Posted on Sep 26, 2017

The Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC) has identified the several important issues facing manufacturers over the next 12 months.

The council recently released its 2017 to 2018 Critical Issues roadmap to Manufacturing 4.0. (M4.0). The new  agenda “focuses on the technological, organizational and leadership changes” that manufacturers” must coordinate as they pursue a more efficient, agile and data driven future,” said David R. Brousell, co-founder of the MLC, one of the world’s foremost organizations supporting manufacturing executives. “From country to country, M4.0 initiatives and programs are underway, reshaping the competitive environment and raising the stakes for all companies,” Brousell added.

A Pivotal Point

M4.0 creates the smart factory. In smart environments, systems communicate with each other, as well as humans, resulting in real-time decisions and cross-organizational services for participants of the value chain. According to the MLC, the manufacturing sector is at a pivotal point. The changes ahead are expected to transform the competitive environment, how work is performed, how firms will be organized and what leadership must do.

There are several elements to M4.0:

  • Production and supply networks predict firms’ needs and are rapidly reconfigured to meet changing demands,
  • Products are customized and connected,
  • Supply chains are visible, traceable, resilient to risks, analyzed in real-time and responsive to customer requests and changes in the marketplace,
  • Enterprises are cross-functional, collaborative and highly integrated, often around a single framework that connects elements in a process that are typically in silos and provides a view of an asset throughout the manufacturing lifecycle (digital thread) that stretches from design to deployment, and
  • Leaders and employees are digitally savvy and ready and willing to adapt to challenges and grasp new opportunities.

What’s on the Agenda?

MLC’s roadmap addresses the following seven critical issues:

1. Factories of the future.

Both large and small manufacturers need to understand and embrace the potential of new and evolving materials and technology for production models. The new factories that result will be more cost-efficient, responsive and flexible.

Areas of focus:

  • Migration paths, roadmaps, maturity models and frameworks to help companies move from current to future production models,
  • End-to-end digital integration of manufacturing and engineering processes and functions, and
  • Agile and modular production models that deliver on the promise of M4.0.

2. Collaborative manufacturing enterprises.

To maximize the potential of M4.0, firms must create more collaborative, cross-functional and integrated structures, both within and outside their organizations. These structures will stretch across the value chain and improve decision-making in multiple activities.

Areas of focus:

  • How manufacturing fits into collaborative value chains that unify the firm’s overall mission and key activities,
  • Digital threads that constantly connect all functions of the business, and
  • Cross-functional processes and organization structures that harness multiple areas of expertise to make faster and better decisions, reduce time to market and boost competitiveness.

3. Enterprise innovation.

Manufacturers will be driven to expand their products and services by developing and managing rapid, collaborative and often disruptive processes.

Areas of focus:

  • Best practice approaches that focus on ways technology can help deliver innovative ideas and improvements faster from the plant floor to the supply chain to new products and services,
  • Collaborative innovation approaches that leverage the ideas and development resources of employees, suppliers, partners, customers, and others to create products and improve processes, and
  • Methods for manufacturers to play an active role in gaining a competitive advantage and enhancing customer experiences.

4. Transformative technologies.

Companies should learn how to identify, adopt and scale the most promising technology. This will help them gain speed, agility, efficiency and competitiveness, as well as drive new business models and improve customer experiences.

Areas of focus:

  • The latest developments in the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, advanced analytics, modeling and simulation, and other emerging technology,
  • Best practice approaches for selecting, justifying costs and deploying new M4.0 technology, and
  • Strategies for encouraging and using standards and architectures that support open, interoperable systems.

5. Next-generation leadership.

M4.0 requires manufacturing leaders and their teams to be forward-thinking and act quickly. That means embracing new behaviors and engaging the talent and skills of the current and next generation workforce.

Areas of focus:

  • Effective leadership role models, behaviors and mindsets, and
  • Employee transition, development and engagement strategies for the next generation of workers.

6. Cybersecurity.

As factory floors, supply chains and products are more closely connected through technology in the M4.0 world, firms face increased vulnerability to external cyber threats and internal disruption. They must identify the effective cybersecurity processes to ensure continuity, data security and IP protection.

Areas of Focus:

  • Uncover points of cyber vulnerability and prevention to help bolster data security,
  • Bridge the gap between IT and operations to coordinate and improve cybersecurity strategies, and
  • Develop best practice policies, training, behaviors and education in cybersecurity, including an understanding of the global regulatory environment.

7. Sustainability.

Along with innovation comes responsibility. Successful engagement with customers, partners and the next-generation workforce also requires manufacturers to become more transparent about their environmental and socially responsible practices.

Areas of focus:

  • Design products for easier reuse, remanufacture, refurbishment or recycling at end of life,
  • Develop M4.0 production strategies that streamline production processes, to increase efficiency, reduce costs and waste and keep at their highest utility and value at all times, and
  • Create holistic, sustainable manufacturing business models, supported by collaborative cross-sector partnerships and deeper community engagement.

Jump to the Forefront

Some manufacturers have already implemented many of these best practices, putting them well on their path to M4.0. Make sure that your firm is at the forefront of the revolution that is changing the sector from top to bottom.