about the transformational impact of 5G networking, how Ericsson has used agile development approaches to deliver value at scale, how it created one of the world’s most sustainable production plants, and the importance of empowering human creativity with digital tools.  

 Q: What excites you about your role at Ericsson?

A: I’m a naturally curious person, So, having the chance to work with new ideas and learn new things on the job every day, is amazing. It’s exciting to work with a 145-year-old company that has already had such an impact on the world and to be part of the transformational change that our technologies have enabled. And we are still just  scratching the surface. Now we’re entering the fifth generation of mobile technologies and we see an exceptional opportunity to create connections with 5G that will help make the unimaginable possible.

That makes it much more than just work. Not only is it fun and exciting to work with new technologies and new solutions, it also feels deeply meaningful. And it becomes even more meaningful in the context we’re living in right now, where the world is facing major challenges when it comes to sustainability. Technology will not be the only thing, but it will play an important role in finding sustainable solutions that can help people, businesses, and economies worldwide. So, I’m very proud to be working for a company with so many knowledgeable and talented people with such a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to a more sustainable future.

“Technology will play an important role in finding sustainable solutions that can help people, businesses, and economies worldwide.”


Q: What challenges still keep you awake at night?

A: I have a very optimistic outlook and tend to see the potential of things before they happen. What keeps me up at night is that I always have a sense that things are moving too slow. If you think about IOT, or automated machines, or AI, people have been talking about these things for 10 to 20 years. But it takes time to get new standards out that work across the world and are interoperable across many systems. We know 5G works. The next step is to make sure the devices are out there and that people can implement it into their existing IT and OT environments. The exciting thing is that, once you get over that hurdle, you can start to see a significant impact. And it’s not only incremental, it’s exponential. But it’s important to recognize that this represents a real change, a transformation, a challenge, as much as getting the technology to work. So, it’s going to take some time.

We’ve also been living through the pandemic for almost two years now and the world has changed a lot. I think we’re also going to change how we work in the future. We’re not going to go back; we’ll go forward to something new. The challenge is, how do we continue to adapt our operating model and the way we work with our teams so we can have the best of both worlds? The pandemic showed that when there’s a real sense of urgency, we can change. It was not a technology issue; it was about our habits. How can we use that force for something better and bring together some of the great things from the past with some of the changes we’ve adopted over the last two years so that we can create a better way of doing things? That means we need to continue attracting and developing the best talent. The competition for talent is increasing, so I’m thinking about that a lot. If we want to turn that challenge into an opportunity, to be a leading and competitive force, we need to actively adapt how we work and how we attract the best talent for the future.

Q: What was the strategic intent behind the creation of the new Lewisville plant?

A: We needed to increase production capacity and we saw a lot of value investing in a site closer to our customers in North America where we have a number of strong and close strategic collaborations. Lewisville was also an opportunity to build a new style of production environment, with the smart implementation of the latest manufacturing technologies and the best ways of working when it comes to the connectivity of information and intelligence. Given the promise of 5G to help transform manufacturing, we wanted to implement the technology in our own site to show that it’s not only faster technology, it’s also an impactful technology and it can be successfully applied in a comparatively high-cost location. So, in part, it was also about showing innovation leadership, not only in terms of cost and productivity, but also in quality and sustainability, from the way we built the plant, to the technology applications, to the type of materials we used, to the types of energy sources, in order to create a cost-effective, high-performing, and sustainable plant that can deliver more in terms of both its economic and sustainability impact.

“From day one we wanted to be able to obtain data from every single source, device, machine, and person operating in the facility, both now and in the future.”


Q: The Lewisville plant has been described as a “5G-enabled, digital native” facility. What does that mean, in practice?

A: We believe that 5G is not only a next generation networking technology. It’s really the digital backbone and the platform for innovation with Industry 4.0. That’s because the architecture, the build, and the scale of many of the other technologies that you want to apply in a 4.0 world – like AR, VR, and AI at scale – not only need to send, but also process and quickly react to vast amounts of data from across many different devices.

In practical terms that meant, from day one of this factory, we wanted to be able to obtain data from every single source, device, machine, and person operating in the facility, both now and in the future. One part was implementing 5G, but we also needed a data architecture to secure that and to use equipment that is able to extract both production data and operational status. So, the intention was to build 5G into the fabric of the factory, along with several other networks, such as WiFi 6, to make sure we have full connectivity with both current equipment and any new systems in the years to come.

We also designed the industrial IT platform with the intent to be flexible and scalable enough so it could capture all the data and use all the benefits of 5G while also working with things that you could say are not directly technology-related, but more design-related. For example, we decided to make data easily available across the whole workforce. You can overcome some of the transformational barriers you may typically see in 4.0 implementations by using this approach and industrializing the whole platform. It served us really well and had an important impact on how quickly we could scale up new use cases to get value from all the technology and intelligence in the machines, in the system, in the processes, and from the people in operations too.

