Volume 16 Number 6 - June 5, 2018


Recently the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association featured me as their annual meeting keynote speaker, attending by over 400 people. The topic was "Is Smart Manufacturing Smart for You?"

The congratulations and thank-yous after the presentation are always appreciated, but I am most interested in what the attendees take away. The vast majority said to me "you got my attention" or "you scared me."

What did I say that created that aura of shock and awe?

It started innocently enough. I reminded them of four industry upheavals within the last few years. Three of the four were perpetrated by "left-field" competition that leveraged existing technology and a future that the new competitors, but not the incumbents, could envision. The fourth involved an entirely new technology that has vastly surpassed existing capabilities within that industry.

Then I shared my vision of the future of manufacturing, which heavily involves the sharing economy in infrastructure, people, and processes.

Then this: "If you are committed to leading a thriving business in 2028, manufacturing leaders MUST actively and strategically consider available technologies. And don't forget that many more capabilities will be developed in the interim 10 years. Delayed technology and data literacy are not options for any of you."

Then the accountability piece: "Problematic technical and data implementations are rarely technical issues; they are thinking issues!"

I shared simple processes for integrating technology with business and operations strategies, and for incorporation of evolving technologies as viable business assets.

My closing points were these: "Just because your company has been successful for 10, 20 or 100 years doesn't mean you can bury your head in the sand. Profitable manufacturing will require extensive leveraging of technology soon. Within 5 years there will be no leaders of manufacturing businesses who are uninformed of significant data and communication technology concepts."

"As leaders, if you intend to guide a thriving organization in 5 or 10 years, you must invest time envisioning a drastically different future. Don't concentrate on the use of technology, but rather on solving important problems that needn't exist. Then is the time to determine the role of technology. Never constrain your vision by what you currently know how to do; it is already limited by what you can envision."

The source of the shock and awe? Envisioning the drastically different future and starting integration of new data and communication technologies were the stumbling blocks most mentioned.

Neither can wait any longer.

The good news is you don't have to do this alone.

Summarize one important problem of your market that you can envision solved by your business in the next 3-5 years; not that you know how right now, but that you think could and should be accomplished.

Then identify what you believe to be the most significant challenge or unknown in doing so.

If you send it to me your confidentiality will of course be maintained, and we can discuss it.

Sometimes a brief conversation can create entirely new worlds. Shock and awe are useless if not acted upon.

The Starting Pistol

Nelson Mandela:
"There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than you are capable of living."

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"That is true for you, for your employees, for your customers and suppliers and for your surrounding community; don't sell any of them short."

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