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While the popular media and opportunistic politicians portray a picture of a sector in crisis, smart manufacturing executives are furiously busy with innovation, reinventing their capabilities, processes and business models.

And as they do so, they are certainly keeping me busy, as I do an ever increasing number of keynotes in the manufacturing sector.

My talks are helping them to  understand the opportunities for innovation that come from aligning to fast paced trends. The impact of the cloud. Additive manufacturing. Build to demand, as opposed to build to inventory, business models. The role of the Internet of Things in product innovation as well as manufacturing process innovation. Spatial-innovation with advanced manufacturing robotics. New materials and substances that allow for change in product development. Rapid prototyping, sketch to scale, and agility-based business models….

What a time for innovation opportunity, and for insight from a great keynote that really puts all of these trends into perspective…

In just a few weeks, for example, I’ll be the opening keynote speaker for the Greater Philadelphia Manufacturing Summit.

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Tomorrow, I’m in Minneapolis for Alignex, where I keynote their Solidworks  2017 event:

alignex

And just last Friday, I was the closing keynote for the annual conference of the Association of Hi-Tech Distributors out in Napa, putting into perspective how the Internet of Things provides them massive opportunity.
ahtd

Through the years, I’ve keynoted some of the largest manufacturing conferences in the US, including over 2,000 manufacturing engineers at the Interactive Manufacturing Exchange (IMX) in Las Vegas, as well as a ‘private’ dinner talk for 600 manufacturing CEO’s at the same event. I headlined the BigM Manufacturing Conference in Detroit, with a focus on how the automotive sector is busy transforming itself, as well as the Siemens Manufacturing in America conference just a few months ago.

The list goes on.

Take some time to explore the video and blog posts in the manufacturing section of my Web site. You’ll be amazed to realize that rather than being a sector that is in the midst of decline, it’s a renaissance industry!

I had a long conversation with a potential client in the manufacturing sector the other day; they’re looking to bring me in for a keynote in 2016. I’ve developed a reputation in the industry for some cutting edge insight into the key trends that are redefining every single aspect of the sector at an extremely furious, fast pace. I’ve headlined events for tens of thousands at major manufacturing conferences in Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and Detroit.

Jim Carroll on stage in September 2011, keynoting the IMXchange - Interactive Manufacturing Exchange -- conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

Jim Carroll on stage in Las Vegas keynoting the IMXchange – Interactive Manufacturing Exchange conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

What’s going on? Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • collapsing product life cycles – simply put, products don’t have as long a lifespan in terms of relevance, consumer attention, rapid escalation of design ideas — whatever the case may be, with shorter life spans, manufacturing organizations are having to pick up the pace!
  • the Internet of Things and product redefinition – every device becomes connected, intelligent, aware… this has major implications in terms of how devices are designed and manufactured. Suddenly, many manufacturers are finding that they must integrate sophisticated user interface capabilities into their products, not to mention advanced computer and connectivity technology.
  • rapid design and rapid prototyping. We’ve seen incredible advances in the ability to conceive, design and develop new products faster than ever before. There is a constantly rising bar in terms of capabilities, and if you can’t pick up on this, you can be sure that your competitors will. The first to market with a new idea is often the winner.
  • the influence of crowdfunding on product design. There is no doubt that the global connectivity that the crowdfunding business model provides is resulting in a change in product conception. Suddenly, anyone can have an idea, fund it, design it, and bring it to market. What I’ve witnessed are situations where these small scale projects are light years ahead of what we’ve seen with established industry players. Crowdfunding is the new garage in many industries.
  • build to demand vs. build to inventory business models. Big auto companies build hundreds of thousands of vehicles, and shove them out to dealers hoping they sell. Tesla Motors takes an order, and builds the vehicle to send to the customer. Big difference — and this model is driving fundamental business model change across every aspect of the manufacturing sector.
  • agility and flexibility. The impact of build-to-demand models is that manufacturers must provide for a lot more change-capability throughout every aspect of the process, from supply chain to assembly to quality control. The ultimate in agility? The Magna factory in Graz, Austria, which can custom build a wide variety of automobiles from completely different car companies.
  • post-flat strategies. What happens when the world gets flat? Put a ripple in it! That’s been the focus of a few of my keynotes for several manufacturing clients. I’ve spoken about organizations who have evolved from having to compete with low-cost producers by focusing on price, to a new product lineup that is based on quality, consumer perception, brand identity, or IoT connectivity.
  • faster time to market. Consumers today have perilously short attention spans. In some sectors, such as fashion, high-tech (smartphones!), food and others, you’ve got to get your product to market in an instant — otherwise, you lose your opportunity.
  • rapidly emerging consumer demand. Closely related to time to market is the fact that new fashion, taste trends or other concepts now emerge faster given the impact of social networks. Think about the impact of food trucks — people can now experiment with new taste trends at an extremely low price point. The result is that new taste trends emerge faster — and food companies must scramble to get new products out to the customer faster. Long, luxurious product development lead times are from ‘the olden days.’ If you can’t speed up, you won’t be able to compete.
  • the fast emergence of same day delivery business models. Amazon, WalMart, Google and others are quickly building big infrastructure that provides for same day shipping. This has a ripple impact on demand, inventory, logistics …. a massive change from the old world of stockpiled inventory.
  • the arrival of 3D, additive manufacturing 3D printers and the inevitable shift to “additive manufacturing” from “subtractive manufacturing based on cutting, drilling and bashing metal..  probably the biggest change the industry will witness in coming years.
  • the acceleration of education requirements. Robotics, advanced manufacturing methodologies, machinining-in-the-cloud, advanced ERP processes : you name it, the skill of 10 years or even 5 years ago doesn’t cut it today. I had one client in the robotics sector observe that “the education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.” That’s the new reality going forward!

