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Manufacturers Must Pick Up the Pace on Digital Transformation

Posted By Jeff Moad, June 19, 2017 at 3:36 PM, in Category: Manufacturing Leadership Council

1ebfbab37ef2c1b74b67ff9e5204e2ec_f2373.jpgHUNTINGTON BEACH, CA--Manufacturing leaders must lift their sights above day-to-day operational challenges and embrace three types of significant change if they are to capitalize on the transformational opportunities presented by the digitized, Manufacturing 4.0 era, Manufacturing Leadership Council Co-Founder David R. Brousell told attendees of the 13th Annual Manufacturing Leadership Summit.

In opening remarks to the ML Summit, Brousell noted that many companies and manufacturing leaders are struggling to understand M4.0, to perceive how it could benefit their organizations, and to effectively prioritize investments in enabling digital technologies. In recent ML Council research, Brousell said, only 9% of respondents said their manufacturing leaders are “very prepared” to successfully embrace M4.0.

As a result, for many companies, progress toward M4.0 has been halting, Brousell said.

But manufacturing leaders can’t afford to fall behind on digital transformation. That’s because megatrends driving the need for digitization—such as globalization, rising competition, more demanding customers, the need for mass customization, relentless cost reduction—are inexorable.

“Despite the protests of some, the world continues to flatten, get smaller, and become more connected and interdependent,” said Brousell. “Globalization will continue. Competition will increase. Customer expectations will become more personal. And the manufacturing industry will continue its journey, inexorably, into the digital era. No election here or referendum there will stop or divert these trends.”

At the same time, he noted competitors across the globe are investing in digitally-enabled M4.0  technologies and processes, in some cases subsidized by governments in China and elsewhere.

“Understand that M4.0 isn’t just happening here,” said Brousell. “It’s a worldwide phenomenon. The competitive stakes couldn’t be higher.”

To accelerate the pace on digital transformation, said Brousell, manufacturers need not only to get experience with emerging technologies, but they also need implement organizational changes and upgrade leadership engagement.

“We need to pick up the pace in all three dimensions of M4.0. You need to investigate, adopt, and learn to use effectively new technologies such as analytics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, virtual reality, and collaborative robots, to name just a few.” Brousell said. “You need to undertake organizational re-design to take advantage of digital information flows, to create common platforms and processes, to leverage all of your brainpower, and to speed more accurate decision making. And leadership teams need to build digital acumen, drive a sense of urgency about change throughout the organization, and bring their people along.”

The good news, said Brousell, is that role models for digital transformation are beginning to emerge. Manufacturers such as Cisco Systems, Lexmark, and The Dow Chemical Company—all of which were honored as Manufacturing Leadership Award winners—have already taken significant steps to digitize and transform key business processes and to prepare their leadership and workforces for a digital future, said Brousell.

To the extent that manufacturers can accelerate digital transformation, said Brousell, they can stimulate a new wave of productivity and prosperity gains, “raising up the standard of living for all. This is the real promise of Manufacturing 4.0.” said Brousell.

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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