Manufacturers need long-term resiliency plans

Posted on 16 Apr 2024 by Molly Cooper

Molly Cooper sat down with Dave Evans, Co-founder, and CEO of Fictiv to discuss Joe Biden’s plans, the upcoming US election and what manufacturers need to be ready for.

Fictiv are a global technology company based out of Silicon Valley, with offices in four different countries. “Our role is to help simplify sourcing for custom manufactured products. We work with large manufacturers and companies like Honeywell, all the way down to smaller firms to help them simplify their global supply chains, using technology,” Dave said.

A big year for the US

2024 is a big election year for the US and President Biden has recently made historic levels of investment into research and manufacturing. “I would describe Biden’s plans as long-term resiliency. This includes the Chips Act, ($280bn in new funding to boost domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the US), The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) and the executive order on federal research and development in support of domestic manufacturing and US jobs. He’s put a lot of long-term initiatives in place to help drive more reshoring and manufacturing back to the US,” he explained.

Even though its noticeable that Biden has implemented a lot of substantial investment, he did also keep all the tariffs imposed on China that Donlad Trump had imposed in the previous term. “Biden’s current strategy is a combination of trade policies with heavy investment on the long-term.”

Highlights and implications

The aim of the plan is to restore manufacturing in the US, but to do that, investment is required. “Factories get built, but you also need train and develop the workforce. There’s a misunderstanding from Biden’s plans and it stems from the idea that you can just move manufacturing from China to the US. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of infrastructure that must be developed to make that happen,” said Dave.

The implications of these plans come from the four-year terms typical of US politics. When you invest in long-term structure, it takes a while for these plans to be put into action. The Chips Act represents $280bn in subsidies and is going to take years for it to hit the working Americans. “I think the challenge is that we haven’t seen a rise in jobs yet, due to these longer-term plans. Last year, in 2023, it created 12,000 jobs, but it’s now more stagnant so it’s still too early to see results.”

What happens next?

Dave believes manufacturers must look for the canary in the coal mine. “Looking at the ISM, the US manufacturing activity index, we have seen a rise of two and half points since 2022. It shows that we are seeing more reshoring, but that job creation is far behind,” he added. However, there is a broader issue in terms of the US population, and if they can see this.

In the last five years the focus has been on protecting the supply chain and for manufacturing companies, the upcoming election is not the only thing they have had to contend with. “We’ve moved from ‘if this happens’, to, ‘when this happens’. So, what’s your plan? Whether it’s a ship hitting a bridge in Baltimore, the Suez Canal, a global pandemic or an earthquake in Taiwan. Something is going to disrupt supply chains,” he said. Supply chain leaders need to know how they are going to move when those disruptions occur. “When creating resiliency plans with our customers, I’m asking how they are going to adjust to that? Do you have a plan B and/or C? Can you move production or shipping logistics? Do you know how resilient your supply chain really is? That’s where our focus is with them right now.”

US vs UK manufacturing

The UK and Europe have a large Asia-based supply chain, similar to the US with China acting as a huge contributor. In the UK, a lot of manufacturing is also done in Eastern Europe and Hungary where we have seen disruptions due to war and conflict. “However, I think that Trump’s aggressive trade policy in China impacted the UK, and these types of policies will continue to have an effect on global trade,” Dave said.

Recently, there was an article published about the Williams F1 team, highlighting that a 20,000-part bill of materials was being managed in Excel. For Dave, this is a prime example of a supply chain that is not resilient. “It’s still running on old technology. I would challenge organisations and ask how they are utilising AI? How are you using the latest supply chain technologies to build a robust plan and strategy? That is true whether it’s the UK or the US.”

Building on resilience

Dave asks his customers; how will you be globally competitive? What are your key pillars of differentiation and are you promoting those? “We talk to a lot of US suppliers about how to leverage best in class artificial intelligence and digital technology. This is something that lower cost countries aren’t doing and they’re still putting labour against the issue. They don’t have to adopt a piece of software or technology, however, in higher cost regions like the UK or the US, because labour is so high, firms must augment with technology to help make workforces more efficient. Rather than just viewing these as a business decision, see it as a competitive edge that you are streamlining. And that same strategy applies to UK and US companies.”

Manufacturing is a tough sector and it’s never been more challenging. “If you’re not going to change your practices and adopt the best technology, you will go out of business. There’s a good chance that we’ll see businesses fail to survive this period. In disruptive times, there is a silver lining, and in this case it is transformation. I would push these supply chain leaders to take this time to adopt the latest technology which can help them navigate this challenging period.”

Manufacturers need long-term resiliency plans

Dave Evans envisions a world where ideas become products with speed and ease and manufacturing is available for all – without fear of failure or constraint. And as the CEO and Co-Founder of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem leader, Fictiv, Dave is making his vision a reality.

Since its founding in 2013, Fictiv has manufactured more than 20 million parts for early-stage companies and large enterprises alike, driving innovation with agility from prototype to production and ensuring supply chain predictability and success for customers in industries from automotive and robotics to healthcare and aerospace.

Dave graduated from Stanford University in 2011 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. In 2017, Dave was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list. More recently, he was honored when Fictiv was named in the SDCE 100 Top Supply Chain Projects for 2020 by Supply & Demand Executive and when he was personally named to the 2021 Constellation Research Business Transformation 150 list as well as the 2021 Manufacturing Leadership Award for digital transformation by the National Association of Manufacturers. As a Global Innovator member of the World Economic Forum, Fictiv has received $192 million in funding since its inception to enable game-changing digital manufacturing for all.

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