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Meet the Manufacturing Leadership Council

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How is digitization changing manufacturing? What can manufacturers do to stay competitive in a fast-shifting world? What does the future look like—and how can leaders prepare for success?

Those are the kinds of questions being asked and answered by the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council—a member-driven global business leadership network focused on the intersection of manufacturing and technology. We spoke with David R. Brousell, MLC co-founder, vice president and executive director, who gave us more insight into what the MLC is, how it works and why it matters today more than ever.

An early start: The idea for the MLC was born nearly two decades ago, when manufacturers began turning to consumer technologies to strengthen their businesses.

  • The convergence of these technologies with traditional operational technologies on factory floors sparked an idea. Brousell, who was running a publication called “Managing Automation,” recognized the trend—which he called “Progressive Manufacturing”—and founded an annual conference for manufacturers to discuss new approaches and best practices for the future.
  • By 2008, that conference had given rise to a council designed to offer useful programming for manufacturers on the future of digitization. Ten years later, the council became a part of the NAM.
  • “We realized that digitization was not a tactical or small change—it was a fundamental change in the industry,” said Brousell. “It was clear that manufacturers needed an informational resource or organization to bring them together to deal with what we now call Manufacturing 4.0 in a systematic way.”

A systematic approach: Today, the MLC represents what Brousell calls “the digital transformation arm of the NAM,” helping manufacturers meet future needs and address ongoing trends—through changes in technology, organization and leadership.

  • “The transition to the digital model of manufacturing is only one part technical,” said Brousell. “The harder part is changing the organizational structure to be more collaborative and decentralized and making the leadership approach digital-first. We’re probably the only organization that has looked at it this way, in a systematic way, beyond technology alone.”

A critical focus: Every year, the MLC lays out a member-approved set of critical issues involved in the transition to Manufacturing 4.0 and offers resources and programming from thought leadership to plant tours to the Rethink Summit.

  • This year’s critical issues include topics like factories of the future; transformative technologies, including AI and machine learning; augmented reality and virtual reality; Manufacturing 4.0 cultures; and cybersecurity.

A broad view: Digitization isn’t just an issue for individual manufacturers. Because manufacturing is so vital to economic and societal growth, it’s also important to the future of the United States and the world.

  • “Manufacturing is one of the fundamental drivers of social and economic prosperity,” said Brousell. “Its growth will lead to a better life for people. No other industry can say that. And I believe that the countries whose companies are most successful in making the transition to the digital model are going to be the powers of this century. There’s a lot riding on this.”

Sign up: Come learn from leading manufacturers at the Rethink Summit, June 27–29, in Marco Island, Florida. It’s the premier event for senior operational executives and their teams as they continue to navigate disruption.

Business Operations

Why You Should Attend the IRI Annual Conference

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“I’ve attended the IRI Annual Conference many times,” says Dr. Martha Gardner, “and I have taken many things that I’ve learned back to my company.” Gardner is the executive quality leader for process improvement at GE Aviation. She plans to attend this year’s IRI Annual Conference in person.

What it is: The IRI Annual Conference is where innovation leaders of all industries come together to share key emerging trends, technologies, critical skills and best practices. This year’s agenda includes four tracks:

  • Strategic leadership practices for next-generation innovation managers
  • The future of work
  • Operationalizing sustainability strategies
  • Digitalization of business and industry

Relevant content: “One reason to go is certainly the content,” Gardner says. “I leave with best practices, information on building future-ready leaders and more. The content is really relevant for the things I’m thinking about right now.”

  • If possible, Gardner attends with multiple team members: “You can cover concurrent sessions. This year, there’s a breakout session on domestic supply chain resilience, which I will definitely attend. But there are other breakouts at the same time that will have useful nuggets for my company.”

Valuable networking: Connecting with peers is also a big reason Gardner attends. “I’m looking forward to the extra networking we get from being there in person,” she explains. “I’ve missed this during the virtual events of the past few years. There are people like me who have gone for several years, and there are always new people. I always get different points of view.”

Fresh perspective: Gardner believes the IRI Annual Conference is well worth her time away from the office: “It gives me perspective to think about the future and what I would like to drive differently in my organization. I use some of the takeaways to develop new strategies.”

How to participate: The 2022 IRI Annual Conference takes place June 7–9 in New Orleans. Innovation leaders from across companies and industries are welcome to attend. You do not need to be a member of the IRI to participate. Click here to view the agenda and to register.

Business Operations

How Manufacturers Compete in the Labor Market

Manufacturing companies are increasing wages to stay competitive in attracting and retaining workers, according to a new study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute and Colonial Life.

