Volume 15 Number 11 - November 7, 2017


As we learn about Industry 4.0, IIoT, and every other particle of our automated future, remember these facts:

  • Automation does not solve the majority of manufacturing challenges.
  • Technology is not, of itself, the path to profitable growth in any manufacturing business.
  • Automation without strategic purpose is wasting resources.
  • And, profitable manufacturing will require extensive leveraging of technology within a few short years.

Those facts are only reconciled with business and operations strategies that specifically include technology as enablers of high priority capabilities. Leading with technology drains limited resources without compensating gain. Applying technology everywhere you can dilutes priorities.

Consider Elon Musk and Tesla. Musk has spent more money on automation than any of us will ever have access to, and yet the company delivered only 222 Model 3 cars in the third quarter.

Tesla operations reflect three strategies:

  • Vertical integration that Henry Ford demonstrated over 100 years ago. That requires both breadth of expertise and product flow.
  • Creation of automation to redefine vehicle manufacturing. That requires extensive investment and a very long view.
  • Integrating unproven technologies into both production and product. That necessitates a patient and risk-tolerant customer and investment base.

Combined, those strategies have little chance of success. Musk recently doubled-down by deciding to insource seat manufacture while his battery factory and assembly operations continue to choke. A rabid fan base that keeps laying down money is his only hope.

You may think Tesla is an entirely different universe than yours; it is. But we can learn from anyone. Take advantage of the lessons Tesla is reinforcing for all of us.

  • Passion and commitment are necessary but not sufficient.
  • Falling in love with a solution before understanding the problem doesn't work.
  • Even amazing people have limits.
  • When everything is a priority little gets done.
  • It's okay to want to change the world. A strategy of rapidly sequenced breakthroughs to the vision can succeed; chasing all variables at once won't.

Transforming Operations. Transforming Business.®

Let's discuss how Manufacturing Greatness can help you become a better manufacturing operations leader. Additionally, my latest book, Start Smart, Finish Strong: Forging Your Path to Operational Excellence and Long-Term Success in the Manufacturing World is available at Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks.

Can Lean and ERP Co-Exist?

The Starting Pistol

CEO Tom Leighton:
"There's no silver bullet. We have to change as we go. The problems aren't going to go away overnight.”

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"Now there's someone who understands the work involved in making vision come true. Fast, but not so fast as to force ultimate failure."

November 27-29, 2017: Berlin, Germany: The 13th annual European Manufacturing Strategy Conference will be held in Berlin this year. Speakers include your peers from a variety of multi-national and European based manufacturers. It's a great opportunity to get global perspective on your operations strategy.

Dec 6-7, 2017: Chicago, IL: Enjoy this hands-on tour of four companies demonstrating how to deploy and sustain lean and enterprise excellence at their sites. Over the course of two days, see lean practices in action on the shop floor at Acme Alliance Die Casting in Northbrook, Gleason Cutting Tools in Rockford, United Conveyor in Waukegan and G&W Electric in Bolingbrook.

April 23-27, 2018: Hannover Messe, Germany: If you want to learn about Industry 4.0 all in one place, this is the conference for you. Cobots, smart supply, machine learning, AR/VR and much much more. Exposure to global actions and potential will vastly improve your decision making. The rapidly changing ways we produce and learn will change the requirements of leadership. Start the process!

April 23-27, 2018: Oxford, England: We can learn from anyone. This is an opportunity to learn from and with a small group of your peers in a rich experiential environment. Oxford University's Scenarios Program is a 5-day deep dive into strategic scenario planning. Leading your manufacturing company into a very uncertain future with success and confidence requires preparation for unstructured environments. Non-college-credit course with application required.

Check out the Events page on our website for more information.

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