Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit 2023: key takeaways

Posted on 22 Nov 2023 by Joe Bush

Manufacturing Leaders' Summit 2023, held in Liverpool last week, saw the largest and most concentrated gathering of high level manufacturing professionals in the UK.

The most key decision makers in the sector came together over the two days of Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit to discuss some of the major issues and challenges impacting the sector from the race to digitalisaton and net zero, to recruitment and skills shortages. Here, The Manufacturer takes a closer look at some of the most important takeaways from the summit’s insightful keynote addresses.

Unleashing Innovation, Collaboration and Concepting in the Manufacturing Sector

Dave HolmesDave Holmes, Managing Director – Falcon Works at BAE Systems, explained the company’s digital transformative journey where innovation, collaboration and concepts have converged to redefine the manufacturing landscape. He explained how the sector is entering a new era of advanced research and technology development, where customer-centricity, collaboration and sustainability reign supreme, ensuring that the manufacturing sector remains at the forefront of progress and innovation.

DH: Innovation in manufacturing is shaping the defence sector and cross cutting technologies and relationships are going to start to lay out an agenda that helps not just the UK, but the wider society as we move forward in what is a fast paced, but also unsettling time for many.

In the modern day systems engineering world, workers are moving away from physical reference points that test over thousands of hours to create empirical data, and are starting to use analytics and predictive software to give them the evidence they need to certify products to be released into service.

Of course, that is underpinned by a number of factors, such as agile engineering, where a variety of processes are integrated together, and everyone has access to the same viewpoints wherever they sit in the engineering cycle. This will lead to a blurring of the boundaries between classical engineering through to production and manufacturing.

These new novel ways of innovation are forming an environment where people can experiment at scale, creating near world experiences of how technology would actually be deployed in a factory or supply chain system. Laboratories have a place but not when you’re trying to exploit emerging technologies in a manner that allows the creation of blueprints for regular people on the journey. And of course out of that, it’s impossible to ignore the advances in computer science.

However, none of this can be done without partnerships, and the art of an innovative culture and of being able to rapidly cycle, is to bring people together. Find the best ‘athletes’ and create an environment where they can innovate and come together to create diversity and inclusivity.

What I’m seeing in the aerospace and defence sector is a thirst to look more broadly into more diverse sectors. For example, I’ve investigated organisations that manufacture trainers to understand how to create mass customisation so we can move towards a batch size of one.

When you bring diverse organisations together in this way and create a space of curiosity, that’s when magic happens – whether they be organisations that represent academia or micro SMEs who are working their way through some real first-world problems.

Bringing all that together within an organisation of over 100,000 is a key challenge, but if we can crack that it will help put UK PLC back where it belongs.

Digital obviously features heavily here. Working with accelerators via Manchester University, we’re recognising that data and information is fundamental, not just for the way we design and produce products, but the way we use and certificate them, and assure ourselves that they are safe to release.

That could be around environments in the cockpit to actually monitoring pilots’ physiological state when placed under duress, and start to use data that then brings in levels of automation that takes tasks away from the pilot.

We’re also using data analytics to project how to undertake computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis before we move on to physical wind tunnel testing. This reduces the carbon footprint that would be created for some very large wind tunnel scale models, and the extensive testing that runs all the way through the life of the product.

Again, we’re not doing this alone, and we are working closely with peers across the aerospace and defence engineering sectors. Innovate UK is trying to characterise carbon footprint through the manufacturing cycle, using big data and artificial intelligence, to make predictions about the footprint of carbon in products as we start to design and produce them. This is fundamental as we all strive to be compliant with Scope 1, 2 and 3 – delivering products that are more efficient and more in keeping with society as we know it today.

But of course it doesn’t stop there. We’re curious and we want to understand ‘what comes after next?’. Science fiction will perhaps become science fact as we look at what the next 20, 30, 50, 80 years might look like.

That could mean hypersonics in space, reducing our carbon footprint still further, the development of security operations, and reconfiguring factories which are product agnostic, and creating a factory in a box which can be deployed globally around the world.

History can be a great predictor of the future, but unfortunately, it’s also an inhibiter as we move forward. The need to network, collaborate, be curious and search for a variety of partnerships outside of our traditional areas of innovation. This will make UK PLC special, effective and create some great employment opportunities for the next generation of talent which hasn’t even started school yet.

What we do as an industry and a sector, all the way through manufacturing, goes back several hundreds of years. It’s up to us to shape the way forward for the next century and beyond.

Release Your Digital Superpower!

Asif MoghalThe way we design products, manufacture them and generate value has undergone a dramatic transformation. Industry is actively seeking ways to apply digital to their businesses but whenever they mention the ‘D’ word, they are bombarded with meaningless buzzwords and jargon.

Digital doesn’t need to be difficult, and it doesn’t start with technology. It starts with five digital superpowers that you can choose to develop. Asif Moghal of Autodesk outlined these as part of his keynote speech, the impact they can have on businesses and why you don’t need to be bitten by a radioactive spider to develop them.

