With the aim of informing manufacturers on how to develop their business models in a practical manner, drive innovation forward and which technologies to deploy next across the manufacturing eco-system, the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit 2021 (part of Digital Manufacturing Week - DMW) opened its doors to visitors and delegates today.
For many, DMW represents a first foray back into face-to-face events and exhibitions after what has been a near two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. If the ongoing pandemic has taught us anything it is how much, and how quickly, the world is changing around us, and manufacturing must change with it. Supply chain resilience, robotics and process automation, AI, innovation, sustainability, changing markets, remote working – there are a multitude of areas that manufacturers can focus on to seize a competitive advantage in this unprecedented era.
The Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit informs manufacturers on how to develop their business models in a practical manner. The event brings together leading professionals to share their experience and knowledge on making the most of the challenges we face and the opportunities that exist to ensure the future growth of manufacturing.
Of these challenges, three that are undoubtedly near the top of most company agendas is connected manufacturing, sustainability, and digital transformation. However, all three are currently at varying levels of maturity, and just who is responsible for them within a given organisation, is still a subject of some debate.
They are topics that are paid much lip service within the industry, but how do you move from theory to reality? In his opening keynote on day one of MLS, Remy Mandon, IBM Vice President for Industrial Sector Europe, delved deeper into what the company is doing within the manufacturing sector. Vital to this is data and how businesses are using data to build safer, more reliable and improved products.
This in turn has thrown up several hurdles which Remy alluded to when IBM has been speaking to customers. The first is data security. “It’s becoming cheap and easy to collect data, but the multiplication of data points is making it hard to secure and protect that data. So, as the cost of collecting data decreases, the cost of securing data increases,” Remy commented. The second issue is around closed systems and lock-in so he stressed the need to ‘stay open’. “At IBM we’ve been working very closely with Red Hat, which we acquired a few years ago, to bring open source to the OT world – keeping extremely open and interactive.”
Speaking about the architecture of the factory of the future, Remy added that this will mean data becoming automatically captured at every entry point. This data has traditionally been stored in the cloud but with the rapid increase in data, IBM sees this as an issue – one which will ultimately bring data to the edge.
“As the number of entry and collection of points increase you’re going to need to have AI to help make sense of that data and ensure the best decision can be made, and that will take place at the point where the data is captured – at the edge.” He also stressed the importance of having people and skills augmented with data and insights. “Most engineers are not data scientists. They like using data and need it to make best decisions, but they’re going to need to truly understand data algorithms etc so they can truly make their business successful.”
The need for a step change in sustainability
Continuing the theme of sustainability, Yelena Ageyeva-Furman and Imran Dassu, Partners at Kearney, called for a step change – pushing beyond mere experiments and pilots around a sustainable manufacturing, and to drive real action at scale. They stressed that the time to press the accelerator on sustainability is now, as catching up later will be exponentially more expensive.
Manufacturing is leading the transformation of current business models to new sustainable practices. As stated earlier, the world is changing rapidly and radically, and the winners during this period of seismic shift will be those who can display the ability to redefine their business, introduce radical innovation, build new capabilities and establish strong partnerships.
Yelena commented: “It’s very timely to be talking about sustainability with the COP26 conference taking place in Glasgow this week which will accelerate the need for a response to sustainability demands. But I have mixed feelings. On the one hand we have the positives – 30,000 delegates deciding the future for our next generations. However, at the same time, we also see a lot of scepticism. The biggest emitters are not at the table. And some people don’t necessarily believe these claims can actually be translated into action and results.”
She cited Greta Thunberg who stated last week that the powers that be continue to grow their businesses with the attitude that there will ultimately be some magic technology solution to solve the climate change crisis. Yelena emphasised this by underlining the fact that to meet the 1.5°C Paris commitments by 2030 we will have to see an equivalent decline in emissions to what we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic – every two years!
So, we know what needs to be done but the how is still somewhat difficult to answer. It’s a huge undertaking but that’s not to say there are not huge opportunities. We all know the UK has set itself ambitious objectives which involve investing in nuclear, renewables, hydrogen infrastructure, and decarbonising aviation, shipping and heat.
To take heat as an example, by 2035 the aim is to have no gas boilers in the UK. That will mean all the current installed capacity will need to be replaced over the next 10-15 years, in many cases by heat pumps. This will create huge opportunities for businesses as the infrastructure will need to be built, plus installation and maintenance services provided.
Yelena added that there are currently three varying levels that business leaders are approaching and addressing sustainability. The first is those operating a right to operate stance – or doing right. These companies view sustainability as a compliance issue and to manage risk. She stressed that these companies need to evolve.
She continued: “The second approach is license to operate – doing good. This is where the majority of businesses are today – they’re optimising the processes, conducting projects and engaging with their supply chain, which is a nice intermediate step.”
However, the goal is to take the third approach which is license to thrive – or doing more. “These are the companies that are already doing something different and are pushing boundaries. They’re redefining their value chains, influencing regulation and pushing their own industry with them. Interestingly those are the businesses that are reaping the benefits today while the rest of their field needs to catch up.”
