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MLC Announces Manufacturing Leadership Award Finalists

a group of people posing for a photo

The Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation division, has announced the 2024 Manufacturing Leadership Awards finalists.

About the awards: Now in their 20th season, the Manufacturing Leadership Awards honor the most outstanding manufacturing companies and their leaders for groundbreaking use of advanced manufacturing technology.

  • This year’s program features nine project categories, including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Digital Supply Chains and Sustainability and the Circular Economy.
  • It also includes two categories for individuals: Digital Transformation Leadership for executive-level manufacturing leaders and Next-Generation Leadership for up-and-coming leaders age 30 and under.

How we decide: Nominations are judged by an outside panel of digital manufacturing experts with deep industry knowledge and experience.

  • For project entries, judges assess an initiative’s effect on improving manufacturing processes, furthering business goals and advancing company strategy, as well as how much digital technology the project used.
  • For individual nominations, judges look at each person’s impact both inside and outside their organization, and whether they meet the criteria as a role model for other manufacturing leaders.

Celebration and ceremony: Winners for both of these categories will be announced at the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala on June 5 at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.

  • Award finalists will also be recognized, as will winners of the Manufacturing in 2030 Award, the Manufacturing Leader of the Year, the Small/Medium Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year and the Large Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year.
  • The gala caps off Rethink, the industry’s leading event for accelerating digital transformation. (Rethink also takes place in Marco Island, June 2–5.) 

The last word: “More than ever, manufacturers are finding that digital technology investment is good for business as they achieve new levels of performance in efficiency, productivity and innovation,” said MLC Founder, Vice President and Executive Director David R. Brousell.

  • “The finalists we are recognizing for this year’s awards have demonstrated not just the business benefit of Manufacturing 4.0 technology, but also a fresh and imaginative approach to applying it in a transformative way.”
Business Operations

How Close Is the Smart Factory of the Future?

Manufacturing is marching toward a future that is highly automated, intelligent and flexible.

Increasingly, smart factories are made up of connected machines that generate large amounts of data. This opens the door for artificial intelligence–driven analysis and new opportunities for insights on improving supply chains, processes, the customer experience, product quality and more.

But realizing this transformation can be difficult. Not all manufacturers have the resources, capital or talent required for a smart factory future. How are companies progressing on this journey, and what challenges stand in the way? To find out, the Manufacturing Leadership Council—the NAM’s digital transformation arm—conducted its Smart Factories and Digital Production survey.

Manufacturers are committed to M4.0: When it comes to digital technology, manufacturers are spending at a steady—and in some cases growing—basis.

  • Nearly 69% of survey respondents said their M4.0 investments this year would continue unchanged from last year.
  • Nearly 19% said they would increase investments, while just 10% said their investments would likely decline.
  • Some 58% assessed their company’s digital maturity level in manufacturing operations at three to five on a scale of 10, suggesting the industry has moved beyond the initial stages of M4.0 and has reached an early majority of digital-model adoption.

How widespread are digital factories? Only about 7% of manufacturers say they have digitized their factory operations extensively.

  • Approximately 15% expect to have their manufacturing operations digitized end-to-end by 2026.
  • About 5% say their factories are already “very smart.”
  • Approximately 53% say their factories and plants are getting smarter but are still works in progress.

In the future, will factories run themselves? While some manufacturers foresee a future of “lights out” factories, or those that mostly run themselves, most don’t think they will ever reach that state.

  • About 49% of respondents expect fully or partially autonomous factories in the future.
  • Some 40% say AI will be either very significant or somewhat significant in the years to come.
  • Approximately 56% cite organizational resistance to change as the top barrier to implementing a smart factory.

For more details on these findings and the impact of smart factories as a whole, read the survey report: Smart Factories Are Still a Work in Progress.

Business Operations

What’s Ahead for Manufacturing in 2024?

Getting a solid forecast of the year’s key issues in manufacturing can help your business prepare for anything. A panel of experts recently shared their 2024 outlook in the webinar “What’s Ahead for Manufacturing in 2024?” hosted by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation arm.