AM: When we have conversations with manufacturing leaders a key and recurring theme is that often, they are frustrated because the reality is they are working within very complex businesses – often processes are broken and they have to deal with a mix of analogue and digital systems; and that’s not accounting for the current issues with supply chain and customers.

When manufacturers are faced with this scenario the need to digitalise is obvious. However, when the ‘D’ word is mentioned, leaders get bombarded with a tidal wave of meaningless buzzwords and jargon that are not expressed in a language they need, which is the language of business.

So, manufacturing companies of all sizes know they need to digitise but no one seems to be addressing the number one question that manufacturers need help with – where to start that journey.

Many manufacturers are confused by a number of digital buzzwords and jargon

For the manufacturers that are successful with digital transformation, the underlying factor to that success  is that they don’t begin with technology – that is the wrong place to start. Instead, they ask three key questions; where are we today? Where do we want to be? And what’s stopping us getting there?

That is a really powerful conversation and this is where companies that are very successful in their digital transformation start. And the answer to the last question, in particular, leads them to the next stage; what are the digital superpowers we need to develop in order to get over some of those challenges?

Here again, we’re not talking about products or technology, we’re talking about capabilities and there are five digital superpowers. Companies that are very successful in their transformations have adapted one or a number of these.

The ability to customise your products for an individual customer or a segment of your market, is a great superpower to have, because research shows that people are prepared to pay more for personalised products and in fact, in many cases, wait longer for them.

Digital transformation should begin with three fundamental questions

Companies that have been successful in this space recognise that they need to introduce a level of design automation into the business and give that awesome power to the right people, whether it be engineering, sales or customers.

You might decide that you want to improve the speed, effectiveness and quality of your collaboration. This can have a profound impact on productivity, transparency across the organisation, help communication and boost morale. There’s tonnes of research to suggest that improving your collaboration achieves these kind of results.

To do this manufacturers need to understand how to seek input digitally into their projects much earlier in the process and validating that input digitally as they go.

You might decide that manufacturing flexibility is your digital superpower. No matter what comes in the front door of your offices you want to be able to distribute it and make it in the best possible way according to the parameters of that project.

This will have huge a impact on your agility, efficiency, costs and ultimately overall performance. Companies that have been successful here have recognised that flexible manufacturing makes them stand out from the crowd. And they achieved it by having a discussion around the best blend of these capabilities that they needed to have inside their businesses.

What about integrated manufacturing? What about hybrid manufacturing – the combination of additive and subtractive in one environment? What about fully automated manufacturing? And of course, what about distributed manufacturing?

You might want to change the nature of your relationship with your customers from a traditional buy/sell approach to a far more strategic value add-based relationship. This is incredibly important because it can have effects on your sales conversion rates if you’re trying to drive growth. It can have an impact on helping your service cost and of course, it can really drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and what we call ‘customer stickiness’.

Autodesk’s vision of a digital strategy

Key to success here is understanding what customers want beyond product quality and price and delivering those things consistently across the lifetime of your relationship with them.

Last but not least, you might decide you want data right at the centre of your business and use it to develop a range of insight-based services for your internal and external stakeholders. Of course, this is powerful and can lead to double digit growth. It can also lead to a level of business stability, which is something our industry desperately needs.

To do this successfully it’s important not to jump into IoT straightaway. Instead, identify the silos of data that exist in your business and connect them. Develop an internal data strategy and get good at drawing insights from the information that is presented.

Those are the five digital superpowers and they sound awesome, but they’re useless without your people. Consistently, companies that are achieving their digital transformation goals, have the right people in place – they assemble a team of Avengers. The best, most motivated people will always achieve more with reasonable technology, than average demotivated people could achieve with the best technology in the world.

And that’s how important people are. So when we see companies that are very successful in their transformations, it’s because they’ve got the right people. It’s not just about the best engineers, sales or IT people. To start the process, they identify the innovators and early adopters, get them together and get them to unleash havoc inside the company.

In any digital transformation it is vital to identify the innovators and early adopters

And those people start the snowball effect; taking the early majority and motivating them to come on board, followed by the late majority. This is the single reason why transformations succeed or not. What we’ve learned is that the success of transformation and unleashing your superpowers relies on four things.

  • First of all, don’t start with technology; start with those super questions – where are we today? Where do we need to be? What’s going to stop us getting there?
  • Second, develop an in-depth understanding of what superpowers can do for you. How could one or more of these digital superpowers help you get over the challenges that you’re facing?
  • Who are the people; who’s your digital superhero team that will be put together to lead and drive this project
  • The fourth and final element is partnerships. Find yourself a good strategic partner; we’ve been privileged enough to work with a number of companies and, whoever your strategic partner is, connect with them and bring them into your discussions on that journey. Because that, again, incrementally increases the chance of success.
Data in a High Configuration Business

Druck is a high mix, low volume manufacturing business. Claire Aitchison, the company’s Executive Operations Leader, took a closer look at how the company has approached its automation and digitisation journey to improve productivity and reduce variability.

