The Manufacturing Leadership Council recently partnered with EY for a two-day event focused on preparing for the future of manufacturing. Hosted at MxD in Chicago, Ill., the event focused on data-driven manufacturing and included a tour of EY’s Digital Operations Hub, several discussion panels and presentations, and a collaborative workshop.
Diving deep into manufacturing at EY’s Digital Operations Hub: Day one featured a round-robin visit to a selection of experience modules within the EY Digital Operations Hub. Participants had the option to visit five of the hub’s 31 modules where they heard about topics including workforce upskilling, intelligent demand forecasting and planning, digital performance management, digital worker enablement, edge computing, and more.
As participants made their way around the Digital Operations Hub, led by EY’s Mark Heidenreich, who leads the Digital Operations Hub, EY’s expert team and partners shared a deep dive into each topic, demonstrating the latest technologies and thinking on this important array of manufacturing topics.
Focusing on the future: The second day of programming kicked off with a conversation between David Brousell, MLC’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, and Scott Dixon, EY’s Managing Director – Advanced Manufacturing Technology Leader. The topic at hand was MLC’s latest white paper, The Next Phase of Digital Evolution and what it tells us about the future of manufacturing.
The two focused on data and its important role in manufacturing. While data may be difficult to get to – particularly on-demand – it is an important driver of decisions and value. However, they cautioned that data collection doesn’t equal success. Instead, Brousell and Dixon urged organizations to balance resilience while adding complexity. Brousell recommended that organizations not focus on data’s ability to “knock down silos.” That phrase, he warned, can be scary for subject matter experts. Instead, he recommended weaving silos together so that systems are integrated and domain expertise can be maintained.
Becoming data-driven: Next up, the event covered the top challenges for data-driven manufacturing with a presentation by EY’s Sachin Lulla and Amy Burke, the Americas Consulting Sector Leader – Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility and Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility Markets Leader, respectively. With a survey of 400 manufacturing companies as its basis, the presenters shared how only 10% were experimenting with digital, while only six percent were tackling digital at scale.
Throughout the conversation Lulla and Burke emphasized the need to put humans at the center of any transformation, building digitization and operational excellence around that core. For Lulla, the purpose of technology is to augment human intelligence. The pair agreed that starting with an end goal in mind is important when formulating a data strategy. The organization and employees need to know “the why” behind the data collection and use.
Further, Burke and Lulla recommended that organizations should not just look at gaps in their current workforce, but at what employee skills exist on the team and how upskilling and a learning environment can cultivate a fertile ground for data to be used successfully.
Driving digital with data: Pfizer’s Vice President of Digital Manufacturing, Mike Tomasco, was on hand to share how the pharmaceutical and biotechnology company uses data-driven decision making to create value. Tomasco shared how the company’s initial failures with capturing and using data led to significant successes and allowed Pfizer to move beyond pilot purgatory to large-scale transformation.
Moving beyond: The idea of moving beyond pilot purgatory was explored further to start the final panel discussion moderated by Brousell. Panelist Jim Fledderjohn, Dell’s Manufacturing Vertical Field Director, advised organizations to align pilots to the bigger strategic vision and fail fast. According to fellow panelist Terry Davenport, Rheem’s Executive Vice President, Global Operations, leaders should use the scientific method to learn from pilot projects and prove the value before scaling. From a collaboration standpoint, Microsoft’s Americas Regional Business Lead – Manufacturing, David Breaugh suggests that cross-functional teams help keep an eye on the big picture and unlock insights faster. Meanwhile, James Zhan, PTC’s Vice President, Market Development, IoT Solutions cautioned the audience not to focus solely on pilot purgatory and to be sure to keep an eye on workforce skills purgatory.
The panel also tackled the topic of data measurement, with Fledderjohn urging organizations to be selective about what data they collect – a proactive strategy that will help ensure the data is used and useful. Any process should have a metric that makes things faster, safer, eases worker burden, and offers higher quality and cheaper outputs, added Davenport. To that end, panelist Steve Pavlosky, GE Digital’s Vice President of Product Management, shared that GE shifted its technology roadmap to help customers move data into a single system so operators could make decisions quicker.
Capping it off with idea sharing: The event was capped off by a series of collaborative breakout sessions during which participants brainstormed go-forward ideas and feedback around the topics covered throughout the course of the entire event. Beyond the content that participants absorbed throughout the event, the breakouts gave them a chance to add their own two cents to the discussion, share their own experiences, and take away new perspectives that can be applied to their organizations.
Visit https://www.mxdusa.org/partners/ey/ to learn more.
All photos courtesy of EY.
If you were looking for a dose of optimism to counter the troubling reality of the post-pandemic world, you could do a lot worse than turn to the start-up community. Even in the best of times, the odds are stacked ruthlessly against anyone considering starting a business. And these are hardly the best of times. Yet new ideas and the magic combination of hope and conviction that supports them, continue to pour forth in a torrent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans started 4.3 million businesses in 2020, a 24% increase from 2019, and by far the biggest number in a calendar year in the previous decade and a half.
