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The Companies Leading the Way into Manufacturing 4.0

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We all learn by example. That simple principle lies behind an ambitious undertaking by the World Economic Forum: to build a network of manufacturers that have succeeded in adopting Manufacturing 4.0 technologies, and that can act as ambassadors and educators for the whole global industry.

It’s called the WEF Global Lighthouse Network, and it’s already yielding fruitful partnerships and useful information. Recently, WEF Head of Advanced Manufacturing Francisco Betti sat down with the MLC to explain how it works.

Lighting the way: The Global Lighthouse Network emerged from a research partnership with McKinsey, which looked into what holds manufacturers back from embracing M4.0 technologies.

  • After talking to more than 400 senior leaders, the researchers discovered that only 30% of companies were benefitting from technology adoption in their facilities and supply chains.
  • As Betti puts it, “The majority were stuck in what we define as ‘Pilot Purgatory.’ There were massive investments being made in new technologies, and thousands of pilot projects underway, but very few were making it to the shop floor or delivering real operational financial value.”

That’s where the Lighthouse companies come in—the WEF decided to ask some of that 30% to open their doors and teach the rest of the industry how to make the digital jump.

How it’s going: Currently, the Lighthouse network has 69 members, assessed by a rigorous and independent review process. Betti says, “What is interesting is that we have companies from a large variety of sectors, and that is by design. . . . The opportunity for cross-learning here is massive.”

  • The project is looking for use cases at factories, but also beyond. Many of the real winners in the digital game transform their entire supply chains, and the WEF is also looking to add those sorts of companies to their network.

Get involved: Companies can apply to be a part of the network, says Betti. The process involves an application, which covers both achievements and strategies, and culminates in a site visit.

  • “The panel convenes on a quarterly basis to assess all the applications, vote and decide on those who finally get recognized as Lighthouses in the network.”

The transformation: Betti sees the M4.0 technologies as transforming whole economies and enabling “a new era of economic growth.” He makes a bold prediction about its effects on manufacturing leadership:

  • “We are under the impression that there is a trend that we will most likely see going forward where chief operating officers will become the next generation of CEOs. Those who know how to successfully run operations by transforming them digitally are most likely going to provide top leadership positions in the near future.”

The last word: “If you transform digitally, and you do that by bringing your people on board, you have not only become more productive, you’re not only becoming more resilient, you’re not only becoming more sustainable, but you are setting your organization for growth in the years ahead.”

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