CA: We produce hundreds of thousands of sensors across tens of thousands of SKUs, and within that there’s a huge amount of configuration within our product families. That’s important because, fundamentally we’re not a flow business and ours is a real world example of how an organisation can start that digital journey and use what you’ve got around you to make a difference to manufacturing.

The basic construct of a pressure sensor is a combination of electrical and mechanical components with a silicon sensing element in the centre. There are many different connectors at both the front and back end and there are electronics from many different families. So, we’re talking about tens of thousands of parts across hundreds of thousands of different products.

That high level of configuration means we never have a situation where thousands of pieces of the same product is pushed through any of our given factories, which means that digitisation is slightly different for us.

We excel in the fact that we are very closely tied to customer applications. Our technology team partner with them to assess the need for that application; the temperature of operation, the pressure range, the output, the protocol that’s needed etc. Some customers will order 20 sensors from us every year while others will order 500 per week, so there’s a huge mix and variety.

Druck’s automation journey

When you’ve got that makeup of factory and you’re 50 years old, as we are – operating in an ageing facility that isn’t optimised – how do you really start that journey and use what’s around you? For us we’ve done it in two separate ways. Firstly, we’ve taken individual processes and automated the parts that we’ve got.

For example, we have in-house test rigs which would historically have tested pressure sensors very manually, which would have been a very skilled task. Now we manifold them, apply pressure, change the temperature range, apply pressure at different set points and then record that data. Now an operator can load that test rig, walk away and do something else during the hours that test runs.

We started with one test rig as a concept which we built in-house, and we now have over 60 of these across the factory. That’s a journey over the last eight years, where we’ve taken a process that we knew was very manual and turned it into something else.

More recently we’ve started optical inspection of the silicon chips. Traditionally, for the inspection of a chip on a wafer, we would have inspected it under a microscope, front and back, for all of the different potential failure modes that we might have seen. Now, we’ve trained the machine to look for those errors and it will scan for them within seconds.

And it’s not just that the inspection has been sped up dramatically and it’s no longer as manual and fallible as it used to be, but the datasets we’re starting to build up can begin to tell us about the upstream processes of the development or the manufacture of that silicon.

We could get material that is slightly thicker or thinner than the last and if wafer after wafer is coming through with patches of different non-conformity, we can start to use that data to go back upstream in the process.

We’ve deployed in-house cobots and we’re also starting to move more towards laser scanning inspection, and making sure we get things right first time and don’t pass any defects down the line. So, we’re starting to really pull all that data together. These systems enable us to control the upstream KPIs and the process control coming through is getting ever tighter by using and deploying that data?

Alongside automating individual processes, we’ve really started looking at what data we’ve got around us to drive up productivity. Largely, we use Tableau and we’ve developed a number of dashboards in-house to visualise parts of our manufacturing processes and systems.

For a factory that is quite manual or has a long history, and this is the start of your journey, no one’s going to give you access to consultants and millions of dollars, so you need to really think about what to do first.

We start with a problem and think how can we develop that. With these Tableau dashboards we’ve asked what we need to use this data for? How can we add power to our manufacturing? And how can we reduce waste? There’s so much you can learn; even when looking at assets individually before you start using the data to string them together.

It also gives us material control. Forecasting enables us to look ahead and we’re no longer looking at what our shortages are now, rather, we’re looking at next week and the week after, and what’s likely to cause a problem. We call this shining a light on some of the shady areas of the business.

Raw data exists in these areas but it can be buried very deep inside systems, and unless you can pull it out and give it to the planner, operator or maintenance technician, they’re unlikely to dig through it themselves. So visualisation is very powerful, and if you haven’t got huge amounts of money for the really glitzy systems, this is an area where you can do a lot for yourselves.

As an example, we have over 4,000 assets that need calibrating across production areas, and that can be anything from torque wrenches, right through to very complex calibration rigs. Some of them need calibrating every week as part of the quality check. Some of them are an annual calibration to validate conformance at a given time.

However, you are relying on people to pick up that torque wrench or go to that rig to look at the sticker on the side to verify that it is in calibration and can be used. What happens of course is that people are busy, they only look at the sticker periodically and so it’s easy for equipment to be used out of calibration.

That means auditors can become involved, people have to chase around and it all becomes time consuming and very manual. We took the quality system and the schedule of what should be done, and put it into a visual system. And then we put it into part of the daily operating system.

In the standard operating meeting at the start of the shift, we were able to pull up the data to show that something needs calibrating today. And of course, that allows the team to look and plan ahead.

We went from multiple findings in pretty much every audit, to no findings in the last five years since we’ve implemented this. And it’s really not much more than a data source and a visualisation. This was back in 2018 and since then, the power of this has just grown as we’ve done more in different applications.

I would encourage anyone who is thinking about where to get started to pick up something simple that’s hurting you today and find someone passionate. We had someone from within the team who was comfortable in Tableau, and it’s grown into a full-time part of our manufacturing process. So, get started with something that hurts and fix it; then everyone can see the win, and you can move on to more complex processes and assets.