As an investor, and a mentor for Creative Destruction Labs (CDL) I meet a lot of founders, and I watch a lot of introductory pitches. And while the enthusiasm is ever-present, it is not uncommon, after the founder has left the room, for those who have just watched the pitch to turn to one another and say something like: “I still don’t know what they actually do.”
The effective communication of a new product’s value and function is, I believe, the biggest challenge facing any start-up founder. This is about knowledge transfer. It is a prerequisite of every progressive step the company hopes to take. And it is particularly difficult for companies that are bringing to market – either as a core product or as part of a wider service or solution – a complex mechanical object (CDL focuses on science and technology start-ups).
These founders have to convince investors to fund their project; they have to explain defensible intellectual property to patent attorneys and granting authorities; they have to communicate requirements to sub-component suppliers and manufacturing partners; they need to convince buyers and users that the product can deliver; they must ensure anyone responsible for maintenance and repair knows exactly what’s required to keep it operational.
That is a broad audience, each with a specific set of knowledge transfer needs. So to be effective, communication needs to be highly versatile, and to deliver absolute clarity through the most efficient processes. If this capability isn’t baked into the organization from the outset, the best case scenario is that the challenge scales as the company becomes successful, creating a much bigger problem which can have a direct impact on operational KPIs.
As products come to market they bring with them a host of documentation and content requirements associated with that knowledge transfer. Creating and maintaining this content is a huge task and one that can easily become a bottleneck. If the content isn’t ready, the product can’t be promoted or sold. If it isn’t completely accurate, if it’s hard to access, if doesn’t tell the full story, you could be looking at fabrication or maintenance errors and costly downtime.
Advances in manufacturing technology – the adoption of agile workflows and additive manufacturing – actually make things worse. These processes accelerate product development and iteration, making the documentation and content bottleneck even more damaging.
Macro realities compound the problem yet further. Once upon a time a new company would start by bringing a core team together at a new premises. However, full-time, on-site work looks like a thing of the past. Studies suggest 70% of the workforce will remain working remotely five days per month by 2025 with others opting to work part-time on-site and part-time at home. And, in any case, start-ups tend to rely on a distributed ecosystem of product and service suppliers from the outset, for obvious reasons.
And according to a 2020 McKinsey report, Unlocking growth in small and medium-size enterprises, SMEs have innate productivity challenges, exacerbated by lack of access to high-cost enterprise software solutions. So, to ensure effective communication – to give themselves the best possible chance of success – start-ups today must find a way to drive effective teamwork and collaboration among a distributed workforce and ecosystem, at an affordable price point, all while driving productivity, in order to become competitive.
But start-ups have an advantage. Their primary strength in addressing these challenges is their capacity for continuous innovation, not just in terms of products and services but also – crucially – in terms of processes. This owes a huge amount to that optimism which got them started on the journey in the first place. According to McKinsey, “Because they are unhindered by legacy systems and outdated strategies, new market entrants are often able to rethink established practices and cut through traditional industry boundaries.”
Here’s a great example: Impossible Sensing is a CDL alumnus that develops and manufactures autonomous exploration tools designed to function in extreme environments from deep ocean to deep space. Their products are used to detect valuable minerals in off-planet environments. Prior to the pandemic, Impossible Sensing’s founder used 3D-printed models to enable prospective buyers – a Mars scientist at NASA, for example – to get a tangible sense of the firm’s products.
Restrictions on face-to-face meetings put an end to that, leaving this CEO suddenly missing a key part of his sales pitch. He overcame this by using interactive 3D communication which allows customers to play with the 3D models of his product (the closest thing to handling that 3D-printed object) wherever they were located. Video calling is great for replicating the conversation, but there are a number of critical communication experiences that it simply cannot deliver.
Many people might have focused on the frustration of being unable to continue to operate as they had before. But the start-up’s optimism will always find another way.
A start-up’s Big Idea is only as good as the extent to which it can be understood by everyone whose participation is required to make it successful. Get in front of that effective communication challenge as early as possible – solve that knowledge transfer problem across the board – and not only will you be giving yourself the best possible shot at success, you’ll be future-proofing your business against problems which can undermine you as you grow.
About the author:
Patricia Hume is Chief Executive Officer of Canvas GFX.
The manufacturing industry has spent a lot of time, effort and money on making its processes more efficient over time. And now the industry is investing in the Industry 4.0 philosophy to minimize wastage and downtime, leveraging technologies including 3D printing, digital twins, and predictive maintenance. Powering all of these investments is data.
Late last year I had a number of conversations with manufacturing professionals who manage products throughout their lifecycles – from the 3D CAD design phase, through review, fabrication, sales and marketing, and even further into customer usage and after-sales. They each told similar stories of breakdowns in the processes for creating, distributing, and consuming content that transfers vital knowledge about their products. In addition, they all identified significant negative impacts stemming from these problems. Errors, delays, and missed sales opportunities were frequent complaints.
