Close this search box.
Close this search box.

How Manufacturers Can Lead the Digital Revolution

As companies in every sector strive to digitize their operations, manufacturers have the most to gain. Yet while manufacturing lends itself to digitization through automation, sensors and data, the industry as a whole has been slow to move into the digital world.

digital manufacturingThe future of manufacturing will lie in combining “the best of old and new processes,” according to Information Age. One of those new technologies includes generative design, where manufacturers can use software to automatically design parts without human inputs. Many organizations are also starting to use a hybrid approach that combines traditional manufacturing with additive manufacturing. “By combining the processes in a hybrid approach, the manufacturing industry can take advantages of the best of both techniques; 2016 will see this combination of processes grow in use,” IA said.

Robotic technologies also can be big enablers of digitization. While robots have been used to do a limited range of repetitive tasks such as handling materials and components, they are now capable of more advanced processes. Robots in a manufacturing environment now can be connected to a range of sensors to capture information about the parts they’re working on. The article in Information Age said data can be fed back to the control system to make adjustments for greater efficiency and accuracy.

Tools for getting started
Manufacturing leaders can use a number of tools and strategies to simplify a complex issue and take big steps toward joining the digital revolution. Leaders can start by picking a couple of their most costly issues or difficult problems and find where the most opportunities are, Brench Boden, CTO of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, told “No business has ever been successful transforming something like this overnight. The implementations of big, huge software programs end up costing a lot more than anybody ever thought,” he said.

“Companies that can close the gap by tapping the data they generate—and what’s publicly available—will uncover valuable insights to drive profits and growth.”

Boden elaborated that companies need to try to think about a problem and use digitization to solve it. They should consider whether data would make the decision more effective, what insights they need, and once a decision has been made, if tracking the result of the decision is important for something later in the process. Boden said companies can make incremental progress by creating small, temporary ecosystems to work on digital manufacturing challenges like attaining better visibility into supply chains or using augmented reality.

Digital manufacturing technologies will ultimately transform every link in the manufacturing value chain from R&D to marketing, sales and service, according to McKinsey. The consulting firm said that many large manufactures are starting to use data analytics to optimize factory operations, boost equipment utilization, and enhance product quality, all while reducing energy consumption. They’re also using new supply management tools to help schedule factor operations and product deliveries.

In the next decade, digital manufacturing technologies will allow companies to connect physical assets with a “digital thread.” This thread will release a seamless flow of data across the value chain that will touch every aspect of the product lifecycle. While the digital revolution is only starting to take shape, McKinsey says that leaders in manufacturing are already gaining competitive advantages by harnessing the capabilities of such information. “We believe that companies that can close this gap by tapping the data they generate (and what’s publicly available) will uncover valuable insights to drive profits and growth,” McKinsey said.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

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


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.