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Identifying a Path to Manufacturing 4.0

Posted By David Brousell, September 13, 2016 at 1:10 PM, in Category: Manufacturing Leadership Council

CIblog.jpgWhen I think about the journey that manufacturers are undertaking to reach the promised land of Manufacturing 4.0, the old joke about Carnegie Hall often pops up in my mind.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall, the man asks? Answer: practice!

Well, it is certainly going to take a great deal of experimentation, trial and error, and, yes, practice with the new technologies and methods that constitute Manufacturing 4.0 for manufacturers to reap the benefits of this next wave of industrial progress. But it is going to take a lot more than just practice.

What manufacturers  need most to make the journey as smooth as possible is a real thought-out strategy that sets clear goals, defines objectives, anticipates challenges, and lays out an implementation plan that can be achieved. Now, that may seem like a routine formula, one that every company practices as a matter of course. But – trust me – it isn’t.

Such a plan has to be not only realistic based on a sober assessment of what can be accomplished, when it can be accomplished and what it will all take, but also imaginative because we cannot see all the possibilities at this early stage of the journey. Agility and flexibility as we change the wheels on an industry already moving at high speed will be key. And risk taking; well, it is going to be paramount.

The Manufacturing Leadership Council has put a stake in the ground on this issue of planning and strategizing for Manufacturing 4.0.

Based on extensive consultation with more than 500 senior executives and associate members of the MLC and its Board of Governors, the ML Council’s new  Critical Issues agenda is designed to help manufacturers align their thinking and practices for a successful journey to Manufacturing 4.0.

The ML Council has identified six Critical Issues facing the manufacturing industry as it undertakes its journey to the information-based future envisioned by Manufacturing 4.0:


  • Factories of the Future
  • The Integrated Manufacturing Enterprise
  • Innovation in Manufacturing
  • Transformative Technologies
  • Next-Generation Manufacturing Leadership & the Changing Workforce
  • Cybersecurity


(Detailed descriptions of the MLC’s new Critical Issues agenda are available on http://frost.ly/ci16)

My belief is that the future of manufacturing is not only going to be full of new opportunities for strong growth based on the intelligent use of new cyber/physical technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Big Data and the Cloud, but it is also going to be an exciting place to work for a new generation of employees. In fact, Manufacturing 4.0 may hold the key to solving the industry’s workforce crisis. But to enable the vision of Manufacturing 4.0 to become a reality, leadership needs a strategic roadmap to transform their businesses for the digital era. The MLC’s Critical Issues agenda brings both focus and clarity to the mission of Manufacturing 4.0.

Two members of the ML Council’s Board of Governors put the Critical Issues approach in perspective.

”Our future cyber/physical environment will be based on connectivity -- connected products, connected supply chains, and connected factories,” said John Fleming, the former Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs at Ford Motor Co. ”The Council’s leadership is needed to develop the roadmaps and the skilled people necessary to ensure that we can fully utilize the "Industrial Internet of Things" and deliver further progress on the key metrics of safety, quality and cost efficiency.”

 Added Dr. Detlef Zühlke, Chairman of Germany’s SmartFactoryKL Technology Initiative and Scientific Director of Innovative Factory Systems at the German Research Center for AI: “We are facing many new challenges in the era of Manufacturing 4.0 – in technology as well as leadership and education. As Manufacturing 4.0 is mainly based on network progress, it will be essential to collaborate and learn as part of a network of thought-leaders across the industry. The MLC offers the right platform to achieve this goal."

Tapping into colleagues, learning from others, compiling use cases, and, yes, even making mistakes and failing at times will all be part of the journey to Manufacturing 4.0. By coming together around a set of common issues and opportunities, the likelihood of that journey getting just a bit easier for everyone greatly increases.

We can all get to Carnegie Hall but we will have to do it together.



Written by David Brousell

Global Vice President, General Manager and Editorial Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council

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I particularly liked two comments in the article:
1) an exciting place to work for a new generation of employees
2) it will be essential to collaborate and learn
Treating employees like owners, empowering them to understand how the company makes money and enabling them to make more money for the company and themselves, embraces both of these points. These articles provide more background: http://www.gilcommunity.com/blog/want-engaged-employees-try-opening-books/
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