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Ten Takeaways from M in 2030 Project A Lens on the Future Panel

With the recent release of the Manufacturing in 2030 Project survey A Lens on the Future, MLC assembled an expert panel of speakers to discuss the results and bring context to the survey findings.

Moderated by David R. Brousell, the MLC’s Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director, the panel included Dennis McRae of West Monroe, Greg Wagner of EY, Chirag Rathi of Infor, and Joe Zakutney of NTT DATA.

Here are ten key takeaways from the discussion:

1. 84% of survey respondents expect an increased pace of digital adoption in the next decade

Dennis McRae, West Monroe’s Senior Partner and Practice Leader, Consumer & Industrial Products, noted that the acceleration rate depends on the size of the company, but he said the biggest thing is if you haven’t started your Manufacturing 4.0 journey in a meaningful way, now is the time to do it to maintain competitiveness.

“One of the first things you can do is really establish a team focused on digital with the right leaders, the right innovators, and also the right disruptors who can really challenge and do what leadership needs to get done,” McRae said.

2. 58% of survey respondents have autonomous factory operations on their radar by 2030

Chirag Rathi, Senior Director, Industry and Solution Strategy at Infor, pointed out that the desire for autonomous operations is not new and that General Motors was talking about this in the 1980s. Citing deep-learning and self-learning algorithms in machine learning, digital twins, blockchain, and autonomous transportation, he sees autonomous operation as a game changer, but he cautioned that full autonomy is unlikely in many circumstances.

“The cost of doing full autonomy in most industrial manufacturing processes might be too high,” he said. “So you will have part autonomy in several manufacturing arenas where the business case makes sense, but it will be a decision made on a case-by-case basis.”

3. 76% believe manufacturing should adopt an AI code of ethics

For Joseph Zakutney, NTT DATA’s Vice President, Manufacturing Industry Consulting and Digital Transformation, thinking about AI’s future means protecting against biases and cyberattacks, while accounting for safety.

“Procedures will need to be put in place to make sure that we’re complying to [a code],” he said. “We need to make sure that the software that we are releasing is fair, reliable, explainable, takes data protection and government regulations into consideration, and is focused on the well-being of society.”

4. Almost half of respondents indicated they expect workforce shortages to continue through 2030

Traditionally, manufacturing doesn’t have the best image according to Greg Wagner, EY’s Data Driven Manufacturing Leader. It is considered dirty, loud, and can be physically intense at times, but Wagner pointed out that those seeking purpose-based work should be attracted to manufacturing. The old adage of “being a cathedral maker and not a bricklayer” fits here, according to Wagner.

“If we change the paradigm and what we’re looking for, the types of job experiences we can give people, and use automation to get rid of some of those menial tasks that people don’t enjoy and free up their capacity to focus on bigger problem solving, it will mean more impactful types of roles,” Wagner said. “That’s going to really start to attract people and start to soften some of that gap we see right now in hiring.”

5. 81% of manufacturers are looking for greater speed and flexibility

When we think about speed and flexibility, what people really want is responsiveness, according to Wagner.

“If we really want to be able to respond quicker, we need to know what’s going on and we need to invest in better end-to-end visibility of what’s happening within our factories and what’s happening across our network so that we can be more adaptive and have the right insights to drive that change,” he said.

McRae added, “There’s a big opportunity for manufacturers in terms of connecting with their customers, building that client experience, and really monetizing a lot of the data that’s already in the business.”

6. By 2030, 50% of respondents believe digital adoption will be a game changer.

For Rathi, we’ll be closer to Industry 5.0 by 2030 with hyper-customization, responsive and distributed supply chains, and business model innovations. In fact, Rathi said we already have the building blocks to make this a reality.

“We have certainly got a lot of the raw materials to make that transformation happen,” he said. “So we will have a lot of transformative changes by that time period.”

7. Digital acumen is important across functions and at various leadership levels

One challenge McRae sees is getting everyone on the same page using the same language so that data assets are understood across company levels by all who manage data and products in the business.

“It’s not just around different levels, but also across functions,” added Wagner, noting that there is a wide array of digital understanding and how those technologies can be applied.

8. Hiring for a digital background versus a subject matter expert depends on the project

“I think we’re seeing the rise of data scientists and citizen data scientists at some organizations. At the same time a lot of data DIY products are becoming available, and they will become more prevalent by 2030, meaning that people with subject matter expertise will be able to basically design and develop their own data science projects,” Rathi said. Because of that, he believes subject matter experts will be in higher demand in most cases vs. data scientists.

9. For companies slowing down their digital projects due to the economy, focusing on specific things can help prevent losing ground

“Digital adoption is really a people play right now,” said Zakutney. “I’d stay focused on people and process, because ultimately, that’s what you’re going to end up automating [when funding comes back].”

“You can’t quit your digital investments,” added McRae. “If you don’t become digital, you’re going to be left behind. At the same time, prioritizing those digital investments specifically around areas that are going to improve your customer experience and take costs out over the next few years are going to help you win.”

10. Beyond the panel discussion, the survey report provides insightful data about the future of manufacturing

The MLC’s Manufacturing in 2030: A Lens on the Future research survey includes front-line insights from over 260 senior manufacturing industry executives, spanning multiple functional roles, and representing large-, medium-, and small-sized manufacturing companies from multiple industry sectors. Armed with this rich combination of real-world predictions and forward-thinking understandings, the MLC hopes that manufacturers can better plan their longer-term future and find ways to enhance their value, competitiveness, and contribution to society. Download the complete survey data and report.

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