Powering Shipbuilding with Digital Advanced Manufacturing

Neil YoungNeil Young, Engineering and Technology Director, Babcock International, explores the future of shipbuilding and the game-changing impact of digital advanced manufacturing, including cutting-edge technologies, such as CAD, 3D modelling, IoT and AI.

This has helped to streamline processes, improve accuracy, reduce costs and accelerate project timelines. He also addresses the challenges of implementation and highlights emerging trends.

NY: We have a very diverse portfolio of support within manufacturing. That’s important to us, because we need to look at our entire digital thread which feeds from the design and manufacturing phase that we start with, through to operations and then into the support of our assets, whether it’s a ship, submarine, tank or aircraft.

The T31 Frigate is a five-ship programme for general purpose frigates for the Royal Navy, and we were awarded the contract in November 2019. To deliver this programme we set ourselves a vision for the digital facility, as well as the challenge of how to seamlessly merge the digital journey with our physical output.

It starts with our 3D CAD model which feeds into our CAM packages, welding databases, into IFS in terms of our ERP and buying parts, warehousing etc, and then into the physical working instructions to actually deliver the programme through our new automated facilities. That digital track flows all the way through, so a seamless data flow is really important to us as we go forward.

Babcock International’s T31 Frigate Programme

We looked at greater levels of automation as we’d never had robotics in our shipyards before. Now they are everywhere, and far from taking jobs away, they’ve actually enhanced roles and made training better. They’ve highlighted the fact that we need to focus on our people in order to have employee-led innovation and development. I see the digital facility as maximising the potential of our people and our assets and we should complement and build on that together to push that forward.

We’ve recommended a structure for the digital facility and broken them down into six elements. The first is People and Skills and the importance of engagement in order to develop long-term plans to enhance digital skills. We surveyed our workforce to look at the skills our people already had.

We found that some people were coding in their spare time which is fantastic. However, there were others who didn’t even own a smartphone so couldn’t log into our system to access data. So, we came up with a digital academy, which included tailored training programmes to bring people up to the level required.

We had to look at how we attracted people into the business as well. So, we introduced a production support operatives programme, where we took people that hadn’t been in long-term employment for some time, and changed our entire recruitment structure for them. For example, we ran workshops instead of conducting traditional interviews.

And, a year on from starting that programme, we’ve had people come through to become fully qualified welders within the business. We’ve conducted digital skills training for shopfloor personnel, empowering them to use technology to access the information they require, such as 3D models. Plus, we’ve trained ‘Super Users’ for critical software packages embedded within front-line teams to maximise utilisation and capabilities of tool-sets at the point of use.

The second is System Architecture. How are we going to join this all together physically to get all of these machines and operations working together? We have around 400,000 parts that we need to transfer from our CAD model to our ERP system. Previously, this was something that was done manually and took around 138 hours a week of people purely inputting data, which obviously led to errors.

We focused on linking that digitally, with a single source of truth used multiple times. We took the decision very early in the project to use the best piece of software for the application. So we chose the best commissioning, 3D and manufacturing software and then integrated them. So rather than having a one-stop-shop where all software is on a single platform, they are all different. That’s been really key to us in our export market.

The third is Workflow and Data. Once everything is linked, how do you ensure your workflows are correct, and how do you get the right data to the right people at the right time? We did some surveys around our productivity losses caused by not having the right data.

When people were at the production phase, they were spending approximately seven percent of their time coming off the job to speak to an engineer to find information. As such we introduced mobile devices and shop floor kiosks to allow operation teams to have information accessible at the point of work.

Key to this is enabling people to do their job correctly – for some this is via tablets, while others may prefer Google Goggles or AR. We offer tailored solutions rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. And, with shopfloor digitisation implemented, data is updated as work is completed, allowing for real-time reporting analytics.

Babcock International’s Digital Facility

Automation and Robotics means we can use technology to make people’s jobs easier. Our T-beam welding for example, used to see our teams on their hands and knees for around two weeks. Our T-Beam Machine increases productivity and quality and can complete the job in around 20 minutes. This has an additional health and safety benefit as it has enabled workers to programme machines rather than spending their day working on the floor.

Our panel line with automated marking and cutting, and robotic welding, is capable of producing complete ship deck and bulk heads. Initially we found there to be a trust issue with the machine and workers would double check its measurements. However, over time trust has been built up. Again, this might only save 15-20 minutes, but when you look at that over the number of welds we do, it’s a huge saving.

But we couldn’t enforce that on people, we had to let them find out for themselves. You’ve got to take people on that journey and sometimes do more than you originally planned in order to get people on board. Finally, our FARO Laser projector allows the fitting of outfit items to the ship to be done without the need of additional 2D drawings and manual measuring and fitting.

Asset Management; we’ve got lots of complex machines so we need to look at how we bring those together and optimise how they work. We need data to perform our predictive maintenance correctly to keep those machines running – we’ve moved shipbuilding into more of an automotive environment so any downtime really impacts us.

But we’re also using that data to look at efficiency of operations, the time it takes us to perform a specific unit operation and the efficiency and utilisation of machines. We then feed that back into our learning process so we can always plan ahead.