They offered insights on the 2024 manufacturing economy, legislative climate, digital trends, resilience strategies and more.

Economic outlook: NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray provided a manufacturing economic update.

Key takeaways: 

  • The NAM Q4 2023 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey revealed that more than 66% of member companies have a positive economic outlook for 2024, yet opinions are mixed on whether there will be a recession.
  • The top economic challenge this year will be the workforce, with the labor market cooling substantially but remaining tight, Moutray said.
  • Private manufacturing construction spending is at an all-time high of $210 billion thanks to the production of semiconductors, electric vehicles and batteries, and general reshoring.
  • Risks this year include geopolitical turmoil, slow global economic growth, cost pressures, talk of a recession and labor issues, among others.

Policy perspective: NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Charles Crain gave an overview of the current climate in Washington, D.C., and the NAM’s legislative priorities.

Key takeaways: 

  • The NAM will continue its focus on tax policy following House passage of an NAM-supported bipartisan tax package that would reinstate three manufacturing-critical tax provisions.
  • Manufacturing is facing a regulatory onslaught, with the average manufacturer paying $29,000 per employee per year due to unbalanced, burdensome regulations, according to a recent NAM-commissioned study.
  • Artificial intelligence is a hot topic on Capitol Hill, with 60 AI-related bills introduced in Congress last year. The NAM is working to help policymakers understand the benefits of AI, including safety, worker training, product design and development, and efficiency.

Manufacturing 4.0 Trends: MLC Senior Content Director Penelope Brown offered a look at digital manufacturing trends on the horizon.

 Key takeaways: 

  • Manufacturers can expect to see a broader adoption of existing AI applications, including predictive/preventative maintenance, improved processes and enhanced productivity.
  • According to the MLC’s recent Smart Factories and Digital Production survey, 65% of manufacturers anticipate their level of M4.0 investment this year will stay the same as last year.
  • Other trends to watch include the rise of global partnerships such as Catena-X and CESMII, digitized supply chains and reshoring.

Resilience perspective: Cooley Group President and CEO (and MLC Board of Governors Chair) Dan Dwight shared his approach to resilience in 2024 and the years to come.

Key takeaways: 

  • Business leaders should prioritize agility and adaptability, even if it means admitting to suboptimal results that require redirection.
  • Resilience doesn’t mean perfection; it means learning from failures.
  • AI and machine learning contribute to resilience by building out end-to-end visibility across an organization—from vendors to manufacturing operations to customers.

For additional details from these experts, watch “What’s Ahead for Manufacturing in 2024?” 

Business Operations

What’s Ahead for Manufacturing in 2024?

Getting a solid forecast of the year’s key issues in manufacturing can help your business prepare for anything. A panel of experts recently shared their 2024 outlook in the webinar “What’s Ahead for Manufacturing in 2024?” hosted by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation arm.

They offered insights on the 2024 manufacturing economy, legislative climate, digital trends, resilience strategies and more.

Economic outlook: NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray provided a manufacturing economic update.

Key takeaways: 

  • The NAM Q4 2023 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey revealed that more than 66% of member companies have a positive economic outlook for 2024, yet opinions are mixed on whether there will be a recession.
  • The top economic challenge this year will be the workforce, with the labor market cooling substantially but remaining tight, Moutray said.
  • Private manufacturing construction spending is at an all-time high of $210 billion thanks to the production of semiconductors, electric vehicles and batteries, and general reshoring.
  • Risks this year include geopolitical turmoil, slow global economic growth, cost pressures, talk of a recession and labor issues, among others.

Policy perspective: NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Charles Crain gave an overview of the current climate in Washington, D.C., and the NAM’s legislative priorities.

