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.

Who: Bob Nardelli, Founder of XLR-8, Senior Advisor to Cerberus Capital Management

What: An investment and consulting company specializing in emerging companies

On the Smart Manufacturing imperative for mid-size firms: As you start to scale a company, smart manufacturing becomes increasingly important. When I was running GE Transportation, we were doing something similar through brute force, manually getting data and focusing on cost, quality and customer experience. What Smart Manufacturing does is to bring a level of speed and the ability to digest big data. Collecting big data is easy. Using it is the challenge, and smart manufacturing lets us do that. I would encourage the 197,000 companies out there today that are between $500 million to $1 billion in revenue to not be intimidated by smart manufacturing, but to embrace it and start, maybe one sensor at a time, working your way through connecting those key elements of the process critical to quality and [essential] to your customers. You either have to innovate or you’ll evaporate. Start small, keep adding the sensors, keep adding the information and work with CRM—that will be the best way to keep growing and scaling your business.

“Collecting big data is easy. Using it is the challenge, and smart manufacturing lets us do that.”

On where to start: Get the key individuals from your factory—from the shop floor to the superintendent—all in a room and talk about the major issues you’re having. Is it an inability to fill orders within a committed time frame, so you’re paying penalties or paying to expedite air freight? What is the biggest bottleneck you have? What piece of equipment tends to go down the most? Put all the issues, challenges or opportunities on a whiteboard. Then, talk about [how] to control those using very simple dashboards. It’s not that complicated. You just work through it in a very deliberate, thoughtful and unemotional way to bring out the issues,and then figure out the best way to digitize or systematize those so that it helps you be able to scale your business. Otherwise,you will be handicapped by the limits of what you can see and how you can react.

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