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M4.0 Success Will Require Adoption of a Digital Culture

Posted By Jeff Moad, March 14, 2017 at 3:19 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

1ebfbab37ef2c1b74b67ff9e5204e2ec_f2373.jpgThe transition to Manufacturing 4.0 will be more demanding than any previous era of industry transformation, a panel composed of senior manufacturing leaders told the Manufacturing Leadership Council today. That’s because, for most manufacturers, the transition to M4.0 will require multi-dimensional change, incorporating profound technology shifts, significant changes in customer demand and expectations, business model innovation and, not least, the need for a new digital culture and leadership skills within the manufacturing enterprise.

And, in fact, the adoption of a digital culture may be among the more challenging aspects of the transition to M4.0, according to members of the panel who presented their perspectives and experiences as part of the ML Council’s Critical Issues Call series in a session entitled “Creating a Digital Culture: Rethinking Leadership in the M4.0 Era.”

The panel, which was moderated by ML Council Co-Founder David R. Brousell, included Dr. Richard Baker, chief technology officer at Proto Labs, Inc.; Dr. Jill George, global auto/manufacturing segment leader at Development Dimensions International; Dr. Don Kinard, senior fellow at Lockheed Martin; and Paul Mefford, global M&E operations learning and talent development director at The Dow Chemical Company.

Implementing and managing the digital technologies such as sensor networks and data and analytics systems that underlie M4.0 is not the top challenge sited by manufacturing leaders contemplating the transition to M4.0, said Brousell. A recent survey of manufacturing leaders, to be published in the April issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal, showed that understanding the M4.0 business case and changing corporate cultures to enable M4.0 were identified as the top challenges

The Critical Issues Call panel identified four shifts that manufacturing organizations will need to embrace in order to build the digital culture required for successful M4.0 transformation. The panelists said that manufacturing organizations in the M4.0 era will need to adopt:

  • A culture of digital trust and transparency. As the manufacturing enterprise becomes more connected, the need to secure networks and assets will be paramount. But, more than that, manufacturers will need to learn to create digital models that are constantly refined and validated and that can be trusted to accurately describe the real world. Manufacturers in the M4.0 world will also need to enable decision-making that is based on accurate, contextualized data. The creation a digital culture of trust and transparency, the panelists emphasized, will require engaged, trained people, particularly as models and data are shared across business functions and even outside the enterprise; 
  • A ‘fail fast’ mentality and a tolerance for more risk taking and acting even when all of the answers are not known. In an era of new M4.0 technologies and business models, panelists said, manufacturers will need to loosen transitional insistence on having all the answers before launching a project. Manufacturers need to adopt a more research-like approach, launching initiatives to learn what works and what doesn’t, refining the model, and moving on, panelists said;
  • A commitment to clearly-stating M4.0 definitions, goals, and objectives and aligning all parts of the organization to the intended strategy. Too often, panelists said, manufacturers have tended to overlook middle managers and plant operators when aligning around a strategy. In the M4.0 world, where decisions are made up and down the organization based on real-time data, everyone must understand the strategy and pull together, panelists said. Top leaders in particular will need to drive communication—about things like the M4.0 journey destination and speed--creating an engaged culture where everyone is learning and contributing, panelists said;  
  • A willingness to listen to and act on ideas from everyone in the organization, but especially younger contributors and those from diverse backgrounds who may be able to bring new ideas to the table. Multi-generational workforces can be a challenge to manage, said panelists. And, very often, new hires coming out of school require foundational education and training before they can become productive. Still, said panelists, making the investment needed to gain access to a new generation of workers—and ideas—will be essential to creating a digital culture.

Panelists predicted the need to establish a digital culture to drive M4.0 will emerge as a core competitive issue. One panelist noted that the Chinese government’s Made in China 2025 manufacturing industry development strategy includes a people development plan as well as an operational plan. That means that many manufacturers in the West may already be falling behind when it comes to creating the company digital culture required for M4.0 success.


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Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit



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