Key takeaways: 

  • The NAM will continue its focus on tax policy following House passage of an NAM-supported bipartisan tax package that would reinstate three manufacturing-critical tax provisions.
  • Manufacturing is facing a regulatory onslaught, with the average manufacturer paying $29,000 per employee per year due to unbalanced, burdensome regulations, according to a recent NAM-commissioned study.
  • Artificial intelligence is a hot topic on Capitol Hill, with 60 AI-related bills introduced in Congress last year. The NAM is working to help policymakers understand the benefits of AI, including safety, worker training, product design and development, and efficiency.

Manufacturing 4.0 Trends: MLC Senior Content Director Penelope Brown offered a look at digital manufacturing trends on the horizon.

 Key takeaways: 

  • Manufacturers can expect to see a broader adoption of existing AI applications, including predictive/preventative maintenance, improved processes and enhanced productivity.
  • According to the MLC’s recent Smart Factories and Digital Production survey, 65% of manufacturers anticipate their level of M4.0 investment this year will stay the same as last year.
  • Other trends to watch include the rise of global partnerships such as Catena-X and CESMII, digitized supply chains and reshoring.

Resilience perspective: Cooley Group President and CEO (and MLC Board of Governors Chair) Dan Dwight shared his approach to resilience in 2024 and the years to come.

Key takeaways: 

  • Business leaders should prioritize agility and adaptability, even if it means admitting to suboptimal results that require redirection.
  • Resilience doesn’t mean perfection; it means learning from failures.
  • AI and machine learning contribute to resilience by building out end-to-end visibility across an organization—from vendors to manufacturing operations to customers.

For additional details from these experts, watch “What’s Ahead for Manufacturing in 2024?” 

Business Operations

How Manufacturers Can Unlock the Power of Data

Manufacturers are using data to improve everything from their supply chains to their workplace culture—and more. Data can lead the way to new innovations, new business models and even new revenue streams. Yet, many manufacturing executives say they are not scaling data-driven use cases successfully, meaning that much of the information they do collect is going to waste.

So how can companies get the most out of their data and ensure they aren’t losing out on key insights?

A unique event hosted by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation division, aims to answer these questions and more. “Manufacturing in 2030: The Coming Data Value Revolution,” which will be held on Dec. 6–7 in Nashville, Tennessee, will explore the ways manufacturers can unlock value from their data to boost productivity, value and competitiveness.

On the agenda: This event will have three key areas of focus:

  • Data value: Attendees will learn what the future holds for data monetization, data ecosystems and data-driven innovation.
  • People and process: They will also hear about the future workforce, including emerging and evolving job roles, data-driven leadership and data culture.
  • Technology and data: And lastly, they will peek into a future where artificial intelligence, data visualizations and the industrial metaverse are part of our everyday manufacturing world.

M2030 agenda highlights: The presenters will also share practical insights that participants can put into action right away.

  • In “Capturing Intelligence for Business Model Innovation,” IDC’s Bob Parker will examine digital maturity and the future of enterprise intelligence. Parker will explain how to create new business models through enhanced customer experience, as well as how to capture and leverage economies of intelligence.
  • In “The Rise of Data Ecosystems,” John Dyck of the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute will deliver a practical explanation of Manufacturing-X, Gaia-X and Catena-X as well as their goals and challenges. Dyck will discuss trends driving data-sharing initiatives as well as related technical and governance issues.
  • In “Building Great Supply Chain Visibility by 2030,” Supply Chain Insights’ Lora Cecere will address why 80% of the data being generated from supply chains isn’t being used well enough. Cecere will also explore how data can be used to create more resilient supply chains by 2030.

The bottom line: Advanced technologies are only part of the digital transformation story. Manufacturers who want to get ahead need to understand data’s role and value, not to mention how people, process, technology and even data itself will evolve by 2030.

Sign up: Registration is open for Manufacturing in 2030: The Coming Data Value Revolution. Click here to learn more.

Press Releases

NAM Study: Stricter Interest Expense Limitation to Cost Nearly 900,000 Jobs

Harmful Limit Disproportionately Impacts Manufacturing Sector

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers released a new analysis on the impact to the U.S. economy of Congress’ failure to reverse the stricter interest expense limitation that took effect in January 2022.