I came away wanting to know more about these problems, their outcomes, and the underlying causes. What is driving ineffective product documentation workflows and processes at organizations that otherwise appear to be investing heavily in efficiency-based initiatives and cutting-edge tech?
In a bid to find out, my company, Canvas GFX, surveyed over 500 manufacturing professionals across a broad range of verticals, including automotive and electric vehicles, aerospace and defense, new space tech, industrial machinery, and more. The results showed these challenges exist widely across the manufacturing sector, suggesting an endemic and interconnected problem.
We’ve dubbed this problem Product Communication Disorder. For many companies, Product Communication Disorder is perceived, managed – and often tolerated – as a series of departmental workflow challenges. The data suggests the problem cannot be solved unless assessed and addressed with a company-wide perspective.
Where have manufacturers gone wrong?
There are three distinct stages within documentation and knowledge transfer where problems arise, the first being the creation of product content.
As it stands, creating product communication content is time-consuming and complicated, requiring input from multiple team members across an organization. Our research highlighted how critically deficient current workflows are, with clear room for improvement. The stats lay the issue bare, with over 95% of manufacturing industry professionals reporting that projects or products at their company had suffered errors or delays as a result of inefficient workflows for the creation of product communication.
But the problem runs deeper than content simply being late or too time-consuming to create. While the data says these are both true, our survey also suggested that the processes underpinning the creation of content are themselves flawed. For more than one in three respondents (36%) workflow bottlenecks stemmed from too many people being involved in content creation. Meanwhile, the lack of skills or software needed to be able to properly visualize 3D models, the basis for many documentation illustrations, was cited by one third of respondents.
Collaboration is another area fraught with challenges. In fact, 73% of respondents in our survey said they had experienced product or project errors or delays in the past two years as a result of difficulty collaborating on content.
Just as content creation at manufacturing companies is fragmented in terms of departments, skills and software, the collaborative process also appears to want for some kind of central management. According to almost three quarters of survey respondents, a primary problem appears to be too many channels (including email, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and other voice and video calling solutions) being used to manage collaboration, review and feedback on product content. The result of this vital communication happening across a range of channels according to 3 in 4 respondents is that it is easy to miss feedback on important documentation and content.
Lastly, the survey revealed serious concerns around the ability of workers to access the most up-to-date documentation materials. For many organizations this appears to be a struggle, while the problem is aggravated by managing a range of different content formats. It’s vital to remember that consuming content is what this entire process is about.
Worryingly, 85% of respondents said that outdated documentation in circulation had resulted in errors and delays over the last four years, and over a third (36%) said their company struggled to manage the rate at which content becomes outdated. More alarming still is the large proportion of respondents who conceded that their company has difficulty ensuring everyone who needs access to content is able to access the most up-to-date version of each document (54%).
Solidifying Industry 4.0 gains
The overarching issue is that manufacturers spend heavily to update their processes to reduce defects and ensure products make it to market on time, documentation issues are continually undercutting those investments.
Perhaps the starkest illustration of the problem lies in the fact that 73% of respondents felt that inefficiencies in their product communication processes were undermining gains made through other technology initiatives.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, and there is a silver lining here. The findings pointed to evidence that manufacturing companies are looking to cure the problem, rather than simply manage the pain. While the data is clear, so are the actions companies can take.
By addressing their problems in product documentation, companies can take a huge leap in realizing the full potential that Industry 4.0 offers and maximize their investments in it.
About the author:
Patricia Hume is Chief Executive Officer of Canvas GFX.
Though once considered a radical concept in the eyes of some, the necessity of digital transformation is now embraced by most organizations. The question is no longer whether to digitally transform — it’s now how to do it. But often, those discussions focus myopically upon the technologies involved.
That’s a mistake.
People, after all, are the ones driving change. Technology is the tool they use to do so. If the attitudes, behaviors and goals of your organization’s people — your culture — are not on board with your digital transformation goals, your transformation will likely fail even if you have the right technology in place. Having clear alignment between your technical objectives and your company’s culture is essential for success — in fact, organizations that take a human-centric approach to digital transformation are 2.6 times more likely to see success.1
Five common business blockers to cultural change
There are several common stumbling blocks that may significantly impede your progress along the path to digital transformation. The most vexing challenges revolve around five key cultural issues:
- Organizational data isolated in functional or hierarchical silos.
- A lack of the skills needed to enable digital transformation.
- The breakdown of inter-team communication and collaboration.
- Cultural resistance to change rooted in lack of understanding of transformation goals.
- Fear and worry about job insecurity, or a lack of psychological safety, among employees.
Any one of these cultural barriers presents a significant speed bump to the transformation process. The presence of all five within a single organization — not an uncommon scenario — wreaks havoc upon an organization’s efforts to transform.
Stepping over those stumbling blocks
Transformation undeniably involves change — and change and human nature often have a stormy relationship. People tend to resist change, particularly when it makes them feel isolated or left behind. How can companies overcome these stumbling blocks to enable and encourage cultural change in support of digital transformation? The answer involves a mix of technology and people-centric management.