Q: How did that agile development process work?

A: We had a mission to develop 25 use cases within a year. First, we went through an ideation process, which generated around 100 ideas based on internal and external best practices. Then we started to prioritize and set about designing and protoyping the first five of those use cases.

One of the keys here was to ensure we had small, empowered teams, and that we had the right people on those teams. Those teams combined the expertise of around six to eight people from production, from supply chain, from IT, from sourcing, and from the technology side. It’s important to get that kind of diversity when you are working on end-to-end ideas. If it’s too siloed, you can get stuck.

In parallel, we wanted to design the use cases with a long-term strategy in mind and establish a common data architecture because it’s important that people have easy access to many different types of data. That may take some work initially, but you gain a lot in return once you really start use that data. It’s fundamental to build that architecture  to be able to quickly develop new algorithms and connect new solutions in the future. So, we established a way to launch completely new solutions, end-to-end, while still securing the long-term architectural strategy. That not only enables us to scale each solution across the factory network, but also to quickly scale any new applications that use similar or overlapping data sources or devices.

“Innovation is not all about technology. It’s about how you apply it and how you can use the best of technology to create better solutions that are also more sustainable.”


To show the power of this approach, in the first eight months we launched seven of those 25 use cases. In the remaining four to five months, we launched the other 18. It just shows the power of doing that groundwork, while also demonstrating that you can launch end-to-end solutions in rapid time. Then you really start to have platforms that you can scale.

Q: How are you measuring the impact of what you’ve achieved in Lewisville?

A: We now have a site that serves one of Ericsson’s biggest and most important markets in the world with a 5G-enabled high-tech factory operated by 100 people. I think that, in itself, is quite impressive. In terms of performance, Lewisville is now delivering 2.2 times more output compared to similar sites that don’t have the same degree of automation or technology in place. That’s more than 100 percent improvement. That brings us a lot of credibility with our customers and shows that we can do this and fully implement this technology in an ideal way.

Q: How do those 100 people fit into this highly automated factory concept?

A: People drive transformation. In many ways, technology emphasizes the importance of those people because you cannot succeed with this kind of transformation if they’re not in the lead and driving the change. You need that human competence. Take process engineers, for example. Those are the people who typically drive and design how we produce and run our production processes. Now we have empowered them with even more tools and more intelligence to do that. If anything, they’re now playing an even more prominent role in how we develop and produce our products in more innovative ways. So that puts a new emphasis on human creativity and problem solving, because it becomes a bigger part of many roles on the plant floor. We have been able to replace many repetitive tasks, which seem demanding and challenging at first, but for many, it also makes their roles more exciting and fulfilling. We don’t see a digital approach as a way to replace humans. It’s about bringing out the best in humans in collaboration with the machines and intelligence on the factory floor.

Q: Lewisville is also one the world’s first manufacturing plants to achieve Lighthouse status under the WEF’s new Sustainability category. What aspects of the plant’s design and operations supported this award?

A: On the sustainability side, it’s a lot about how the plant itself was built. That’s an integral part. When we first prepared the site, we reused all the things that we could, either on site or shipped to other parts of Ericsson so it didn’t get wasted. We also used almost 100 percent recyclable material and a lot of reused materials. That’s one dimension.

The other key area is energy usage. With solar panels, we’re running the factory with 100 percent renewable energy. Also, we’re reusing rainwater, and that’s been a key, fundamental driver for the impact on the indoor water usage. A big area for us has been energy monitoring and utilization, which is a combination of tracking the energy usage and adjusting in real time, while also using digital twin and AI models to optimize any actions. So, we have been able to reduce energy consumption by 24 percent and indoor water usage by 75 percent compared to similar sites. This is an exponential improvement when it comes to the efficiency of water and energy usage.

The location itself also has many benefits. We’re now able to manufacture closer to our customers.This has reduced airport travel from 30 to 10 percent. We still need to source some components, but that’s a significant and major reduction.

And then there’s the impact of the technology and how we’re using it in many other areas to drive more efficiency, reduce new material usage, reduce transportation time, and reduce the need for energy in a smarter way. I think that demonstrates the holistic view of innovation we take. Innovation is not all about technology. It’s about how you apply it and how you can use the best of technology to create better solutions that are also more sustainable.

Q: What are the next steps for the Lewisville plant? Where do you go from here?

A: We’ll continue to build out the data structure and cloud capability, really focusing on how we can continue scaling up the value of existing use cases and applications and on what the next use cases will be. We are also looking at scaling the things we have learned across our other facilities. We’re continuing to invest in upgrading our manufacturing sites to make sure we continue to develop a reliable, sustainable, global supply chain, not only in Lewisville, but across the world. We have a global production footprint with a presence on all continents and main production operations in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, India, China, Poland, and Estonia. We’re looking at how can we use the capabilities used in Lewisville in an agile way to get better information and capture more value from data across the whole supply chain and the whole production system worldwide.