Further to this Imran highlighted that manufacturers are feeling the pressure of sustainability demands but often struggle to operationalise commitments. To deliver this step change manufacturers must act across three areas – new business models, governance and capabilities and, and radical innovation/partnerships.
“For manufactures, the reality of mitigating challenges will allow them to scale up what today may still be tentative project-based initiatives. Ultimately, that’s what it will take to deliver on your organisation’s strategic vision. Just managing risks is clearly not going to deliver on your targets, and ultimately you have to establish mutual sustainability goals, but also meet costs, quality, safety, and resiliency. It’s an issue that’s not going to go away. The journey is long but you need to get started and build momentum – set priorities, deliver desired change and measure the impact.”
The Digital Change Imperative: Learning from The Ventilator Challenge
The question of whether manufacturing is ready for a paradigm shift to digital was addressed by Katherine Bennett, CEO at HVM Catapult in her keynote, as she reflected on some of the challenges manufacturers are facing and how digital can help meet them.
She commented: “These are challenging times for manufacturers but are we really seizing the opportunities that digital can deliver to manufacturers? I’m not always sure that we are, and at a time when factories are facing these unprecedented challenges these opportunities and benefits can’t be ignored.
“That’s why what my organisation can offer is important. We are made up of seven centres spread throughout the UK and we deal in many parts of the manufacturing sector. So, we can make sure manufacturers harness those latest technologists, in particular digital technologies, so that they are equipped to face these challenges. And where we have the right tools, and the right ecosystems in place where we can harness the true power of digital, amazing things can happen in manufacturing.”
Once such amazing achievement Katherine cited was during the pandemic when the HVMC and a large number of manufacturers joined forces for the Ventilator Challenge and delivered 20 years’ worth of ventilators in 12 weeks. This achievement could not have been realised without the integration of digital tools which allowed volume parts to be made quickly, production volumes to be aligned, and people to be trained at a huge speed and in multiple locations.
Katherine added: “Digital tools were at the heart of the challenge, managing an incredibly complex supply chain involving over 15 million parts from suppliers around the world. But I am proud to say that 95% of those parts were manufactured here in the UK.
“Through it all digital technologies allowed our teams spread across multiple locations to oversee the whole process through to the manufacture and assembly of the finished product. We were able to respond as quickly as possible as the understanding of the virus grew and the needs of our NHS changed.”
In short Katherine stressed that digital technologies can help increase productivity by minimising downtime, cutting waste and optimising production – boosting efficiency across businesses. They can help you keep a tight grip on your costs in true, real-time tracking that makes a real difference to supply chain confidence. They can connect you with partners to co-create and allow you to build new business models and get new products to market quickly, or rapidly scale or repurpose production facilities.
Building the most sustainable factory possible
In the final keynote on day one, Christopher Fielden, Global Supply Chain Director, Innocent Drinks, discussed how digital tools can aid manufacturers in achieving Net Zero within their businesses and how to build the most sustainable factory possible.
This is a task already undertaken by Innocent Drinks and Christopher explained how this was done, why it was important and why it should be key to all businesses. He also discussed the design approaches deployed to enable the company to achieve carbon neutral and the lessons the company learned along the way.
He underlined Innocent’s whole ethos which is based around leaving the world in a better position than we found it – helping people to live well and die old – an ethos which runs through the business and is at the core of the principles which have helped build the company’s new facility In Rotterdam.
Chris highlighted two scary principles in terms of the sustainability outlook. We’re the first generation of leaders that can’t say that we don’t know climate change is happening. And, we are the last generation of leaders that can do anything about it. So, what manufacturing leaders do now will define the future for the next generations.
“Bearing those stats in mind we decided to build the most sustainable factory that we could. At Innocent we don’t have any manufacturing facilities ourselves. So, to build what has been a €234m manufacturing facility from scratch – with no engineering or manufacturing teams – has been a big challenge.”
Chris added that to face this challenge the company set itself five key KPIs – the two most vital of which was that the factory had to be carbon neutral – an aspiration that was not so outlandish without internal engineering or manufacturing. And secondly, to inspire wider change – to do something that was so good that people would copy it, learn, improve, challenge and then take it away into their business.
“I spent about 12 months trying to drive our energy consumption down so that we could go carbon neutral. And this is where I go back to the Innocent values. And the one I’m going to pick up on is entrepreneurial – for me entrepreneurial is to find the ‘yes’ in the ‘no’, – when everybody is saying something can’t be done, find the ‘yes’.
“You have to think differently, and it’s a challenge for all of us as manufacturing leaders. If you’re 70% sure, go for it. But this means you must accept failures. There’s lots of failure stories I can give about starting this facility, but you have to push the boundaries if we’re going to in turn, push what we can achieve, both with technology and sustainability.
“My four big takeaways would be the bigger the dream, the bigger difference you can make; don’t underestimate your power to make change happen; sustainability is not a compromise; and you can use your business as a force for good – don’t keep sustainability to yourself, it shouldn’t be something we’re competing on.”