That’s a lot of change, and there’s even more underway.

Want more? Watch this!

VIDEO: Atlantic Design and Manufacturing 2013 Interview with Innovation Expert Jim Carroll from ThomasNet on Vimeo.

One thing I love to do when I’m working with an audience is to build a totally interactive keynote with them.

Jim Carroll has set the conference world on fire with his live, interactive text message / mobile phone polling from the stage.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve got 40 people in the room and I do some simple Q&A, or if I’ve got 2,000 in a cavernous Las Vegas conference hall.

In the latter case, I do a series of live text message polls – people use their cell phones and other mobile devices to give me a sense as to what they are thinking about the issues I’ve built into my talk.

Manufacturing Engineering Magazine just ran an article commenting on the live text message poll that I did during my keynote at the IMX 2011 – Interactive Manufacturing Exchange Conference – in Las Vegas last month.

This type of interaction matters — it helps me to shape my comments and the direction of my remarks to the mindset that exists in the room. Consider the comments, because this is significant:

Up Front – Your Opinion Matters
1 October 2011, Manufacturing Engineering

Anyone who can text can take part in a real-time opinion poll. This was demonstrated at the imX keynote address of Jim Carroll, global futurist and trends and innovation expert (his billing). Carroll asked a basic question about how optimistic/pessimistic the authence was about the future of the economy, Authence response through texting was displayed on monitors in real-time as they “voted” with their fingers. The audience of manufacturers, their suppliers, and technologists who shape the future of manufacturing was more optimistic about the future than the headlines in any of our major media would lead one to believe they would be.

It goes without saying that that same manufacturing authence and our readers would have the best opinions about how to ensure that public policy- too often heid hostage by politicians- could best serve the interests of manufacturing. Policy should support and not hinder manufacturers in the successful use of all the resources available to them.

There’s a key issue that I’ve observed with manufacturing audiences through this type of live interaction that is quite worth mentioning — and that is that North American manufacturing executives tend to be far more optimistic about the state of the economic recovery then any other industry group I deal with.

This, despite the drumbeat of news negativity that continues around the sector. I asked the audience about this issue — whether the reality they saw matched what they saw in the media. The response was pretty overwhelming:

And there’s the paradox: everyone is convinced that manufacturing in America is dead – except for those who actually work within the sector.

I’ve never encountered a sector with such a degree of optimism about the future. And believe me, I deal with virtually every type of industry out there, and have been doing this type of live interactive polling on stage for over four years. I ask every single audience what they think is going on with the global economy. (You can watch me doing this when I opened the PGA – Professional Golfers Association of America — conference last year in Boston.)

At the IMX conference and at a previous keynote for a manufacturing group in Ohio, I was floored by the optimism in the room. I don’t see this mindset to exist anywhere else, to be quite honest, regardless of where I’m speaking in the world

And this mindset in manufacturing is confirmed by the number of forward looking inquiries and bookings that I have with various manufacturing groups and conferences going forward from here.

There’s a variety of attitudes at work, some of which I spoke at IMX in Las Vegas:

  • the industry has seen tremendous opportunities for innovation through advanced technology and changes within the manufacturing process
  • manufacturers are learning quickly how to streamline the process, such that they can focus more on agility and such capabilities as mass customization
  • the rapid emergence of new methodologies such as 3D printing is providing new opportunities for transformation in process
  • the arrival of the ‘digital natives’ is accelerating the rate of adoption of new ways of doing things

What it is really leading to is a fascinating new trend that I think is just bubbling below the surface, but that I suspect will be mainstream within the year — “Build America.”

