While technology’s possibilities might seem frightening, they offer a lot of possibilities for manufacturers. By breaking down an organization and seeking how to improve inside functionality, a company can also expand what it offers to its customers and its employees. Day 2 of the Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo (M&T Show) gave attendees a glance into how their companies can improve and what practices are available in order to provide them with a competitive advantage.

Dr. Ken Washington, the Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering at Ford, opened the second day with a presentation on how Ford is moving forward with its evolving digital goals all while maintaining its core business. It looks to turn “science fiction into science fact.” Its focus on cars, utilities, trucks, financing, parts, and service continue to be at the forefront of innovation, but in a whole new way. Now, more than ever before, the world is witness to an inter-connectivity that has never existed before. When coupled with the consumer experience, Ford is looking to seize emerging opportunities. Through initiatives involving 3D printing, light weighting, the use of carbon fiber, sustainability, and natural materials, Ford will be able to deliver its best possible product. Their advancements could save customers a combined fuel cost savings of $255 million.

Evaluation Leads to Innovation: Exploring Day 2 of the Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo

They are integrating virtual reality to train employees and reduce their injury rate. “The world’s changing right in front of us,” Washington says. Global trends are influencing Ford to look into opportunities like automated transportation services, an over $2 billion industry.  While this might seem like a concern because automated transportation has the potential to impact Ford’s business in one area, it will open up business in others. Their attentiveness to new trends and integration while maintaining a customer focus makes for a shining example of a historic company staying competitive all while evolving.

Manufacturing environments are becoming more agile with the move in the digital direction. Demand-driven methods to drive end-to-production flow can position companies like and unlike Ford to become the Factory of the Future. John Maher, the VP of Product Strategy for Synchrono, Inc., asserted in his presentation, “Modern Demand-Driven Manufacturing: Myths, Strategies and Realities for Enabling Smart Manufacturing,” that real-time control and communication means increased visibility and better output in supply chains. Digitization, synchronization, and visualization are tools for attributing meaningful context to data, aligning all elements in the manufacturing process, and streamlining delivery.

While innovation might seem like a necessity, sometimes companies are not always willing to make the change. As Steven L. Blue of Miller Ingenuity pointed out in his session “From Dumb Metal to Neutral Networks: How A Rust Belt Manufacturer Transformed Itself,” the most difficult parts of making a shift are not actually involved with technology, rather they involve culture. There are seven values of ingenuity: Respect, Integrity, Teamwork, Community, Commitment, Excellence, and Innovation. Refusing to innovate can result in the loss of business, which is why companies must make the sacrifices necessary to nurture their advancements and “cut out” those who resist. In order to innovate, leaders must put it first. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to be unorthodox. Reach out, listen, and engage with customers. While making changes, consider the feedback and make adjustments.

Evaluation Leads to Innovation: Exploring Day 2 of the Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo

Brett Wood, President and CEO of Toyota Material Handling, discussed the importance of hands-on management. Three E’s must be employed for associates: educate, engage, and empower. Consistency in delivery is necessary for reliability. Daily meetings must be implemented in order to maintain a culture of continuous improvement by evaluating the day before as well as the current standpoints of production. Progress must also have a way of being tracked. Wood recommends going beyond having others check progress and going in as a leader to see the functionality for yourself. This is a great opportunity to ask for input from employees as well as in person feedback requests from customers. Change starts at the top. As a result, being the example and implementing a culture of excellence must start there.

Looking at the different company elements can give an idea of which areas need the most innovation. While many pillars of functionality appear to be in place for top quality operations, there may be faults in them. These faults are most prominent when jumping from a moment of pressure to perform to moments when production efforts are flying under the radar. According to Shane Yount of Competitive Solutions, Inc. in the session “Business Bootcamp: How Successful Organizations Are Increasing Engagement, Execution, and Earnings,” operations tend to involve selective engagement rather than collective accountability. In situations like this, few take control while others are not delivering. Sometimes, operations will receive a boost when they know they are under evaluation. During these points in time they shoot to the level where they should be, dropping back down after executives or leadership leave. One of the best practices as a response is to give everyone a slice of responsibility. When responsibility is shared, everyone has a role, every role is evaluated, and every evaluation makes sure that the roles are successfully contributing to the overall goals of the organization.

Evaluation Leads to Innovation: Exploring Day 2 of the Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo

Evaluation of what is on the inside of an organization can help it deliver products and services on the outside. By looking at production, opportunities, culture, and needs, companies can determine how they need to improve and what innovations they can both implement in addition to what innovations they can create. While every innovation is not fit for every organization, understanding opportunity begins with careful review. On the other hand, some of these best practices are universal necessities, and neglecting to implement them could lead to negative results for an organization.

Tomorrow is Day 3 of the M&T Show which wraps up the event.


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