Hillary, Trump and the future of manufacturing
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This week the country turned its attention to candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone fundraising off promise not to testify against Trump Rivaling chants of 'USA,' 'lock him up' greet Flynn after sentencing hearing The Hill's 12:30 Report — Flynn awaits sentencing | White House signals it wants to avoid shutdown MORE and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE as they laid out their presidential plans, including initiatives around jobs. Despite all the opponents disagreed on, both candidates acknowledged that manufacturing will play a significant role in the future of this country.

What they may not know, however, is that the industry is undergoing a major transformation and facing an upheaval that will likely span the next four years. For manufacturers to live up to the high expectations of our politicians — and the nation — they need to start preparing now for change, including building a workforce with non-traditional skill sets and catering to consumer demands. The new face of manufacturing may surprise you.

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Change has been the one constant force in manufacturing over the last decade. Now, that upheaval is reaching a culminating point that many are calling revolutionary. As the election shines the national spotlight on the industry, we can take a closer look at the role manufacturing plays in our economy, spurring innovation, generating global commerce, and building the commerce infrastructure in communities across the nation.

Also, with National Manufacturing Day, October 7, just around the corner and the election not far behind, expect to see more of manufacturing’s issues and accomplishments in the headlines. That said, we also need to look beyond the rhetoric and also consider what’s not being said.

The age of digital transformation is here. Manufacturers are in the process of deciphering what this means to them and their stakeholders.

Many are still on the fence, wavering between investing in new IT strategies or cautiously waiting on the sidelines for the new factory floor processes and uses of data to be completely ironed out and proven. Most agree: Digitalization is still in early stages.

But, what exactly is digitalization and why should the average person care? The answer is simple: If you buy products, consume food or beverages, or live in a community which relies on manufacturing-related jobs, you will be impacted by digitalization.

This is an all-encompassing term that includes several game-changing technologies, such as internet-connected products, like your home’s front door, lights, and appliances that you can monitor while at work. It also includes robotics, 3D printing, and sensors to track the location of vehicles, like delivery trucks, and monitor environmental conditions, like making sure the truck delivering milk from the dairy to the local grocer maintains the right temperature throughout the journey.

Digitalization also gives the consumer a louder voice and a closer relationship with the manufacturer. Most consumers have spent time online shopping, communicating directly with the people who make the products, even designing customizations to the product, whether it is personalized shoes, a special order sofa in the fabric of their choice, team T-shirts, or M&Ms with a special message. The consumers who like that sort of thing, you will love the future of customer-driven manufacturing.

Connected data and collective insights is the type of change that is hitting manufacturing. It’s the new, out-of-the-box thinking that companies like Uber, Netflix, and Travelocity have employed in order to invent totally new ways of approaching a need and generating revenue. Who can predict what the next big idea will be?

Thanks to cloud computing with vast data storage space, machines that can learn to apply conditions, suppliers and shippers who can collaborate around the globe, and data science which can predict outcomes, it’s a whole new world of possibilities.   

Manufacturers are tapping into this and understand that they need to embrace new skillsets. Those old manufacturing jobs that were once the foundation of America are gone. They are not coming back. The politicians can talk about jobs all they want, but the future jobs in manufacturing are not the assemblers, welders, sorters, packers, and shippers of the glory days of blue collar employment. Now, manufacturers need creative thinkers, problem solvers, collaborators, engineers, mathematicians, and data experts.

They also need the storytellers and artists. Manufacturers need to tell stories about their products and their vision for the future to their potential customers, investors, suppliers, and employees--nearby and across the globe. This Fall as Manufacturing Day kicks into full swing and the rhetoric of the election cranks up a notch, keep in mind when manufacturing hits the headlines, as we know it will, it’s a new manufacturing. Give it another look.

Mark Humphlett is a Senior Director of Industry and Solution Strategy, Infor


 

 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.