Tight labor market: Of the survey respondents, 93% had unfilled positions in their companies that they were struggling to find qualified applicants for.

  • Nearly 90% said they have increased compensation and incentives to pursue and retain employees.
  • Seventy-three percent of respondents felt that increasing compensation helped their company stay competitive.

The big picture: Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in manufacturing climbed to $24.78 in March, up 5.5% from one year ago.

  • Despite significant wage increases, the labor force participation rate was below pre-pandemic levels at just 62.2% in April.

Other benefits: Hourly wages and salaries were most important for attracting and retaining workers, but other benefits were also effective.

  • Manufacturing companies have also attracted employees with health, dental and vision insurance, bonuses and/or additional income opportunities, paid vacation and sick time, contributions to a 401(k) or retirement plan and flexible work hours.

What the MI is saying: “We continue to see record growth in wages, and many of the companies we spoke with are offering even more generous benefits packages to try and differentiate themselves from other sectors struggling to find talent in a tight labor market,” said MI President Carolyn Lee.

  • “We’re averaging more than 800,000 open jobs in manufacturing a month, and the MI is focused on equipping manufacturers with tools and strategies to overcome this challenge so we can reach our full potential.”

Learn more: Looking for retention strategies you can use right away? The MI will be hosting a retention workshop on June 7–8. Find out more and register here.

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Manufacturing Supply Disruptions Could Last into 2023

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Supply chain disruption could continue for more than another year, according to the newest Resilient M4.0 Supply Chain survey conducted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council. The MLC is the digital transformation arm of the NAM.

What’s the holdup? A combination of factors is causing fundamental shifts in supply chain approaches across the industry. These include pandemic lockdowns, blocked shipping lanes, container scarcity, material and component shortages, extreme weather events, rising prices and military conflict.

What manufacturers are doing about it: Supply chain organizations are reassessing traditional supply chain strategies, reducing network complexity and integrating key functions.

  • They are also redesigning processes and harnessing the power of digital tools to transform their supply chain ecosystems.

Universal disruption: Even supply chain structures with some local or regional networks have been affected by recent events, according to the MLC’s survey.

  • Ninety percent of respondents reported suffering either significant (52.5%) or partial (39%) disruption in the past two years. Just 0.5% said they had seen no disruption

Improving resilience: While many manufacturers have taken action to reduce supply vulnerabilities, 73% of companies said their current supply chains are not fully protected, and 12% said they believe their supply chains lack resilience.

Integrated supply chains: While today just 19% of companies said their supply chain structures are fully integrated, this proportion is set to more than double (to 47%) within the next two years.

  • The number of companies that remain dependent on siloed operations is set to fall from 14% to 4% over the same period.

Digital opportunities: The race to fully digitize more supply chain operations is picking up speed.

  • In nearly every supply chain function, companies said they are planning significant increases in digital adoption in the next two years to streamline their supply chain organizations.

Obstacles to progress: Many obstacles to future supply chain development involve issues with industry partners. Among the challenges cited by manufacturers in the survey were the following:

  • Differences in digital maturity among partners (54%)
  • A lack of common data platforms (53%)
  • Problems transforming traditional supply chain processes (29%)
  • Upgrading legacy equipment (26%)
  • A lack of skilled employees (22%)

Review the data: Click here to review the data in detail and read manufacturer responses to survey questions.

Business Operations

Plant Tour Provides Firsthand Look at Digital Transformation

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On a recent tour of Intertape Polymer Group’s Tremonton, Utah, plant, manufacturers saw disruptive technology in action. From employing 3D printing to slashing parts-making time to programming floor equipment to identify and fix problems quickly, the Manufacturing 4.0 processes and technologies were on full display. The NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council hosted the tour and brought 70 MLC members to the paper- and film-based packaging maker.

Growth: IPG, a Montreal-based manufacturer whose products include the cling film StretchFlex, has seen its revenue double in the past six years, from $750 million to $1.5 billion.

  • The company now has approximately 4,000 employees across 34 locations, including 22 manufacturing facilities in North America.

What they saw: In addition to 3D printing and problem-solving floor equipment, tour participants got to see how IPG:

  • Manages parts more effectively with an automated storage system; and
  • Uses “hackathons” and employs a data-driven, digital-first mindset to find solutions to challenges.

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

  • First, the manufacturer conducted an in-depth investigation. This included studying 20 different technologies, attending more than 10 industry conferences, hosting technology summits with vendors and engaging in more than 25 networking sessions with fellow members of the MLC.

Phased transformation: IPG’s phased approach to digital transformation focused on delivering business value. The company undertook the following schedule:

  • Phase 1: Align strategy and execution and “homogenize” operating culture. Upskill and retain talent with digital and process knowledge.
  • Phase 2: Drive revenue and margin growth by applying digital technologies at scale in other functions, such as customer engagement.
  • Phase 3: Leverage digital technologies for business model innovation.

