With less than a week to go before the U.S. presidential election, and in a year when supply chain and manufacturing have been front and center, CEOs of manufacturing companies are calling for both candidates to promote innovation, technology, and automation.
I spoke to more than a dozen CEOs and largely found frustration with both presidential candidates and their policies. The vast majority of these manufacturers see innovation and creativity as the secret sauce that separates the U.S. from many other countries, and the leveraging of that creativity as the best route to sustainable manufacturing success. Here’s what they had to say.
“We think the smart policy is smart manufacturing,” said Mattias Andersson, founder and CEO, MTEK. “We’ve been working for sometime to simplify smart manufacturing by unleashing the value in manufacturing data that currently exists in numerous silos. Regardless of location or political persuasion, investment and incentives need to focus on creating the most digitally transformed and enabled industry, embracing automation, AI and all the ingredient technologies that make a manufacturing sector that is competitive and fit for the future.”
Ideally, government and business would collaborate to make the shift toward digital transformation.
“Such technology is risky, expensive and time-consuming to produce, needing years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to perfect,” said Theo Saville, founder and CEO, CloudNC. “Without government support, the transition to autonomous manufacturing will happen slower. But this support is worthwhile. Most manufacturing processes rely on humans to instruct the machinery, and through software, autonomy could provide 10 to 100 times more productivity.”
These manufacturers aren’t suggesting we simply throw money at the problem. Investment needs to be strategic and aligned with promoting the U.S. maintaining its position as the epicenter of innovation and digital disruption.
“Incentives need to reflect the assets we have, the path we need to take and the desired destination,” said Dave Evans, founder and CEO, Fictiv. “They should leverage homegrown innovation, enable investment in digital transformation of manufacturing, and target sustainable well-paid manufacturing jobs.”
By leveraging the right technologies, manufacturers can potentially take advantage of emerging business opportunities.
“We should focus on advancing and diversifying our manufacturing capabilities, which would be conducive with a services-based economy like the U.S., where the standard of living and cost of labor are higher,” said Chintan Sutaria, CEO, CalcuQuote. “One way to do this is to invest in automation technologies. Automation can improve the competitiveness of electronics manufacturing in America, and become a growing industry of its own as we eventually deploy automation technology across the globe.”
Embracing digital technologies and automating the manufacturing process will help the U.S. address the stumbling block of the higher cost of labor.
“The real solution is to embrace productivity through automation,” said Yoav Zingher, CEO, Launchpad.build. “The cost is low paying, low skilled, easily offshored jobs. The benefits are the creation of higher value, higher paying jobs. The resources needed are innovation, investment in technology, and proximity to consumers, which the U.S. has in abundance.”
Digital transformation is a critical step toward allowing the U.S. to reclaim leadership in manufacturing and reduce reliance on other geographies.
“Let’s have incentives to invest in digital transformation and let’s drive change in an industry that is fit for the future, and fit to lead the world,” said Evans. “The U.S. is a hotbed of innovation and creativity in just about every area, not least manufacturing. Embrace that, create the right environment for transformation, and we will create a manufacturing sector that is the envy of the world.”
Bright Machines CEO Amar Hanspal is looking for investment in the industry and those who work in it.
“There needs to be a pro-active, long-term strategy for factories to succeed. This year, more than ever, has reminded us of the need to (re)embrace localized production in our manufacturing policies in order to achieve more flexible and resilient production,” he said. “This is something our country used to excel at but lost over the years due to the rise of industrialization and globalization. Policy should encourage local, distributed manufacturing located closer to the customer, while investing in the advanced technologies that enable this shift. This is how today’s manufacturers can gain a true competitive advantage in an economy that is vulnerable to global disruption.”
Hanspal added, “…policy must prioritize an investment in factory workers. Trade policy accelerated the offshoring of millions of manufacturing jobs, and this year COVID-19 has put even more pressure on workers with the shutting down of facilities and the enforcement of strict distancing guidelines. There should be a sustainable commitment to enhance the ongoing pipeline of qualified workers with reskilling programs that foster high-tech manufacturing investment and expansion.
“Policies should embrace technologies that allow for remote work, and prioritize standard and safe-working conditions for manufacturers – allowing healthy competition to thrive in the global marketplace. Ultimately, a robust manufacturing sector is vital for America if it wants to be a leader in environmental sustainability and the right steps should be instituted to allow for a clean and green manufacturing future.”
About the Author
Philip Stoten spent the first fifteen years of his career in manufacturing and the next fifteen writing and talking about it. He has watched every development of the EMS sector and has interviewed hundreds of executives from the OEM and EMS world as well as those that supply the equipment to make their factories function.
Philip is an evangelist for digital transformation in manufacturing believing that it is the only way to create a sustainable distributed manufacturing industry. Philip is currently the Managing Partner of SCOOP, a marketing and advertising agency in London.