To eliminate data and skillset silos without disrupting your key business processes, you need to gradually build cross-functionality across teams. Consider using tools and techniques such as Kaizen (a management strategy that supports ongoing, incremental change), which many organizations have found to be crucial for success. A top-down commitment to opening silos is equally important; however, the true key to breaking down silos is about understanding, engaging and promoting collaboration across both the formal structures and the informal networks that exist across the organization.
Recently, research has found that the key to identifying and engaging these informal networks is by identifying influencers across an organization and engaging with them. Each silo represents a comfort zone for the group of employees that operates within that silo, and employees may be reluctant to move away from those comfort zones. By activating networks across the organization, company leadership can promote collaboration without incentivization.
Similarly, it’s essential to nurture teamwide collaboration and communication in ways that are nonthreatening to individuals and team cultures. While specialized skillsets and knowledge specific to a team (or even a single task) is valuable to the entire organization, individuals who hold that knowledge often consider themselves the owners of that knowledge — an ownership that they may be reluctant to surrender for fear of diminishing their own value. Commending employees for exceptional knowledge sharing and skill development creates a culture of collaboration while promoting candid communication.
Innovation culture and success factors for digital transformation
Leadership should also be sensitive to the language used in communicating transformation initiatives. Phrases such as “breaking down silos” can feel threatening to people working in those so-called silos. Functional areas with their own domains of expertise and knowledge exist for important reasons — and will continue to exist — so leaders should instead talk about “weaving silos together” to achieve cross-functional integration while preserving the benefits of domain expertise.
Adopting agile approaches serves to foster the evolution of cultural shifts across teams, enabling them to be more cross functional. Another tool that can be highly effective in breaking down a range of barriers to collaboration and communication — including differences in age, gender and ethnicity — is reverse mentoring, where younger employees are paired with executive team members to help those executives connect with a younger demographic. Creativity, too, is important when it comes to breaking down cultural cliques. Even discouraging teams from keeping to themselves in settings like company cafeterias can be effective.
Finally, executive leadership, like all other members of the organization, must also evolve. They must embrace the goals of transformation and become comfortable with the higher levels of ambiguity that characterize today’s marketplace.
That said, technology does play a major role in supporting digital transformation initiatives. The right technology can make all the difference in fostering the cultural shift necessary for successful digital transformation. Today’s digital tools can guide effective collaboration, enhance efficiencies, enable standardization and encourage innovation. For example, Hitachi designed a cross-functional 2-day Smart Manufacturing Solution Envisioning Workshop for Logan Aluminum that helped key employees better understand the benefits of specific digital transformation initiatives.
Transformation is really about people
Business organizations are often perceived as lifeless, faceless entities. But in truth, each organization is a collection of people — people who must work together to make the business successful. That’s why it’s so important that everyone in your organization is on board with both the processes and goals of transformation.
Ultimately, fostering positive cultural shifts among your people is the best way — and, realistically, the only way — to ensure that your digital transformation goals can be achieved. Because, in the end, digital transformation is all about your people; a journey begun for your people and achieved by your people.
Hitachi’s Social Innovation imperative is all about unlocking value for society through the power of technology and people. For more tips about getting ahead by thinking ahead, visit our Social Innovation page.
About the authors:
John Brinegar, Director, IoT Solution Architecture, Hitachi Vantara
John Brinegar leads the Solution Architecture team at Hitachi Vantara, and has been leading IIoT projects at Hitachi customer sites for eight years. In addition, Brinegar led the architecture, development, and launch of Lumada Manufacturing Insights, an analytics platform for optimizing performance, maintenance and quality operations. He has extensive background deploying analytics systems into a variety of manufacturing sub-verticals, including electronics, pharma/biotech, metals, automotive, and others, along with IIoT software development and integration in telecommunications, health care, and enterprise markets.
David R. Brousell, Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director Manufacturing Leadership Council
David R. Brousell is the Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the digital manufacturing arm of the National Association of Manufacturing, the largest association of manufacturers in the United States.
In his role as head of the MLC, Brousell sets the strategic direction of the organization and oversees day-to-day activities across the MLC’s portfolio of live and virtual events and thought-leadership content generation. Brousell is a member of the NAM Leadership Team and is also a member of the MLC’s Board of Governors. In his more than 40-year career, Brousell has served in numerous leadership positions in companies large and small.
1Errol Gardner, Norman Lonergan, Liz Fealy, “How transformations with humans at the center can double your success,” EY, June 24, 2022, https://www.ey.com/en_gl/consulting/how-transformations-with-humans-at-the-center-can-double-your-success.
In his introduction to MLC’s recent Master Class session, Harnessing Digital Technology for a Sustainable Future, Paul Tate laid out the high stakes involved in sustainable manufacturing.
“This is one of the most existential challenges and sources of opportunity for the manufacturing industry over the next decade,” said Tate, MLC’s Co-Founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director.