And then there’s Technology and R&D – it’s no good just investing for now; you need look at the future and constantly innovate to move forward. We’re always looking at how we get better.

We’re researching the use of machine learning to deliver high-integrity welding, weld inspection and potentially weld certification in near real-time as part of the AWESIM Project with Strathclyde University. We also have a Fastblade facility developing tidal turbine technology along with digital twin knowledge and application.

In conclusion, we have a clear vision for our digital facility; everyone has bought into it and uses it to assess what’s next on the journey; it’s the people who are driving our innovation challenge moving forward.

Revolutionising Manufacturing: A Disruptive Journey Towards Operating System Excellence

Simon MartinSimon Martin, Head of Global Manufacturing at Yunex Traffic, explains how the company successfully transformed its manufacturing operations to stay competitive and adapt to an ever-evolving environment; and this amidst a landscape of challenges including global supply chain disruptions and rapid shifts in the electronics industry.

SM: In terms of manufacturing, 50% of what we do is printed circuit board manufacturing while the other 50% is high mix, low volume assembly. Operations management is all about making life predictable; we take an input, process it and create an output to the level and time that it’s expected. And, we like that input to be controlled.

However, there has been a lot of upheaval and uncertainty over the last 18 months. We’ve had Brexit and as a big exporter into Europe and globally, that’s been a big challenge and one we’re still working through.

We’ve had coronavirus, which caused  immediate issues and subsequent disruption, and we’re still seeing the legacy of that even now. We principally operate in the electronics industry and the disruption that occurred within that global supply chain was significant.

Yunex Traffic has been navigating some rough seas

We’re still seeing that impact and n some cases now have a two year lead time with our suppliers, creating a real mismatch of demand versus capacity in that supply chain.

And last year, we saw some pretty aggressive inflation which we have all had to deal with. So there’s been some significant external headwinds. However, during that same period, we came away from being part of Siemens; away from the comfort of being under the umbrella of a global corporation.

This is great on the one hand because it has given us the ability to be more agile, however, when you come out of a global organisation you have to change all your systems – HR, payroll, IT – plus our IT infrastructure and service providers, and that’s a process that is still ongoing at the moment. It’s made life quite interesting for us in operations.

Data is key to this. We operate in an uncertain environment, where the inputs into our processes is variable and can change from one day to the next. But, we still have to be able to make decisions and that means we have to be able to change and pivot on original plans.

To do that we need good data. And key to that is data provenance and trust. If I have to second guess the data it’s going to impact my ability to make a decision, and in an environment where that has to happen quickly, this is really important.

Coming out of Siemens meant we could do our own thing in terms of our processes, MOS, lean deployment and how we manage our operations. And we’ve simplified those significantly – in terms of lean deployment, for the last two years we’ve been focusing primarily on stability. This means we have very standard outputs for every input we put into any process, be it physical or business.

To increase that data quality and provenance we’ve invested heavily in analytics. And we’ve got some great people in our team driving that, both in terms of operations, but also on financial analytics, which is something that has previously been done retrospectively. However, we’ve now created models that ask questions such as: if this happens, what does it mean?

This helps us in our decision making. As a new organisation we’ve got very quick escalation paths. And the challenges we have within our supply chain mean we’ve had to adopt those very quickly. For example, we’ve had to put in place what we call a critical components process.

This is where a supplier might inform us that they are experiencing delays with a certain electronic component and as such, we’ll have to source it from the open market. If we find a component to fill that gap but it’s coming in at ten times the normal price, for example, what does that mean for us in terms of whether or not we should make the product? That’s where we can deploy those forward looking financial projections, enabling us to rapidly make decisions which is key when prices can fluctuate so quickly.

We also found during this process that our organisation wasn’t great in terms of adapting to the new pace. So we’ve made a few tweaks to our operations, changed role descriptions slightly and moved people around to adapt to this. All the while remaining focused on analytics; making sure that the dashboards were representing exactly what was happening, and that when we were making changes we understood the impact and maintained control.

Yunex’s new warehouse in Germany

It’s important to digitalise where it makes sense. We’ve got quite an exciting digitalisation roadmap going forward over the next three to four years, but what we digitalise and when will be very important to us during this period. We won’t be digitalising everything on the production line; we will put digitalisation on bottleneck processes and on areas we know impact our business on a daily basis.

We are also building a new warehouse in Germany, not only to aid logistics and supply chain, but also to help us deal with inventory. When uncertainty is added into a manufacturing process, and there are extended lead times of raw material, inventory gets increased to buffer against it.

As a global management and leadership team, we made the decision to do this in order to weather the storm of the supply chain challenges that we were facing. However, any operations manager knows that if inventory increases someone is eventually going to come along and tell you to reduce it, and we’ve been on that path for the last six to nine months. We’ve got a pretty aggressive inventory reduction plan and as the situation becomes more stable, our inputs become more certain and it will allow us to burn down that inventory.

But again, strong data analytics is really important. We’ve got quite a complex manufacturing process because of the sheer volume and number of products we manufacture. As such, we have found out a lot about our processes and it’s been a little counter intuitive in some areas regarding what the main levers for driving and reducing inventory actually are.