The jobs impact of the stricter limitation has nearly doubled over the past year given congressional inaction to ensure a pro-growth interest deductibility standard as interest rates have continued to rise. The data show that limiting manufacturers’ ability to deduct interest on debt-financed investments, over the long run, could cost the U.S. economy up to:

  • 867,000 jobs;
  • $58 billion of employee compensation; and
  • $108 billion in GDP.

“A stricter interest expense limitation restricts manufacturers’ ability to invest in new equipment and create jobs. This analysis clearly shows that failing to reverse this damaging change will cut close to 900,000 jobs and billions of dollars of employee pay and harm economic growth. Even more, the study finds that manufacturers and related industries bear 77% of the burden of this policy,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram. “Congress must act by year’s end to restore a pro-growth interest deductibility standard and allow manufacturers to continue to invest for the future.”

Background:

Prior to 2022, the interest expense limitation was calculated based on a company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). Last year, a stricter limitation based on a company’s earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) took effect. By excluding depreciation and amortization from the calculation, the stricter limitation increases the tax burden on manufacturers that make investments in long-lived capital equipment.

To view the full analysis click here.

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.91 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 55% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Business Operations

Manufacturing Leadership Awards Kick Off 20th Season

a group of people posing for a photo in front of a stage

For two decades, the Manufacturing Leadership Awards have recognized outstanding manufacturing companies and their leaders for their groundbreaking use of advanced manufacturing technology. What started out in 2005 as a modest 50-person gathering in New Orleans has evolved into one of the industry’s most exciting celebrations.

This past June, the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala honored an impressive 163 projects and leaders, in front of an electrified crowd of 450 guests. The program’s growth is a testament to the momentum of Manufacturing 4.0 technologies and their success in creating performance improvements and boosting competitiveness.

With more manufacturers adopting digital and data-driven methods every day, there is still much to celebrate. The program’s 20th season is now open for nominations, with expectations running high for another amazing show in 2024. 

A proud heritage: Past winners from the Manufacturing Leadership Awards include companies and leaders from nearly every industry, from 10-person shops to multinational enterprises, located all around the world.

  • Each entry is reviewed by a judging panel made up of industry experts with extensive experience in technology transformation. The top-scoring projects are selected as category finalists, and the category winners are revealed at the awards gala.
  • Finalists and winners report that the awards have helped them gain new customers, boosted employee morale and team camaraderie and encouraged their executive leadership to continue investing in digital technology initiatives.
  • Since the program’s inception, more than 1,000 leaders and projects have been honored for their achievements.

A wide range of candidates: The awards program welcomes submissions from small and medium-sized enterprises, as judges look for the overall level of impact that projects have had on a company’s operations—not the dollar amount of their investments.

  • If technology has measurably helped a company improve its operational performance, upskill employees or enter new business markets, those projects are excellent candidates for award nominations.

The categories: Over the years, the awards have encompassed an evolving list of categories, currently at nine for projects and two for individuals.

  • Project categories include AI and Machine Learning, Collaborative Ecosystems, Digital Network Connectivity, Digital Supply Chains, Engineering and Production Leadership, Enterprise Integration and Technology, Operational Excellence, Sustainability and the Circular Economy, and Transformational Business Cultures.
  • Individual categories include Digital Transformation Leadership, for established manufacturing operations executives who lead Manufacturing 4.0 initiatives, and Next-Generation Leadership, for up-and-coming operations leaders aged 30 or younger.

Get involved: All manufacturers in any location and of any organizational size are eligible and encouraged to apply. Program details, rules and instructions for how to submit a nomination are available on the MLC website. Entries are due Jan. 17, 2024.

Business Operations

Manufacturers Step into the Industrial Metaverse

What exactly is the industrial metaverse? While the term sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, it’s already being used by manufacturers in the here and now. Put simply, the industrial metaverse is a collection of technologies that can create an immersive virtual or virtual/physical industrial environment.

