Rethink 2021: Advanced manufacturing role models from the WEF Lighthouse Network

Since its founding in 2018, the World Economic Forum’s Lighthouse Factory Network has served as a collection of role models for what is possible in advanced manufacturing. With 69 Lighthouse locations designated worldwide, the factories that have earned this distinction are at the forefront of digital transformation and have achieved significant financial and operational improvement as the result of their efforts.

During his session at Rethink: The Manufacturing Leadership Council Summit, Francisco Betti, Head of Advanced Manufacturing and Production at the World Economic Forum, said that when developing its Lighthouse Network, the WEF saw that there was momentum around digital transformation in manufacturing, but that companies were struggling to invest in shop floor use cases that could generate value. Using independent third-party evaluators, the WEF developed a process to identify companies that had overcome that challenge and achieved significant financial and operational improvement as a result of their efforts.

When asked about the common thread for members of the Lighthouse network, Betti pointed to four main elements:

  • The realization that digital transformation is not just to help improve operations, but also to enable new business models.
  • Some things that became important during the pandemic will be here to stay – agility and a focus on the customer; a balance between automation and employee engagement; a new concept of resilience.
  • Sustainability does not come at the expense of efficiency, and there are new ways to reuse, recycle and re-manufacture – and these will become essential for companies to stay in business.
  • C-level management and corporate boards have made digital transformation a significant priority, and they invest in technology and the workforce accordingly.

In the future Betti says the WEF will pay special attention to companies that take their digital transformation beyond the shop floor and move it out to other functions, such as procurement, customer service, and for meeting substantial benchmarks for sustainability.

More information about the Global Lighthouse Network is available from the WEF’s white paper, Global Lighthouse Network: Insights from the Forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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