And of course, SOP, matching demand to capacity and really understanding what customers want has been key to ensuring that as we’re burning down inventory, we’re not leaving customers in trouble. I’m pretty proud to say that during this whole period, we’ve never needed to stop production on any of our lines.

The second aspect of our new warehouse is logistics, and as we’re increasing stability around what we do within the four walls of manufacturing, we can now look externally at the global supply chain and how we improve that. As with most businesses, we’ve not only buffered manufacturing, we’ve buffered in our satellite logistics sites, and we’re looking at rationalising that in Europe.

Also we’re looking at how we flow material in Europe which will help us with our inventory, customer activity and our sustainability. We’ve moved significantly towards reusable packaging and we’re concentrating on making sure every local shipment is 100% full. It’s something that the whole team’s engaged in, both in the UK and Europe.

In conclusion, as I said at the start, our job in operations is to make life predictable, but we want it to be exciting for the team. So, as we’ve become more stable, we’ve made some really big improvements in what we’re doing as an organisation.

We’re growing significantly, which presents opportunities for the team and for team development. We’re coming from a place where there’s a lot of manual assembly and processes, and there’s a lot of opportunity for us with the introduction of digital.

We focus strongly on our strategy deployment and we involve all our organisation in that; the last few weeks have been central to that as we’ve been revisiting our five year plan, which we do every year, and have made tweaks and adjustments.

Also in operations, we’ve got even more aggressive targets around quality etc, and one of the things we’ve also been doing since we’ve left Siemens, is offering our manufacturing services to external companies.

We’re all involved in external benchmarking and we’ve been visiting other sites and challenging ourselves to work with new customers and suppliers. It’s all about challenging ourselves, our processes and our people to make sure that we’re staying ahead of where we need to be to grow our business.

Changing the Perspective on Manufacturing’s Role in the UK Economy

Tim MinshallManufacturing is a crucial component of the UK’s economy, providing the foundation for resilience, sustainability and fairness. Yet, has the narrative surrounding manufacturing’s genuine worth and significance been muddled or overlooked in recent years?

In his keynote on day two of Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit, Professor Tim Minshall, Head of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), University of Cambridge, delved into the perception of manufacturing and its critical role in attracting public and private investments.

TM: The idea of rethinking manufacturing sounds a bit pretentious, but we should all be very worried about what’s currently happening in the sector. We’ve got an economy, both national and global, that’s going through huge changes.

The fact that manufacturing sits at the heart of stable, resilient and sustainable economies is getting lost within some nations. At times, many of us feel the true value of manufacturing is not properly understood in the context of the UK. Therefore, we have to shout louder. We, as the manufacturing community, are the people to drive this change forward.

On the subject of rethinking manufacturing, the obvious question to ask is why we need to bother. Surely everyone knows how important the sector is, and how it can contribute to make the world better?

Manufacturing is a vital part of any strong economy. And, if you want to have an economy that is able to trade effectively, you need a strong manufacturing sector. The UK is pretty good at this; manufacturing is still a significant part of our economy, contributing massively to our exports. And a huge amount of R&D spend happens in the sector. We’re also on a global stage and are still a significant manufacturing nation, operating in the global top ten.

However, an issue we sometimes lose sight of, particularly when talking to economists and statisticians, is that we don’t actually measure manufacturing properly. If you look at all the services that are spread across all manufacturing supply chains, they are all part of manufacturing. Many of them wouldn’t exist were it not for the manufacturing sector.

The number that is often cited is that manufacturing represents around ten percent of the economy. However, we produced a report at the IfM which discovered that it’s closer to 20% if you combine all those manufacturing related services which are not normally counted. That is the good news – the sector is large and is a very important part of the UK economy.

UK manufacturing has been shrinking
UK manufacturing has been shrinking

So, what’s the problem? Primarily, the sector is declining. Manufacturing’s contribution to GDP as a percentage is decreasing, as is the amount of people working in the sector. It’s not necessarily bad if an economy is transforming, but it is a cause for further investigation and concern.

An important factor is that although the UK is an island, manufacturing cannot be thought of the same. We acknowledge that we are part of the global economy and whatever may have happened over recent years, we are integral to that and play a key role in global supply chains.

So, change keeps happening and that disruption is impacting the sector’s ability to progress. However, this isn’t a new phenomenon. If we look at all the major technologies that emerged during the last two or three industrial revolutions, they all disrupted the sector, changed manufacturing and caused massive changes in the way workforces were organised and technologies were used.

Today, it’s not just that a certain number of technologies are coming along to make our lives a bit different. There are also a variety of events that are impacting manufacturing which are all happening at once – from threats to global stability, changing demographics and consumer habits, urbanisation and sustainability. And they’re all global issues.

Some can be framed as opportunities, while others are undoubtedly challenges. Issues around global stability, for example, are a problem but there are things we can do within manufacturing to reduce the likelihood of cold conflicts becoming hot conflicts.

We’ve got to deal with sustainability of course, but it also provides massive opportunities for developing new products and services. These trends, and many others, mean that we have the opportunity to rethink the way we create and capture value, and it brings with it new ways of doing things.