M4.0 discussion: At the end of the IPG plant event, participants joined a panel discussion on data standards and analysis. Panelists discussed how to measure the return manufacturers get from implementing M4.0 technologies and how to get buy-in from employees and leadership.

Upcoming plant tour: Join the MLC’s next plant tour right from your desk on July 27. Participants will take a virtual look inside Accuray’s Global Manufacturing Center in Madison, Wisconsin. This virtual plant tour will highlight the challenges of a low-volume, high-complexity manufacturing and supply chain model. Register today to reserve your place.

Business Operations

Lilly Accelerates Innovation Under Mike Mason

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What is Lilly Diabetes President Mike Mason’s goal for people living with diabetes? The simple answer is to improve and simplify diabetes management so people can focus on living the life they want.

Forward-looking: Today, more than 537 million people across the world are living with diabetes. That’s why Mason and his Lilly Diabetes team are continuing to develop more innovative insulin and non-insulin medicines to help transform diabetes care.

Lilly has played an important role in improving diabetes care for close to a century, starting with manufacturing and bringing to market the first commercial insulin, lletin, in 1923. Since then, there has been incredible innovation in insulin, shifting from animal-based insulin to recombinant DNA human insulin to today’s more modern analog insulins.

  • “Thanks to a century’s worth of scientific advancements and discoveries, I am proud that we can meet the diverse needs of people with diabetes in ways we only dreamed were possible,” Mason said.

More to be done: Still, only about half of people with diabetes are achieving their blood sugar goals—leaving them at higher risk for long-term cardiovascular disease and other diabetes-related complications.

  • For Lilly, that means keeping a “relentless focus” on the improvement of diabetes treatments and solutions, Mason said.
  • “Importantly, delivering breakthrough treatments is just the start of what we do. Lilly is deeply committed to doing what we can to ensure everyone who needs our products can access them,” he added.
  • Lilly offers a variety of affordability solutions through patient support programs and copay assistance across the major products of its portfolio. People with diabetes can contact the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center to learn about affordability solutions that best match their needs.

What’s coming: Lilly’s vision for the future is to maintain a relentless focus on raising the innovation bar for diabetes treatment, as well as in other serious metabolic conditions, including obesity, NASH and heart failure, to name a few.

  • “Our diabetes pipeline includes a once-weekly injection, currently under review by the FDA that represents a new class of medicines to treat type 2 diabetes,” Mason said. “In clinical trials, this therapy significantly lowered glucose levels and body weight—and even helped many participants reach a non-diabetes glucose range.”
  • “Our hope is to revolutionize how metabolic conditions are understood and treated, hopefully changing the way people manage conditions like type 2 diabetes and others,” he added.

Manufacturing support: Diabetes innovation is ultimately made possible by the people who work tirelessly to make life-saving medicines.

  • “I’ve witnessed our team start with an extraordinary idea and determine the science to make it possible, and it’s our manufacturing team that brings these products to fruition,” Mason said. “Our talented and dedicated manufacturing teammates make delivering life-saving medications to people with diabetes possible.”
  • Even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lilly employees in essential manufacturing and research jobs came to work each day “to make vital medicines for the world.”

 The last word: Lilly is “in an exciting period of growth,” Mason said, noting a recent announcement from the company that it planned to invest $1 billion in a North Carolina site to create an injectables-manufacturing facility.

The investment “underscores our commitment to delivering innovative medicines to patients around the world,” Mason said. “And it taps some of the brightest minds from the local labor force to bring it to life.”

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Finding Solutions for a Sustainable Manufacturing Future

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With increased pressure from customers, regulators and even shareholders, sustainable business practices are no longer optional for manufacturers. From reduced energy and materials consumption to lower emissions and ethical sourcing, manufacturers are expected to meet ambitious new goals. Luckily, the Manufacturing Leadership Council has established a new member working group devoted to helping manufacturers reach these objectives.

Support set-up: With five virtual meetings each year, the M4.0 Sustainability and Net Zero Decision Compass Group will explore key issues, best practices and challenges related to creating sustainable, compliant and environmentally friendly operating strategies.

  • At the first meeting, “Next Steps in Manufacturing 4.0 Sustainability,” on March 10, attendees heard from 3M Senior Vice President of Environmental Strategies and Fluorochemical Stewardship Dr. Rebecca Teeters and Lexmark International Chief Sustainability Officer John Gagel. Both speakers are also MLC board members.

