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The Council Announces 'Critical Issues' Agenda for Manufacturing

Posted By Paul Tate, June 18, 2012 at 12:03 PM, in Category: Manufacturing Leadership Community

The Manufacturing Leadership Council and its Board of Governors have once again established a unique Critical Issues Agenda for the manufacturing industry for the year ahead. Released today, the Critical Issues Agenda for 2012/2013 anticipates and identifies the most important issues facing the manufacturing industry over the next 12 months.

Innovation, Adaptability, Transformative Technologies, Sustainability, Factories of the Future, Global Value Networks, Next-Generation Leadership and The Changing Workforce, and Industrial Policy are identified as the most important issues facing both large and small manufacturing companies in 2012/2013 (full descriptions below).

The Manufacturing Leadership Council’s new ‘Agenda for Progress’ sets a forward-looking framework for manufacturing industry debate. It also sets a clear focus for all of Manufacturing Executive’s key activities and executive programs during the year ahead, and provides all members with multiple opportunities to engage in the debate.

The Critical Issues Agenda is entirely industry-driven and gathers insights from across the manufacturing sector. It is the result of an extensive consultation process with over 100 senior executive members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council and the Manufacturing Leadership Board of Governors.

The Agenda is reviewed extensively each year and covers both current topical concerns and longer-term trends across the industry, all of which are set to have a significant impact on the way manufacturers do business.

“The Critical Issues Agenda is an agenda for progress for the industry at large and will serve as an organizing principle for the Manufacturing Leadership Council's work in creating a better future for manufacturing," said David R. Brousell, Vice President & Editorial Director at Manufacturing Executive. "The agenda reflects a set of business and leadership issues that is on the front burner for manufacturers of all sizes and in all industry sectors. It will bind the community in common purpose in finding answers to today's most pressing issues and uncovering tomorrow's most promising opportunities."

Which of the new Critical Issues embrace your most important challenges?

Manufacturing Executive invites all members to contribute their insights, ideas, and points of view to this important debate. Add your comments below, start discussions on the Manufacturing Executive website, or join us in our numerous webinars and events over the year to help create a better future for manufacturing.

More information on the Manufacturing Leadership Council and how to become a member on.

An Agenda For Progress

The 2012/2013 Critical Issues For Manufacturing

The Adaptive Organization

The speed and flexibility with which manufacturing leaders can effectively respond to rapid and often complex market and business change will increasingly determine their organization’s success. Whether they face unexpected business disruption, sudden competitive attack, or major market shifts, both large and SMB manufacturers need to ensure their enterprises are in a constant state of readiness by developing highly adaptive processes and working cultures that can meet the multitude of business challenges today and tomorrow.

  • Adaptive leadership and responsive enterprise cultures
  • Operational flexibility and responsiveness in manufacturing assets, networks and partnerships
  • Balancing change with core values

Factories of the Future

In order to anticipate an increasing variety of customer requirements, both large and SMB manufacturers must envision, plan and organize their factories and plants to provide a network of growing capabilities -- quick response, rapid reconfigurability, intelligent management of information, and effective and efficient production. To achieve this, manufacturers must become aware of, understand, and embrace the possibilities in new and evolving production models and technologies.

  • Process digitization and highly integrated, predictive, production networks
  • Collaborative decision-making with employees, customers and partners
  • Make-to-order, modular production platforms organized locally and globally

Industrial Policy

With a burgeoning set of government regulations, laws and policies affecting industry, both large and SMB manufacturers face an increasingly complicated challenge of understanding how these rules impact their business and manufacturing strategies. To get in front of this issue, manufacturers must understand overall industrial policy and its ramifications, how to manage the risks, ensure compliance and proactively devise ways to improve the prospects for their businesses.

  • The impact of national, regional industry and R&D initiatives
  • The ramifications of International Trade Agreements
  • Strategic implications of tax policies and import duties

Global Value Networks

As customer expectations rise and competition becomes more dynamic and intense, both large and SMB manufacturers face the challenge of orchestrating value networks that are increasingly affected by global forces, rising complexity, and subject to risks that may be beyond their control. Therefore, manufacturing leaders must be able to quickly and continuously envision, design, implement, and redesign global value networks that are resilient, operate efficiently, and deliver increasing levels of customer value.

  • Value chain design and transformation
  • Natural, political and economic risk factors
  • Supplier quality, visibility, collaboration, and innovation

The Innovative Enterprise

Rapid, continuous innovation is now essential to driving business growth and competitive success for both large and small-to-medium sized manufacturers in today’s increasingly intense and fast-changing global marketplace. The manufacturing function itself has a key role to play in helping to create the winning innovation cultures, strategies, processes, products and new business models that will deliver greater value to customers and other stakeholders.

  • Enterprise-wide innovation cultures and ‘breakthrough’ processes
  • End-to-end innovation – across all functional areas of the manufacturing enterprise, from product design to post-sale service and support.
  • Open, collaborative innovation with external partners, suppliers and customers

Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

Globalization, changing customer demographics and expectations, new competition, disruptive technologies and changing workforce dynamics are transforming the role of leadership in manufacturing. This means leaders, no matter what size their enterprise, must establish and reinforce a clear vision and strategic agenda while actively engaging employees, creating and nurturing a supportive culture throughout the organization, and developing and implementing strategies for identifying, attracting, and retaining the people and skills required in the future.

  • Effective collaborative decision-making
  • Attitudes, expectations, and behaviors of a multi-cultural, multi-generational workforce
  • The skills gap and attracting tomorrow’s workforce


Sustainability strategies are no longer simply about reducing the carbon footprint. They must now encompass a wide range of environmental, social and economic policies designed to support a manufacturing company’s sustainable business future. From the impact of sustainability laws around the world, to extending sustainable practices across the supply chain, to energy efficiency, to building sustainability directly into products, to product return and recycling policies, manufacturing companies of all sizes must recognize and respond to the latest sustainability initiatives to protect their brands, maximize cost efficiencies, and respond to growing customer concerns to ensure commercial continuity and good corporate citizenship.

  • Environmental, social, and economic sustainability issues
  • Global, regional, and national environmental legislation and regulations
  • Sustainability as part of corporate culture

Transformative Technologies

Large or small, manufacturers face an accelerating flow of promising new technologies, any one of which may present an opportunity to quickly transform critical business processes and gain competitive advantage. Manufacturing leaders must understand how to identify, adopt, and leverage the right emerging technologies as enablers of rapid process transformation, and their potential impact on efficiency, responsiveness, complexity, scalability, predictive capability and resilience.

  • Collaborative technologies such as social media and mobile platform.
  • Information technology tools such as cloud computing, big data analytics, simulation, and visualization
  • Biometric materials, nano-technology, transformational production approaches such as 3D printing / additive manufacturing

What are your thoughts about the Critical Issues? Add your comments below.

Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive

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