The metaverse will contain virtual replicas of everything from complete factories down to individual components and parts, powered by evolving digital technologies like AI and cloud computing. As the metaverse develops, users will be able to access it from any internet-connected device, such as a smartphone, laptop or tablet, or using virtual reality headsets.

According to a new report released by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation division, and Deloitte, 92% of manufacturing executives say they are experimenting with or implementing at least one metaverse-related use case. On average, the surveyed executives say they are running more than six.

How is it used? Manufacturers are using industrial metaverse technologies in four common areas: production, supply chain oversight, customer service and talent management.

  • Production: Manufacturers are simulating key processes in order to evaluate them, creating virtual prototypes of processes or systems and creating simulated factories to optimize factory layout and setup.
  • Supply chain: Other manufacturers are using the metaverse to track products and raw materials and to collaborate with suppliers.
  • Customer service: Companies are also creating virtual showrooms and product demonstrations, which attendees can visit without leaving their own homes or offices.
  • Talent management: Lastly, other companies are experiment with using the metaverse for immersive training, virtual plant tours and virtual recruiting and onboarding.

What are the benefits? Executives report that each of these use cases comes with significant benefits, including cost reductions. Respondents also said metaverse applications have improved employee attraction and retention.

  • Immersive customer experiences and virtual aftermarket services, such as equipment service and maintenance, have also led to increased revenue, according to the survey.

The challenges: While the industrial metaverse offers many promising benefits, manufacturers are still finding some challenges, including:

  • The high cost of metaverse technology and the cybersecurity protections it requires;
  • A lack of employees with the right skills, along with the steep learning curve for those who must be trained; and,
  • Insufficient digital infrastructure and other resources.

The solution: The report suggests that manufacturers can find success in the metaverse by building a culture of innovation, establishing leadership support and starting small by investing in a digital technology foundation. 

The last word: All in all, manufacturing executives are confident that the industrial metaverse will transform their operations. Learning to understand and use the metaverse will soon be essential for companies seeking a competitive future.

Download the full report, “Exploring the Industrial Metaverse,” to learn more. 

Business Operations

How Manufacturing 4.0 Got Its Name—and Why It Matters

Flashback to 2015: “Hamilton” debuted on Broadway, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest U.S. generation and the term “Industry 4.0” was gaining traction in manufacturing circles. It was also when the Manufacturing Leadership Council created a conceptual framework called “Manufacturing 4.0.”

So what is the difference between Industry 4.0 and Manufacturing 4.0? While the terms may not sound all that distinct from each other, Manufacturing 4.0 represents the MLC’s commitment to a far-sighted, holistic approach to manufacturing’s tech-enabled metamorphosis—one that has served it well in over the past eight years.

The background: The 4.0 movement started in Germany in 2011 when the German ministries for education, research, economic affairs and energy developed a strategic initiative that would push forward the digital transformation of industrial manufacturing.

  • They named this initiative Industrie 4.0. It featured an action plan that combined policy initiatives, public–private funding, strategies for technology implementation and the identification of business drivers and barriers.

The difference: For the MLC and its members, Manufacturing 4.0 is made up of transformations in three different arenas: technology, organization and leadership.

  • Contrast this with Industry 4.0, which covers only technology topics—specifically nine pillars of technological innovation, which include autonomous robots, big data, cloud computing, IoT, cybersecurity, systems integration, simulation, AR/VR and additive manufacturing.
  • “MLC, of course, covers all of these technologies, but, importantly, adds the dimensions of organizational and leadership change as part of its perspective on manufacturing’s digital transformation,” says David R. Brousell, the MLC’s founder, vice president and executive director.

MLC in action: While the MLC does provide member resources that focus on specific technologies and their uses in manufacturing operations, it also covers topics such as how leaders can prepare their workforce for digital transformation, how organizations should be structured to make business decisions based on manufacturing data and how leaders can ensure they set their teams up for digital success.