Why the new group: The MLC decided to create the group after a survey of their more than 3,300 members revealed sustainability was a top member business concern.

  • “We decided that given the intensity of interest in sustainability and related subjects, such as net-zero and the circular economy, this was an opportunity to dedicate a whole new group to the topic,” said MLC Co-Founder, Executive Director and Vice President David Brousell.

Good for business, too: While manufacturers have been discussing and working toward sustainability for decades, recent growing concerns about climate change and other environmental issues are making the matter increasingly urgent.

  • Manufacturers that take on sustainable business practices are seeing competitive advantages ranging from cost savings to higher product quality to increased shareholder and employee satisfaction.

Lessons from manufacturing peers: The new Decision Compass group will share sustainability strategies, the real-world achievements of manufacturing companies, knowledge about the use and application of advanced technologies and timelines for implementation.

  • Participants will also be able to see how they stack up against other manufacturing companies.

Get involved: The MLC offers resources to help manufacturers improve their operations and learn about digital manufacturing. To learn more about the sustainability group or find out about MLC membership, email [email protected].

Business Operations

Case Studies for Success in the Factory

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There’s nothing quite like a real-world test run to determine whether a new technology is right for your business. That’s where Rethink, the annual summit of the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council, comes in.

The world’s leading event on Manufacturing 4.0, Rethink boasts an agenda packed with case studies to help manufacturing leaders see exactly how various digital technologies might help them improve their operational quality and efficiency.

The featured case studies coming to Rethink include the following:

  • The Expanding Reach of Collaborative Robots: Examine practical applications for collaborative robots in manufacturing. Discover the benefits already being realized from the use of robots and identify ways to maximize the benefits.
  • Extracting Insights from Plant Floor Data: See firsthand how to use data to monitor equipment performance, predict conditions and take preemptive action to avoid downtime. Gain practical takeaways on how to leverage data for bottom-line benefits.
  • How AR/VR Can Empower Frontline Workers: Take a deep dive into one company’s advanced deployment of augmented and virtual reality technologies. Explore how these technologies helped transform operational activities and empower frontline workers.
  • Fostering Data Literacy: The What, Why and How: Learn how to manage and analyze data from all aspects of your operations and use it effectively to improve decision making. Gain an understanding of the emerging discipline of data literacy as a way to overcome business culture hurdles.

How to participate: The Rethink summit takes place June 27–29 in Marco Island, Florida.

  • In addition to case studies, the agenda will include inspirational keynote speeches, thought-provoking panel discussions and hands-on think tanks.
  • More than 300 top-level executives and their teams attend each year.
  • Participants include professionals in operations, IT, supply chain, engineering, C-level management, HR and more.

Click here to browse the agenda and to register.

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.
Business Operations

Manufacturers Support Relief Efforts in Ukraine

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Project HOPE, a nonprofit the NAM is working with on humanitarian relief, is ensuring that some of the most vulnerable victims of the war in Ukraine receive care and support.

What’s happening: The U.S.-based international nonprofit, which has aid teams on the ground in Ukraine and in neighboring Poland, Moldova and Romania, recently delivered the following in Ukraine:

  • Twenty-two pallets of medicines;
  • Eight Interagency Emergency Health Kits, each one containing enough essential medicine to serve a population of 10,000 people for more than three months; and
  • Forty-five Essential Health Packs, each of which comes with a minimum of 800 courses of treatment, including over-the-counter and prescription medication, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anti-parasitics.

Project HOPE is helping deliver crucial medicines to pediatric oncology patients at the University Children’s Hospital in Krakow, which the organization has supported for nearly 50 years. And manufacturers are helping its efforts.

  • Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly send a shipment of its diabetes treatments to Ukraine earlier this month. Lilly will continue to provide medications, including oncology and COVID-19 treatments, to the country.
  • Manufacturers have donated thousands of dollars through Project HOPE, both directly and through the NAM’s partnership page. As of this writing, donations through the partnership are at more than $11,000.

Other efforts: Project HOPE has partnered with nongovernmental organizations in and around Ukraine to provide food as well as medicine and technical support to health facilities treating refugees, displaced persons and others affected by the war.

How you can help: Those who wish to donate to Project HOPE may do so here.

  • To get more information on what the NAM is doing to help, or to share how your company is contributing to the relief effort, please contact the NAM at [email protected].

Read more: Many manufacturers are making a difference on the ground in Ukraine. Read our stories about Sukup Manufacturing and Greene Tweed.

The above photo, which runs courtesy of Project HOPE, shows oncology patient Tamara, 5, and her mother Mikhaila at the University Children’s Hospital in Krakow. Tamara and Mikhaila fled the war in Ukraine and are seeking safety in Poland. 

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