THE BLOG
08/18/2014 09:19 am ET | Updated Oct 18, 2014

New Manufacturing

Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council, a global business network for industrial executives, has issued a new Critical Issues Agenda for manufacturing built around six core issues that I believe constitute the heart of what I call the "new manufacturing." Frost & Sullivan is a long-established consulting firm with extensive connections among influential business leaders. This report didn't get much play in the media, so here is an abbreviated version.

• Factories of the future built upon the Internet of Things, 3D printing and emerging production technologies and digital manufacturing will lead to more flexible, automated and intelligent factories for both large and smaller firms.

• More innovative enterprises often involving collaborative innovation initiatives engaging customers and external research groups are the wave of the future. The focus will be on new product innovation, open collaboration, crowdsourcing, customer-centric supply chain innovation and new business models.

• Manufacturing advocacy will be more important than ever during our rapid shift into the new manufacturing. We are gradually dispelling the myth that we have lost our manufacturing base, but we must do a better job of accentuating manufacturing's role in national and regional economic growth, social improvement and employment.

• New generation leadership and the changing workforce reflect sea changes at work across the industrial landscape that demand a more innovative, responsive and diverse workplace culture. Developing and retaining the services of talented people able to work in modern manufacturing is a critical challenge. The skills gap is part of this but so is recognition that the composition of the workforce is changing. We must accept a more multi-cultural norm and also the demand for more collaborative decision-making.

• Sustainability is a favorite theme of mine and the Leadership Council recognizes it as a major industrial force shaping the future of manufacturing. Sustainability demands greater resource efficiency, cleaner operations, reduced waste and reliance on renewable sources of energy. An emphasis on social and corporate responsibility is part of it, but even more important is the great opportunity to achieve cost savings through less waste of raw materials and consumption of energy.

• Transformative technologies are rapidly changing virtually every phase of the manufacturing process. Adept management must be able to identity, adopt and leverage the right emerging technologies to enable rapid process transformation and development of innovative new products and services. Management must also understand how these technologies will affect efficiency, responsiveness, predictive capability and relations with customers.

In sum, there is a lot going on in the new manufacturing. I will address each of these specific areas in more detail in future commentaries. Stay tuned.

Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. You may quote from this with attribution.