So, we have a problem with the decline (by certain measures) of manufacturing, but we see huge trends driving forward change. Parallel to that there are transformations that are occurring at the same time. For example, moving production from an isolated process to an integration of production and innovation. They are no longer separate and there is now much greater and tighter coupling between the two. The product itself has moved into a whole new space of being a value-added system rather than something in isolation.

We’re also seeing transformations around data; we’ve always had it and the ability to analyse it, going right back to the first industrial revolution. The difference now is that there’s so much more of it. However, there are tools at our disposal now to make this a very different environment. This has massively sped up decision making and support of how they are being made.

In the past, the arrival of new technologies was viewed with suspicion. A classic example would be automation. Going all the way back to Jacquard’s loom of the 18th century, a technology was introduced that put the jobs of a group of highly skilled people at risk.

So, we’ve always had to deal with challenges and opportunities like these. Now, however, we see a very different environment – that of the augmented workforce, where people’s ability to do their job can be increased even more through the augmentation of technologies. These transformations are all happening at the same time, right now, across the world, and they’re all interconnected.

We know that there’s a combination of existing and emerging technologies, but we need to be good at using both. It’s not all about getting the latest high tech solution, software or gadget – we need to be developing those of course, but we also need to be thinking about how we deploy existing technologies. Manufacturers can do this via a process of roadmapping, scenario planning and foresighting, which allows us to get a sight of technologies and their relative maturities.

However, technology on its own doesn’t do anything. The ability to have supply chains in place that allow us to exploit those technologies to the greatest effect is critical. And as we go through transitions, it’s not just important to optimise supply chains, they also need to be transformed in the face of new technology (or may even require a complete restructure). So, how do we make sure that’s happening? The issue is that supply chains may be a too simplistic view; perhaps supply networks might be more appropriate.

And of course, the technology won’t be able to do anything, nor those supply chains exist, if there aren’t people with the right skills, at the right time and in the right place – people hold it all together.

It’s important that we have people with the skills that we can deploy now (we all know that we face skills shortages). But also, if new technologies are coming onboard, who’s preparing for the workforce of the future? For example, if we’re going to be developing our semiconductor sector in this country, perhaps moving to compound semiconductors as a very large niche, where are the people going to come from to execute this and who’s planning that?

Therefore, one of our concerns is that yes, we can map the value chain for skills and identify what’s happening, but we have to think about this issue as one integrated unit – all of these elements are connected. Our worry, and that of many manufacturers, is the conversations about how we deal with those three elements (technology, supply chain and people), and how they’re supported, are not happening in the same room.

They’re currently different conversations. Talking about any of those elements in isolation is causing all sorts of problems. If we take the technology piece as an example, one thing that’s often said is that whatever happens in the UK, we are brilliant at research and development. We are prolific in our production of world leading academic research. However, there is a downward trend in our ability to produce this. We’re still very strong, but it’s heading in the wrong direction in the face of competition.

If we look at skills issues, one of the greatest challenges and missed opportunities has to be our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. I’m absolutely delighted that things are being done in this space and we’ve been working with Innovate UK and our colleagues at the IfM to run a women in manufacturing network, which has been a huge success.

Initiatives like this are great but we need to do so much more to address those workforce challenges and to create a more open and engaged approach to bring as many people as possible into manufacturing.

Everything is changing all the time. The world of digital meeting the world of physical is much more complex and sophisticated than just saying it’s to do with industrial digitalisation. So, manufacturing matters. It is a huge part of any sensible economy and although it is in decline in the UK along certain measures, there are things we can do about it. However, we have to think about it in terms of the technology, skills and supply chains. And we have to do it urgently. We have a chance to do something but the time is right now.

Developing a Future Ready Mindset – How to Win in a World of Change

Allister FrostAllister Frost, a trailblazer in the realms of marketing and digital strategy, shares some of his insights, from shaping marketing initiatives at Kimberly-Clark to spearheading digital strategy at Microsoft Corporation.

AF: My career has taken me from Kimberley-Clark, where everything was quite predictable, to Microsoft where change happened very quickly and it was far more difficult to plan. The change between those two jobs was fascinating; going from having certainty and predictability to absolute chaos, and thriving in ambiguously.

And that same change is now happening to everybody else. And you don’t have to switch companies – technology is coming to change you. And that is fascinating. Most of us have quite a tricky relationship with change. Change takes you away from what you know which can of course, be a risk, and humans are very good at resisting that. It should be remembered that change is not always helpful.

Sometimes we fail as leaders because we know that change is important, and the pressure is on us to bring it into our organisations. And we expect everybody in the team to also be thinking about change and the future. However, we tend to do very little to facilitate and support people in coping with change, to think about it more closely and to roll it out within organisations. Manufacturing workers are looking to the sector’s leaders to tell them what the next change is.

However, the reality is that leaders don’t know anymore than I do about what’s coming next. Therefore, it’s something that the whole company needs to get involved with and that can be really powerful. That’s why I talk to people about developing a culture with a future-ready mindset, where everyone in the organisation goes to work thinking, not just about the job they’ve got to do today, but also about what can be better and what can be changed.

