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POV: M4.0 Cultures

What defines culture in the era of Manufacturing 4.0?

According to the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s latest survey, M4.0 Cultures: Collaborative, Innovative and Integrated, there is no question that the industry’s culture needs to evolve in these transformational times – 74% of respondents said their company believes it needs to change in order to embrace the M4.0 era. But there are few clear paths about what that change would entail, who should be in charge, and how it should get done.
However, respondents did have a pretty good idea of what it would mean to achieve this (perhaps lofty) change: Decisions would be made with data; operations would be more responsive and agile; teams would be more integrated; and the workforce would be empowered to make decisions at the lowest level possible.

Much talk has been made around the idea that manufacturing should borrow a page from IT’s culture. For some, that might bring up images of office ping-pong tables and a gourmet staff cafeteria, but it’s not about fancy amenities. It’s about cross-functional, collaborative teams that can navigate disruption while still meeting deadlines. It’s about empowerment, autonomy, and accountability for workers.

Manufacturing’s traditional hierarchy and command-and-control management style can often leave workers feeling disengaged and ultimately disenchanted with their work. Think about your own experiences: You’ve probably enjoyed things better when you were given the tools, skills, and information to do something along with the trust to get it done, versus having someone continuously over your shoulder telling you what to do and when and how to do it. It’s been shown that when workers are given a stake in outcomes and trusted with responsibility, they will perform better and they will be less likely to leave for a new job.

The long-standing culture in manufacturing has many good qualities that can be a firm foundation for the future: Pride in making something; a no-nonsense focus on getting the job done; rigorous commitment to always improving. Now it’s time for leadership to make the next step toward building on those qualities for an innovative, collaborative, and forward-thinking future. M

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