There’s a realization and a push within the manufacturing sector that given this new mindset and the capabilities that emerged, with the emergence of challenges within the global supply chain (i.e. Japan and the tsunami), the impact of increasing Asian wage inflation (the Chinese cost advantage beings to erode); and the eventual arrival of reskilled, retained American workers who can work within the new sophistication of American manufacturing — that the time has come for the sector to grab the reins once again and show the world what can be done with American ingenuity and innovation.

It’s there — I can see it with my audiences — and it’s my projection that there is a real and significant mindset and trend here.

You saw it here first, folks: Build America.

  • Jim Carroll’s “Manufacturing Trends” page  
  • The Future of North American Manufacturing? Brighter Than You Think 
  • Report from the Heartland: Is there life in manufacturing in Ohio? You Bet! 

 

Last week, I spoke to several hundred manufacturing executives from throughout North America, at IMX Las Vegas — the Interactive Manufacturing Exchange!

Here’s a key clip from the start of the keynote. Watch it, and ask yourself — are you guilty of focusing on short term volatility — or are focused on opportunity of the long term?

I’ve just returned from Las Vegas, where I was the keynote speaker for a new manufacturing conference that has attracted quite a bit of attention – IMX 2011 – “The Interactive Manufacturing Experience.”

Seen on Twitter: “@imXevent this morning’s speaker Jim Carroll was amazing and insightful! had powerful information! #imXevent”

I was in esteemed company on the stage; the other two keynote speakers were Peter Schutz, author and retired CEO of Porsche AG, and President Barack Obama’s new “Chief Manufacturing Officer, Michael Molnar, who chose this conference to deliver his first public address.

I actually had two keynotes, starting out with a quick 20 minute talk at the Gala celebration dinner on the second day of the conference, an invitation only event with the CEO’s and senior management of some of the largest manufacturing based organizations worldwide. The next morning featured an opening keynote for Day 3, for about 400 manufacturing executives.

Let’s turn to the Gala. It was a celebratory dinner — and my goal came to be one of highlighing the transformative trends that are driving the manufacturing industry in North America forward and providing for future opportunity and potential rebirth of the sector.

Wait a moment, you might think! Isn’t this an industry that is dying by degrees? Certainly the media spin is that manufacturing in North America might be all but over!

Consider, for example, a headline that ran in the Huffington Post just a few days before my talk:

The article goes on to note that August saw a net loss of “3,000 jobs” — and that perhaps this is a sign of the yet continuing decline of the industry.

My first bit of advice to the audience. Knowing that economic volatility is the new normal, they should tune out the day to day media noise, and focus on the fact that there is a significant reinvention and transformation of the manufacturing sector that is well underway!

Given that, what’s the mindset of some of the leading manufacturing based organizations from throughout North America. On the stage, i summoned up a quick text message poll: and in a matter of two minutes, had a good summary of the belief in the room that an economic recovery was well underway:

This echoes the experience I had earlier this year when I keynoted Techsolve 2011, a meeting of leading manufacturers in the state of Ohio (Read: “Report from the Heartland: Is There Life in Manufacturing in Ohio?” You Bet!“) — who also responded in resounding fashion that they believe the economic recovery is happening now.

So what’s going on in the world of manufacturing that’s “right” and that will allow organizations to seize advantage of opportunity in the future.

Many things which I began to cover off in my keynote. Read these points and check the related posts, since it will help to clarify each point where necessary.

Agility: I wrote a story into an article a few years back — actually, about 2004. It’s self explanatory on the agility theme:

I recently spent time with the CIO of a US-based patio furniture manufacturer. His organization was hammered in the last decade by countless factors, including the fact that a Chinese manufacturer could provide a similar product for a much lower price.

He convinced his leadership team that it needed a financial management system that would permit it to run leaner, faster and with more insight into operations. The company spent a whack of money on it and suffered greatly with the challenges that came with implementation.

Then one day, it reaped the rewards of a financial management insight system. Last winter, it had a call from Wal-Mart, asking if it might supply 110,000 patio swings; Wal-Mart was unable to source the product from its usual Chinese supplier. With the analytical tools the organization had put in place it was able to look up and down the supply chain to ensure supplies could be immediately sourced. In an instant, it was able to analyse the numbers and determine a price bid it could live with. It examined its resources and changed the production schedule to fit things in. The company was able to go to production two weeks later, delivering the product in advance of the order date, and on budget.