To get to a sustainable, net-zero future, application of both data and analytics are critical. During the Master Class, expert speakers Baskar Radhakrishnan of NTT DATA and Rebecca Christiansen of Microsoft defined the challenges and described how digital technology can help manufacturers accelerate decarbonization.
According to Christiansen, Microsoft’s Americas Azure IoT Specialist Director, nearly one-third of the world’s energy consumption and roughly 20% of CO2 emissions are attributable to the manufacturing industry. To help combat climate issues, she pointed to the 5,000 companies that have committed to net zero as part of the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign.
“While a lot of companies have made commitments, building the strategy, backing it with detailed plans and execution methodologies has been really tough,” Christiansen stated. “It’s really up to all of us, collectively, to figure out what technologies and what strategies should be implemented to go after this.”
Further, Baskar Radhakrishnan shared this must be looked at not only through the strategic lens, but also from a tactical, operational technology perspective.
“From a technology perspective, there is a lot of data available coming from the supply chain, coming from your OT systems, coming from all over your networks,” said Radhakrishnan, NTT DATA’s Strategic Advisor for Manufacturing. “But how you derive some meaningful insight out of that is a huge challenge.”
To show how sustainability investments can provide value, NTT DATA and Microsoft have partnered together to demonstrate quick return on investment for their customers. They have designed a production-level pilot that can be set up in a small-scale production environment at a customer site in less than 12 weeks. This allows the implementation team to show its organizational leaders the opportunity, value and positive ROI associated with investing in an energy management or a waste reduction system.
Beyond demonstrating ROI with this pilot, it is important to also look at sustainability from a business objectives perspective.
“There is a gamut of technologies involved,” Radhakrishnan said, “so technology is an enabler. It’s not going to solve your problem unless you have the process straightened out and unless you identify the range of possible options for transitioning towards the net-zero targets.”
In part because organizations cannot improve things they can’t measure, NTT DATA and Microsoft are using the Azure digital twin to help companies meet their sustainability goals.
“We tackle the problem of data by connecting directly to energy data sources – be it power meters, submeters on equipment, or utilizing building management systems. From there we create both real-time visibility to energy usage and provide analytics about the energy usage, trends, and patterns,” said Radhakrishnan.
According to the Master Class speakers, manufacturers shouldn’t be afraid or overwhelmed with the prospect of using digital twins in this process. While they can seem complex, they are simply virtual replicas of physical assets, or “high-fidelity digital representations of the physical world,” as Christiansen called them.
“Once you’ve got [the physical world] modeled, you can garner insights, you can look at consumption, you can look at interaction, you can think about how you can manipulate or even identify fault detection or anomalies in advance, which help you really optimize keeping your manufacturing line healthy, runtime up, and throughput maximized,” she said.
The outcomes from using digital twins are clear, including improved production capacity and inspection efficiency with reduced energy usage and CO2 emissions. Plus, the twin allows the user to look at energy management on many level: at the product, factory, or even supply chain levels. That includes progress toward net-zero goals.
“That’s extremely important because you’re completely taking the guesswork out of this,” said Radhakrishnan. “You need a systematic way of tracking, reporting, recording, and being able to model and show progress not only to your board but also to your external stakeholders as well as investors.”
In fact, he said, if you are not making progress, the digital twin in combination with artificial intelligence allows you to model and fix problems and see how you are progressing toward your vision.
Beyond the technology itself, the final piece to the puzzle is creating an organizational culture with proper funding, training, and resources.
“We’re seeing a lot of organizations hire chief sustainability officers,” said Christiansen. “That’s an incredible start, but that’s a single person. It has to come through the entire culture of a company.”
If the culture is not there, she warns, it will be a challenge to implement these changes.
As the Master Class demonstrated, net-zero goals are challenging, but they are also achievable. Digital technologies like NTT DATA and Microsoft’s production-level pilot can build a case to create sustainability programs that create substantial results. Establishing goals and a strategy, utilizing digital twins, analyzing the data and analytics, and creating an organizational culture where the entire company is behind the mission are all key to accelerating a decarbonization effort.
Visit NTT DATA’s sustainable manufacturing page to learn more about this topic.
What do women in manufacturing think about the business they’re in? It’s not something we hear a great deal about, which is perhaps not surprising. Manufacturing is a male-dominated industry, after all. For half a century women have represented around 30% of the U.S. manufacturing workforce, peaking at 33% in 1990, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB).
By number, most female employees are found in production, transportation, and material moving. They are assemblers and fabricators, says the USCB, inspectors and testers, among other roles.
But, proportionately, women enjoy far greater representation in the sales and office-based roles of manufacturing companies, where they are in the majority, holding 51.7% of the roles.
So it’s important to know what they think. Earlier this year we surveyed over 500 manufacturing professionals from a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, automotive, space, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, to understand the challenges associated with product-related communication and knowledge transfer.
In line with the USCB data, female employees accounted for 28% of responses. And while we did not set out to measure gender distribution across industries (and so, offer no conclusive insight) there was some interesting variation by sector. For example, women accounted for just 21% of responses in the aerospace and defense sector while in the emerging SpaceTech sector they accounted for 35%, and in the automotive sector 32%.