This isn’t about technology, necessarily, it can be change at a very simple level. Everything can be improved if we choose to do it. I call this a future-ready mindset rather than a future-proof mindset. If anyone has a supplier that is telling you that something is future-proofed, I would suggest asking what is this future that we are proofing against, and see what answer you get. They won’t have a clue.

There’s no such thing as future-proofing – it’s more about being ready for change and more agile to cope with it. I’ve codified what I have had to do to survive and transition from a traditional business, to one that was built on chaos – and I’ve come up with the ReadyAlready cycle.

ReadyAlready cycle
The ReadyAlready cycle

In the centre there is a ‘personal mission’. No one has ever created a better future for themselves without knowing why they are doing it; there has to be a reason. Let’s be honest, most people go to work to get a salary so that they can pay the rent and keep the tax man happy – that’s it.

That’s not enough. No one’s going to create a future for themselves for that – that’s just the basics. You have to know why you do what you do. And I spend a lot of time with organisations helping people to reconnect with the majesty of what they do. And if I can you get excited about toilet paper, as I did at Kimberley-Clark, I’m pretty sure other teams can get more excited about what they manufacture.

I love the fact that at Andrex, I had the honorary title chief puppy controller, because of the adverts, which was nice. But what I loved more, is that I knew that if I made the product better, if I sold it for the right price, if there was stock on the shelves and if I delivered on my promises, someone’s life was just a little bit better – and that’s fine, I’d done something useful to the world.

There are three superpowers that can help deliver this: Open, Surprise and Tell. I call these superpowers because these are the things that only humans can do. There is no amount of artificial intelligence that is as good as a human when it comes to these.

These skills, if you’ve got them, can guarantee you a job for life. If anyone is anxious about the future, this is the skill set you need to focus on. The first is Open. Picture your first day of school. Everything was unknown; you had no idea what was ahead of you. But you just went and figured this out. You were open to new possibilities.

And more than anything, you were probably brilliant at asking naive questions. However, somewhere along the journey to adulthood, we lose the ability to ask why? We just take things at face value and find it embarrassing to ask for help.

If you’re asking a question about something in the future, there’s no embarrassment in that. My favourite thing during my ten years at Microsoft was to keep asking questions? You don’t have to know all the answers. It’s ok to ask why?

Your past experience, brilliant as it was, will not get you to where you need to be. It is the enemy of your future and I would urge you to think about surrendering that experience and looking at the world with fresh eyes.

The magic of why means you can find quick wins. There’s bound to be things that your competitors and colleagues aren’t seeing so there’s many opportunities for micro-improvements. And you can go after them all.

That’s what Open is all about. Zen Buddhists read the same texts all through their lives and they’re taught to read the text each time as if they’ve never seen it before. Imagine pulling into the car park at work and looking at the place you know so well with fresh eyes.

My second superpower is Surprise. Give a child a toy and they’ll play with it for two hours, give them an empty box and they will still be using it two weeks later, because it can be anything, and the imagination of children means they can see the possibilities.

Surprise is about allowing yourself to be brilliantly, unpredictably creative – thoughts that robots and technology will never have. If you can use creativity, you will come up with non-obvious but valuable ideas for the future.

Asking, what if? means you start to see all the possibilities. And the reason why this matters is AI cannot replicate this. It can do millions of random permutations, but it can’t do it through the filter of the human brain. It can’t apply a personal mission – a meaning to why you’re doing what you’re doing. – and do it with unbridled, beautiful creativity.

My final superpower is Tell. Tell is about communicating within the organisation to share what you think along with your ideas, however mad or crazy. Do that and together we can grow. Tell is about working with others to achieve buy-in to an idea and then taking it to management and trying it out.

This is actually about silencing the hippo (the highest paid person’s opinion). It’s about encouraging everyone to think about opportunities that are out there because the future belongs to all of us, not just the leaders.

Imagine if everyone went to work with this sort of approach – I can contribute, I can change – what a different place it could be. Technology accelerates and we all know it’s getting faster and faster. And those of us who work in the technology industry itself are quite happy to accept that today is the slowest rate of change we will experience for the rest of our lives – change will just keep on accelerating.

The philosophy from senior management when I was at Microsoft was very much: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. And we’ve all probably said that. However, as Bill Gates was very fond of saying: if something works today, it’s already obsolete.

The only question is whether to improve today or later. Every process, system, tool and piece of machinery is obsolete because the world is moving so fast it can always be done better. And when you embrace that, you realise that it’s okay not to be on top of everything; it’s okay not to have all the answers about the future.

But it’s not okay to fail to empower your organisation to take you on that journey with them. To allow ideas to come from anywhere, and the diversity and the collective spirit of an organisation is what will allow you to see the possibilities that will take you to the future.

So, do you have the right culture to keep up, to see the opportunities and to embrace them together? Be open minded, explore the world with more curiosity and foster a culture which will create the bright future that you deserve.

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