The company had the agility necessary to respond to a world of rapid change — and serve as a perfect case study of what we can really do when we focus on the benefits that sophisticated accounting insight can bring.

There’s a tremendous amount of focus on agility today, and it is one of the key trends that is driving the transformation of the sector.

Flexibility: I often compare the “old” business model of “building to inventory” to the new business model of building to demand. Read my blog post, in which I compared the approach of Ford, vs that of Honda. (“The new face of manufacturing: agility, insight and execution“. ) There’s also YouTube video you can watch – “Innovators focus on corporate agility.” I’m that video I’m actually on stage for 3,000 people for a global food company — in the exact same conference room at the Bellagio hotel a few years previous to the IMX event! Another key concept is that of “chameleon revenue” — success comes from the ability to generate new streams of revenue that haven’t existed before. Read “Innovation and the concept of chameleon revenue” for insight into what is happening here.

Post-flat strategies: smart companies avoid the complications of the “flat-world” by changing the rules of the game. Take a look at “What do you do after the world gets flat? Put a ripple in it!” in which I outline the attributes that I’ve seen successful manufacturing organizations make. And for more enthusiasm, read a 2008 post, “Is there hope for manufacturing?” which continues with the theme.

Faster time to market: tools have emerged that permit rapid industrial design: rapid concept generation, rapid concept development, and rapid prototyping.  We’ve got the capable for physical plant modelling, virtual commissioning, process simulation, analysis of factory flow in a virtual tool pre-design — all kinds of new capabilities. Quite simply, organizations that upgrade their skills and capabilities with these new tools are discovering the very real pathway to agility and flexibility.

Arrival of the digital natives: The speed with which the new methodologies is being adopted is increasing due to the arrival of a new generation of tech-savvy, innovation-oriented, open-minded individuals who are fully ready and willing to exploit and take advantage of every digital tool, methodology and capability to expand the capabilities of the manufacturing sector to respond to the demands of todays new, fast paced world.

The tinkering economy. Spend some time at MakerBot, Ponoko (which bills itself as “your personal factory….” or similar sites, and you’ll discover an entire global collaborative culture that is sharing ideas and insight on how to “build the next thing.” This “tinkering mindset” is going to influence manufacturing, for it is drawing in the skills and interest of this next generation, and also their unique way of thinking about the world. Read the article “Tinkering Makes a Comeback Amid Crisis” and you’ll get a sense of the fascinating things that are underway — and project this trend into its impact on manufacturing.

The inevitability of mass customization: Of course, one way of avoiding a “flat-world” is by premium pricing your product — and you can do that by establishing a market of one. Mass customization has been around a long time, and there are a number of successful examples. Yet the arrival of the digital natives is going to speed up this trend, helping to lead to a  resurgence of manufacturing.

New business model exploration: at the same time, they’re also busy exploring new methods of reaching out to consumers, raising equity funds, or collaborating on fascinating new projects. Sites like KickStarter.com are going to have a profound impact on manufacturing — for a really innovative story, take a look at the TikTok and LunaTik Multi Touch Watch Kits and the story behind their development.

Pervasive connectivity and intelligent assembly: the definitive trend for the next decade, in which “everything plugs into everything else.” Quite simply, we have a lot of opportunity to reinvent the future with transformative technology, because we will know three things about every device on the planet — including those that include the manufacturing process — their location, their status, and their Internet address. This is going to permit a STUNNING level of rethinking of assembly lines, manufacturing process and methodology, cost efficiency, and all kinds of other fascinating new opportunities. Not only that, but it leads to the opportunity to manufacture new intelligent devices for use in the areas of energy, health care, or just about anything else.

Transformation change: I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is yet to come. One of the most fascinating developments, well underway in the move from the conceptual to the practical stage, involves the use of “3D printers” and the inevitable shift to “additive manufacturing” from “subtractive manufacturing based on cutting, drilling and bashing metal…” There’s a good article on recent developments at MIT . Noted the Observer newspaper in a recent article: “Just as Bill Gates wanted to put a computer in every home …. all of us will eventually own a 3D printer. The key will be making them affordable.”

Here’s what it comes down to : there are a lot of negative trends happening with North American manufacturing. But as shown at IMX, there are also a lot of trends that are providing for transformative change and opportunity.

I closed my keynote with the observation that “some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend and see nothing but opportunity.” So it is in the world of manufacturing.

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