2016 Smart Manufacturing Summit: Solutions Exchange Takeaways and Best Practices

Manufacturing CEOs came together at the Smart Manufacturing Summit to discuss the challenges they face on a daily basis, including recruitment, automation and other systems advancement, such as Internet of Things, Robots and 3D, as well as ways to generate growth, including sales improvement strategies, lean, continuous improvement and more. Here are summary notes from these private meetings.


Which of these technologies represent the biggest threats to your business and how? What opportunities do they create in your market to add more value to your customers?
• The Uber business model brings signifi cant disruption to industry. In Paris, the average taxi driver’s income has dropped 30% in the last year.
• The sharing model has been around for years with machine shops in Milwaukee. “Call Henry, he’s got capacity this week.”

As the sharing economy expands into industry this will happen on a wider scale with more efficiency.
• We need to be able to benchmark additive manufacturing to understand how much of a threat it is. We need to better understand how fast our customers can adopt it, materials integrity, etc. so we can get a sense for what it means to us and how fast it’s coming. It will impact our smaller products. My fear is I won’t be able to get my staff ready and equipped to anticipate changes.
• We serve the auto industry and driverless vehicles are reducing demand for our products. We are trying to get a sense for the pace and timing of these changes. We are shifting our focus to
other vehicles that will still require drivers. We are using additive manufacturing to reduce the time for new product prototyping.
• Power has shifted from the manufacturer to the point of interface with the market. The old-line industries are isolated from consumers and are very slow to shift. We are struggling to get vital information from customers to provide new solutions when old-line industries aren’t there yet.
• 3D printing is as close to teleportation as you can get. This will have a dramatic impact on our supply chain.
• One thing that scares me is total integration of the supply chain digital thread. The largest global companies will put even more pressure on us, and more transparency will give them more leverage on pricing.
• Our challenge is to make it as easy as possible to do business with us. IoT is raising customer deliverables expectations.
• Ours is a very conservative industry. We custom make products for individual plants. 3D makes sense for us in some ways, but materials need to catch up. The Uber/Airbnb model is all about renting surplus assets; it will be interesting to see where that goes in our industry.
• We build safes. IoT presents the ability for the customer to control his/her safe remotely. Our challenge is finding out what end users need so we can craft solutions. Speed of delivery is a significant problem for us, specifically aligning our manufacturing speed with customer demand.
• The big guys all see this as an evolving journey, similar to the Baldrige 7-year journey. Remote diagnostics is a big deal. An MIT report out this morning reinforces that it’s not the technology as much as it’s about the business processes.

Invent innovative business process first, then get your strategy in place. Political protectionism is going to get worse. Pfizer’s response to this is to produce in every major country in which they operate.
• IoT is incredibly important in the textiles industry. This will force us to make “stand on your head” change.

How are you leading your team to consider these issues and develop a plan that reflects these threats/opportunities?
• Our product is not a commodity. But internally, some of the things we do are commodities. We need to think about what we can share or outsource. Our tool room is the first thing we’ll replace with additive manufacturing. We will replace our highest skilled machinists with kids running the 3D printer.
• In the textile industry we’re taking commodity products and turning them into engineered, value added products. We are engineering weight out of towels without reducing performance,
reducing laundering cost. This will provide enormous savings to large hotel chains. We have to be in touch with our customer to identify needs they didn’t know they had.
• We have a “bird dog” employee researching and looking forward and bringing things to our attention.
• Our customers now make buying decisions about our products online. Our American operations are becoming more like our German operations; we are using capital to replace labor with robotics and advanced manufacturing to reduce costs and streamline operations.
• We have buildings full of German guys with PhDs working on additive manufacturing. Although the pace of change in the primary industry we serve is glacial, IoT is big in that industry. We are working to integrate our main product into the data collection and reporting our customer’s use.

Facilitator: Russell Jensen, Jensen Consulting

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events