The Future of Manufacturing Is a Journey, Not a Destination, SMS Speakers Say

The concept of a never-ending journey, rather than an endpoint, serves as a powerful mantra for the U.S. manufacturing sector’s comeback.

July 3 2014 by Jennifer Pellet


In kicking off Chief Executive’s 2nd annual Smart Manufacturing Summit, Doug Oberhelman recounted feeling intimidated just before speaking at a gathering of technology executives.

“I looked out at this audience of all these 30-year-old tech people and thought, ‘This isn’t going to be much fun,’” said the CEO of Caterpillar, which hosted the event at its global headquarters in Peoria, Illinois.

“We are doing things at Caterpillar that are equal to, if not more advanced than that of almost any tech company in the world. We just do it in a different way.”

“But as I got going, it got better, because I realized we are doing things at Caterpillar that are equal to, if not more advanced than that of almost any tech company in the world. We just do it in a different way—using all those products to get things done that we need to get done.”

The anecdote underscored the fact that a massive transformation is under way in the manufacturing world. American companies are clawing their way back to competitiveness—after nearly a decade of seeing production move to cheaper-labor overseas producers—by leveraging advances in areas like additive manufacturing, automation, robotics, wireless and connected devices. [These discussions] follow aim to help leaders on that journey by providing highlights from the insights, knowledge and experiences shared at this year’s Summit.