“We don’t see a digital approach as a way to replace humans. It’s about bringing out the best in humans in collaboration with the machines and intelligence on the factory floor.”


Q: Looking forward, what do you think the biggest challenges and opportunities will be for manufacturing in the next five years?

A: The next five years will be about successfully adopting technologies that are important to manufacturing businesses and then implementing those at scale to drive transformation. That will be the game-changer.

Companies today need to build more supply chain resilience, create more agility, make sure they can customize to customer’s needs, meet environmental compliance standards, attract the right skills, watch out for cyber security, and continue to upgrade and integrate. If you think about all those things together, that’s a massive challenge. So, companies will need to adopt a lot of technologies and automate a lot more. I think we’ll see more recognition of how analytics can work at scale, more remotely controlled machines, more AR and digital twins deployed at scale, and we’ll see more collaborative robots.

Many companies are already embarking on this journey, of course, but the reality is that many have old machinery, completely different data IT infrastructures, and often lack the talent they need to drive transformation. There are also new disrupters entering the market that do not have legacy issues to overcome and can implement these technologies from the start. So, I think one of the biggest challenges is how companies make sure that they keep pace and are not too far behind because that will impact their competitiveness.

Yet we also see an urge in the industry today, a real need to start adopting these technologies to drive transformation. I think the future will be less about proving, “is it worth it?” It will be more a question of, “how do we get started and how do we accelerate the execution?”

Q: What kinds of skills will the next generation of manufacturing leaders need in that new era?

A: First, leadership needs to be able to drive and navigate change, which means building the right culture and fostering a platform for change. Leaders need to tell a positive, forward, exciting story on why change is needed and one that motivates people and drives new behaviors. That has to be combined with building a culture for constant growth and development to create an empowered mindset among their colleagues. I think that combination will be extremely important.

“Lewisville is now delivering 2.2 times more output compared to similar sites that don’t have the same degree of automation or technology in place.”


The second area is the ability to attract and develop talent, and talent with a much more diverse skill set than we have traditionally seen before. If leaders want to succeed and transform their organizations, they will need a mix of designers, process engineers, and data scientists. These are different people with different drivers, and companies need to be able to attract and motivate all of them.

Leaders must also continue to develop their understanding of technology and architecture. They need to complement their traditional management skills with an understanding of how these new technologies can be used and applied. It doesn’t mean they have to be experts, but they will need to understand and get more educated about what they can do with certain skills and certain technologies and how they can be applied across the business. An appetite for continuous learning, as a leader, is fundamental.

Q: Finally, if you had to focus on one thing as a watchword or catchphrase for the future of manufacturing, what would that be?

A: Empowered, smart, and sustainable – in production, in operations, and in manufacturing. Sometimes we talk about technology like it’s taking over, but it’s really about empowering humans, empowering customers, and empowering the world to develop better products and improve businesses. It will be smarter because we will have easier accessibility to the data insights and intelligence we will need. And we must make sure it’s sustainable, not just through the smarter use of resources and energy, but also in terms of security and privacy. These are all critical elements for the future of manufacturing.  M

*Ericsson Lewisville Plant Tour – October 2022: Learn more about Ericsson’s 5G digital native, double Lighthouse award-winning plant in Lewisville, Texas, on the MLC’s upcoming Plant Tour on October 4-5, 2022. Save the date and watch for more details.

FACT FILE: Ericsson
HQ: Stockholm, Sweden
Industry Sector: Communications and Networking
Revenues: $25.3 Billion (SEK 232.3 billion, 2021)
Net Income: $2.5 Billion (SEK 23.0 billion, 2021)
Employees: 100,000 Employees
Presence: 180+ Countries
Production Sites: 7 Production plants worldwide

Senior Vice President and Head of Business Area Technologies & New Businesses; Member, Ericsson Executive Team, Ericsson
Nationality: Swedish
Education: Master of Science degree in business administration from the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Languages: Swedish, English, French
Previous Roles Include:
– Head, Ericsson Group Strategy, M&A, and Venture Investments
– Partner, McKinsey & Company: serving technology, telecoms and industrial companies worldwide
– Consultant, Advention Business Partners
– Strategic Purchasing & Business Controller, H&M
– Business Development, International Herald Tribune 

Other Industry Roles/Awards/Board Memberships:
– Independent Director and Member, CNH Industrials’ Board of Directors

Paul Tate

About the author:
Paul Tate is Co-founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director of the NAM’s. Manufacturing Leadership Council.



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