When it comes to existing product communication workflows – the ways in which documentation describing products and processes is created, shared, and consumed – the data was clear: 71% of female employees believe there is room for improvement in these workflows, and the same proportion believe documentation challenges at their organization are getting harder to manage as the company grows. Ninety-seven percent of female respondents said they had seen products or projects hit by errors or delays as a result of documentation being late, inaccurate or unclear, or outdated.
Digging further into specific elements of the workflows, and perhaps indicating areas where female employees may have greater insight, women were more acutely concerned about bottlenecks associated with the creation of product documentation than their male counterparts. Sixty-five percent of female respondents reported that creation bottlenecks are a frequent problem at their organization compared to just 51% of male respondents.
They also felt more strongly that managing distribution of, and access to, important documentation was a problem, with 43% of women saying this was difficult for their organization to manage, compared to 36% of male respondents.
With documentation creation and consumption routinely involving collaboration between separate departments, we asked respondents how well different disciplines such as engineering and marketing professionals were able to collaborate. Here, female respondents were perhaps more optimistic than their male counterparts, with 30% saying there were no difficulties, compared to only 20% for male respondents.
In terms of the outcomes of these workflow challenges, women again registered somewhat higher levels of concern than men. Forty percent of female respondents said they had witnessed wastage through product defects as a result of product documentation being delayed, inaccurate or unclear, or outdated, compared to 38% of male respondents. And 38% of women said the same problems had led to delayed or missed sales opportunities, compared to 32% of male respondents; interesting considering the USCB data which showed higher numbers of female workers in manufacturing sales roles.
Perhaps more worryingly, one in three female manufacturing employees believe their organization is not actively seeking ways to improve documentation workflows and processes, which suggests a huge opportunity for improvement if the problems these women are identifying can be highlighted and understood at the leadership level.
So what does success look like for women in manufacturing? Well, with 37% of female respondents saying the applications used in documentation workflows are unsuited to the task, 33% saying there are too many applications involved, and 39% saying there are too many people involved, the data suggests women want to see more autonomy and efficiency in these crucial knowledge transfer workflows.
More than 2 in 3 of female respondents said it would be beneficial to use a single application for the creation of all types of product content, while 62% said it would be beneficial if all collaboration were also to happen in one application channel. Meanwhile, 66% said they believed it would be beneficial if the company was able to track and measure document access and usage.
As in any sector, women have an important role to play in manufacturing and it is essential we understand their perspective on the challenges companies face. A clear takeaway from this research is that female employees believe the manufacturing industry faces a defining challenge when it comes to poor communication and product documentation, which is intricately connected to the success of the entire organization. And when the processes in place break down, the result is self-inflicted damage that could – and should – have been avoided.
About the author:
Patricia Hume is Chief Executive Officer of Canvas GFX.
Nothing tests the resiliency of supply chains like a global pandemic — as everyone from CEOs to consumers desperately seeking toilet paper know all too well. And, as the COVID-19 pandemic so vividly demonstrated, organizations around the globe need help in monitoring and strengthening their supply chains.
But all organizations — and multinational corporations, in particular — must also be concerned about the sustainability standards of their supply chains. Issues such as climate change, fair labor practices and environmental impacts must be considered along with issues affecting supply chain resiliency. Yes, focusing on these issues is the right thing to do. But increasingly, ensuring supply chain sustainability standards is also essential to maintaining competitiveness and market share. A recent Deloitte survey1 found that nearly a third of consumers have abandoned a brand or product because of concerns about sustainability or ethics. Nearly half of consumers want more insights into the sourcing of products and impacts to sustainability.
So, modern consumers indeed want to find toilet paper fully stocked on the store shelves. But they also expect that product, and all products, to have been produced and sourced sustainably and ethically.
The big ask
Maintaining supply chain viability, especially in recent times, can be pretty challenging. Adding the task of ensuring and demonstrating that all the many supply and labor sources that feed into that chain meet modern sustainability standards — well, that’s a big ask. But that’s the task that’s faced by enterprises that seek to remain competitive.
It’s not an easy task. And some of the biggest brand names on the planet have made some embarrassing stumbles in attempting to ensure the sustainability and ethics of their suppliers. Some suppliers were cited for violating worker safety conventions and fair labor practices. Others were found to have dumped toxic chemicals into rivers that serve as the source of drinking water for millions of people.
Enterprises need help in successfully monitoring all of the many streams and tributaries that flow into a typical modern supply chain. They need a high-level focus that provides oversight of all supply routes and suppliers — they need a control-tower view.
A control tower solution for supply chain sustainability
Hitachi has developed supply chain control tower solutions explicitly designed for monitoring and managing the complexity of modern supply chains. Powered by Hitachi’s Lumada Manufacturing Insights, these solutions integrate process monitoring, data collection from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and satellites, historical records and predictive algorithms to provide alerts about potential disruptions.