  • Additionally, the annual Manufacturing Leadership Awards recognize not only high-performing digital manufacturing projects but also outstanding individuals who demonstrate both technological understanding and strong personal leadership.

M4.0’s continued evolution: Today, the MLC continues to use Manufacturing 4.0 as the overarching framework for its member companies’ activities.

  • Its influence is apparent in the MLC’s annual Critical Issues Agenda, a member-created list of key business drivers and enablers of digital manufacturing.
  • The agenda covers technological advances like smart factories and data analytics, alongside the organizational ecosystems that put such advances into operation—from the leaders who direct them to the cultures that make them succeed.

The Future of M4.0: As the MLC gets ready to set its 2023–2024 Critical Issues Agenda, it will continue to take a holistic approach to the technological changes sweeping the industry by recognizing the importance of people in making those transformations happen.

Go deeper: You can learn more about Manufacturing 4.0 by downloading the MLC’s white paper, Manufacturing in 2030: The Next Phase of Digital Evolution; reading a recent report, The Future of Industrial AI in Manufacturing; or attending its Aug. 30 virtual Executive Interview, Shifting from Disruption to Growth.

Business Operations

Manufacturers Find Opportunity in AI

How will AI change the work you and your employees do? The Manufacturing Leadership Council—the digital transformation arm of the NAM—is helping manufacturing leaders figure out the opportunities created by new generative AI technologies, including ChatGPT.

Recently, the MLC held a Decision Compass discussion to help manufacturers learn how to take advantage of these new tools safely and effectively.

The participants: The conversation was led by two members of West Monroe’s Center of Excellence for AI: Ryan Elmore and David McGraw. Elmore and McGraw shared their expertise and addressed questions from manufacturers throughout the call.

The use cases: AI is a diverse and complex tool that is likely to have a lasting impact on manufacturers across the United States. According to McGraw and Elmore, there are a range of applications for the technology, from supply chain optimization and production planning to predictive maintenance issues. 

The workforce impact: According to Elmore, AI will also transform the manufacturing workforce.

  • Some roles that involve repetitive tasks like data processing could be adjusted or eliminated, while some new jobs will be created around tasks like prompt engineering, which ensures AI programs deliver the most useful and accurate results. Most importantly, however, existing jobs will likely be modified to account for new tools.
  • “Some are going to go away, some are going to be created, but the vast majority is going to change mentality, change infrastructure, change the way we work,” said Elmore.

Prompting success: Elmore and McGraw emphasized that the key to using generative AI effectively is developing useful prompts. How you ask AI programs for information, and what data you provide, will determine the quality of the output. They provided a few broad guidelines:

  • Keep it simple: Your prompts should be detailed, precise and as succinct as possible.
  • Data matters: The better and more detailed your data, the better your output will be.
  • Keep it human: Generative AI still requires a human to determine the reliability of the output. Manufacturers shouldn’t plan to use outputs blindly without keeping a human in the loop.
  • Share safely: Assume anything you put into AI that is not behind a paywall is not private. Only use data that you’re comfortable with others viewing.
  • Follow up: If you receive outputs that don’t make sense, or that indicate some sort of failure, ask the program for more context and problem solving to assess whether the output is accurate or beneficial.

Safety first: AI can also be used in negative ways—for example, by cyber attackers attempting to gain private information from you using software that mimics the voice of someone you know.

  • Elmore and McGraw emphasized that manufacturers using AI should consider providing trainings so employees can recognize and guard against safety issues.

The last word: “I think most importantly, you’re only limited to your imagination,” said McGraw. “There’s really a lot of use cases that can be solved with this technology.”

Learn more: Want to find out more about how digital tools are changing manufacturing? The MLC will delve deeper into these issues at this year’s Rethink Summit, taking place June 26–28 in Marco Island, Florida. Learn more and register here. Or download MLC’s new Manufacturing in 2030 Project The Future of Industrial AI Survey Report.

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