According to the Association for Supply Chain Management, more than half of all companies lack complete visibility into their supply chains, leaving them vulnerable to disruptions.2 Hitachi’s supply chain control tower solutions offer enterprises a paradigm shift in supply chain management: predicting the future of the supply chain rather than simply reacting to disruptions as they occur.
But Hitachi’s supply chain control tower solutions can go far beyond simply helping to keep a supply chain intact. These solutions can also be used for effectively monitoring, managing and demonstrating the sustainability of supply lines, from beginning to end — as the following ongoing Hitachi pilot project demonstrates.
Supply chain sustainability safeguards one of the seven natural wonders of the world
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef on the planet and is counted as one of the world’s seven natural wonders. But the majestic beauty of the Great Barrier Reef is sustained by a fragile ecosystem. And in just the past three decades, that delicate ecosystem has been pummeled by a combination of climate change fallout and damage from pollutants. Much of the pollution that affects the reef originates from agriculture.
Recently, Hitachi and Horticulture Innovation Australia teamed up on a project that utilizes Hitachi’s supply chain control tower technologies to help enhance the environmental stewardship of farmers in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area. The project encompasses four remotely monitored farms growing nursery, vegetable, macadamia and banana crops. The project’s goal is to use digital dashboards to enhance sustainability efforts by helping the farms produce more with less waste and increase their compliance with governmental directives.
This project will demonstrate the viability of both managing and monitoring even the most remote endpoints of a supply chain using Hitachi’s data-driven control tower technologies. The project is expected to enhance supply chain sustainability and resiliency while providing the product-source transparency that has become so vital to modern consumers.
Supply chain sustainability is now an imperative
Not so long ago, any enterprise efforts toward ensuring increased supply chain sustainability were worth a virtual pat on the head — and not much more. But that’s no longer true. Increasingly, maintaining goodwill in the eyes of stakeholders and consumers requires that supply chains be both resilient and sustainable. Enterprises that manage to do both enjoy a competitive edge that far transcends the ability to simply keep toilet paper on store shelves.
Discover how Hitachi’s supply chain control tower solutions can help you keep your supply chain intact while providing the sustainability that consumers demand.
About the author:
Owen Keates, Industry Executive, Manufacturing Practice, Hitachi Vantara
Keates leads the development of Hitachi Vantara’s digital supply chain solutions. With over 25 years of experience in supply chain management including global supply chain manager of a logistics company and vice president of a supply chain consultancy, he has led many digital transformation programs across a range of industries from beverages and agri-food to transformer, motor, construction, vehicle assembly as well as chemical and paper manufacturing. Qualified as a chemical engineer, Keates has production, project and executive management experience in manufacturing and is currently completing a part-time Ph.D. in process intelligence.
1 – “Shifting sands: Are consumers still embracing sustainability?” Deloitte, 2021, https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/sustainable-consumer.html
2 – “Over Half of Companies Lack Clear Picture of Their Own Supply Chain, According to New Report from ASCM and the Economist Intelligence Unit,” Association for Supply Chain Management, February 23, 2021, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/over-half-of-companies-lack-clear-picture-of-their-own-supply-chain-according-to-new-report-from-ascm-and-the-economist-intelligence-unit-301233340.html
The Journey to M4.0 Value
The manufacturing industry is at a pivotal point in its history.
Driven by market forces to become more agile, innovative, resilient, cost efficient, and sustainable, companies of all sizes are pursuing a future vision for business value enabled by digital technologies that will redefine the rules of competition, how work will be performed, how companies will be organized, and how leadership must lead.
We term this future state: Manufacturing 4.0.
Such a comprehensive enterprise-wide transformation requires a three-dimensional approach: mastering the challenges and opportunities of advanced digital tools and data; improving organizational structures and cultures; and developing new workforce talent and leadership skills.
While shaped by company size, sector, and level of digital maturity, all manufacturers share the need for a common set of key M4.0 competencies.
These enable them to drive value from digital investments in critical areas of business activity – from product design and innovation, to supply chains and customer relationships, to more eco-efficient manufacturing operations.
The Manufacturing Leadership Council’s new Critical Issues agenda for 2022/2023 is a specifically designed to help manufacturers align their thinking and best practices to deliver true business value from their journey to M4.0.
The MLC’s Critical Issues Process
The Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Critical Issues agenda, now in its 11th year, is the outcome of a unique, annual, member-driven process to identify the most urgent and important issues facing manufacturing companies in the year ahead. Refreshed every year, it is based on extensive consultation with over 3500 senior executives and associate members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council and Board of Governors.
The Critical Issues agenda establishes the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s strategic plan, and directly influences all major elements of the MLC’s research program, content focus, events, and services portfolio for the year ahead.
For more information contact: [email protected]
Two statements, from two people deeply immersed in the manufacturing sector, have been playing on loop in my head recently. The first was something said to me by Joe Chen, co-founder of one of our customers, Anduril Industries. He said that his company’s fundamental differentiator (and thus his most important KPI) is being faster to market than everybody else.
The second was an observation I read made by Paul Wellener, Vice Chairman and U.S. Industrial Products & Construction Leader at Deloitte LLP. Wellener, who also serves on the NAM Board of Directors, said, “The challenge is to really make manufacturing attractive to the next generation and to diverse populations.”
It’s hard to argue with either statement. Advances in manufacturing technology are driving dramatic acceleration in development, iteration, and production. And with supply chain problems causing drag on the entire sector, the ability to beat the competition for pace makes you far more likely to win.
Meanwhile it’s been well documented that the older part of the U.S. population is leaving work in droves. More than half of over-55s have quit the U.S. workforce, taking with them decades of knowledge and expertise and leaving a gap which must be filled by younger generations.
But those millennials, who will account for 75% of the workforce by 2025 according to some projections, have a level of choice in employment terms that we haven’t seen for decades. It’s a seller’s market and, with the U.S. manufacturing sector on track to have over two million unfilled jobs by 2030, the urgency behind Paul Wellener’s observation becomes clear.
So it is reasonable to conclude that success in manufacturing as we move forward will be heavily dependent on speed and agility, combined with the ability to attract and retain the best new talent from a pool of workers who are younger, and increasing in diversity of nationality in line with the population as a whole.
Studies suggest that technology has a crucial role to play. According to research from Comptia, 71% of millennials cite the degree to which an organization embraces technology and innovation as an influencing factor in their choice of an employer – a share of the cohort which is increasing each year. They want access to the best technology that will have the greatest impact on their skillsets.
In addition, the survey showed that 61% of millennials like to use their smartphone as part of their working life, compared to just 38% of boomers. Anecdotally, I see the same thing. They want to work as they live, with the same technology – and that means that the ways in which information is accessed, presented, and consumed must change.
Our own research into how product and process documentation is managed within the U.S. manufacturing sector revealed more generational differences in this area. We asked manufacturing professionals from middle management through to executive leadership whether they agreed that text-heavy documentation was challenging because of diverse reading skill levels and first languages. While 66% of those in the 45–54-year-old age group agreed, the number rose to 74% for those aged 35 to 44 and to 81% for those aged 25 to 34.
Where it gets interesting for me is the intersection between that need to beat competitors on time to market and the need to change how information is consumed (and to provide technology that engages and excites the workforce). The reality, of course, is that you are only as fast as your slowest process. And because effective communication of critical product and process information underpins every aspect of success, it has to be on the money.
Our survey suggests this is understood, with 75% of manufacturers reporting that they are actively trying to improve their communication processes, and 73% saying that communication is getting harder for them to manage as they grow. Most telling of all, 73% said they believe poor communication processes are undermining the investments they’ve made in other technology and process initiatives.
These issues are driving uptake of our interactive visual communication and collaboration platform, Canvas Envision because it provides that very step change in how information is delivered and consumed that chimes with the learning styles of the new generation workforce.
The challenges are not going away, but fortunately there is a solution.
About the author:
Patricia Hume is Chief Executive Officer of Canvas GFX.
When it comes to digital transformation, is there a way to ensure that all manufacturers have an equal opportunity to focus on digital initiatives – regardless of their size? A panel at Rethink: The Manufacturing Leadership Council Summit examined the different challenges faced by small and medium enterprises on the industry’s journey to Manufacturing 4.0.
The panel featured Val Zanchuk, President at Graphicast; Chuck Wetherington, President of BTE Technologies and SMM Chairman for the NAM Board of Directors; and Irene Petrick, Senior Director of Industrial Innovation at Intel Corporation.
The most obvious challenge comes from resources. As Zanchuk said, he is often limited by the three T’s: Time, Treasury, and Talent. “I try to keep up with the pace of understand what’s going on with the latest digital tools, and identify the opportunities that make sense for the business.”
“M4.0 is not a rote prescription, it’s a toolbox,” Wetherington said. “We are moving digital technology down to where the work is being done.”
Petrick said that the digital divide isn’t only because of size, but also because of investment choices. “If you weren’t doing a lot of investments in digital over time, then you are behind – it’s not a size issue, it’s an investment issue.” Petrick added that companies who have not been making those continuous investments are behind, especially after COVID.
Cybersecurity is also a concern, not just internal to a company but also as an ask from customers. “The customer base has to be able to look at us and say we’re in good shape, to be comfortable working with us,” Zanchuk said.
Wetherington added, “Every company needs to be worried about cyber and needs to make efforts to be secure. The problem isn’t how good your defense is, it’s whether or not the bad guys want to get at you.”
So how can a small company, or any company, keep from falling into the divide?
“You have to stay on top of understanding technologies,” Zanchuk said. “Lean mentality fits well with 4.0 mentality, but we don’t use every tool in the Lean toolbox. I’m always scanning the technologies to understand it and translate it down to my scale.”
It’s also a matter of people, not just technology. “Hiring and retaining talent will continue to be an enormous challenge,” Petrick said. “Investing there will yield much more value than ever before.”