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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.

dvirc

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!

We live in interesting times, where an inane political debate makes it seem that with a wave of a magic wand, an entire industry can be transformed overnight.

It won’t happen like that, folks.

It will happen through constant innovation, big bold moves, skill set reinvention and challenging thinking that will – and already is — providing for significant transformation.

I speak at quite a few major manufacturing events. Here’s a clip where I’m in front of 2,000 manufacturing executives and engineers in Chicago a few months ago, speaking to the reality of what is occurring on the ground.

The Globe & Mail in Toronto ran a great article last week, which included some key statistics on the reality of manufacturing in America. Those in the sector should keep these in mind, in light of the stupidity of the political debate, and the reality of the real opportunity:

  • in 1960, 24% of the US labor force was involved in manufacturing, while today, that number is 8% (yes, 5 million jobs have vanished)
  • robotics and intelligent manufacturing technology has replace far more US workers than have Mexican or Chinese faciltiies
  • today US factories produce twice as much stuff as they did in 1984 but with 1/3 fewer workers
  • manufacturing as a % of GDP is virtually unchanged since 1960
  • much of US manufacturing has shifted from the rustbelt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan to Southern states, much of which has involved significant new intelligent facilities

It’s kind of sad and tragic that a sector which has been so busy innovating finds itself in the midst of what really is a dishonest debate.

The key going forward? Manufacturing needs to continue to focus on what it has done so well in the past — innovate, focus on the future, reinvent!

Last week, I keynoted the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Chicago, with a focus on both the future of health care and manufacturing technology.

Scanadu

The Scanadu Scout is a crowdfunded “medical tricorder”, as envisaged in science fiction. The medical device industry will now find that science is becoming truer faster, requiring ever faster change as innovation speeds up!

The folks over at DesignNews and other publications picked up my talk; here’s an article they ran which covered some of my remarks.

The trend toward “bio-connectivity” is gaining momentum, and medical device manufacturers need to be ready to bring that connectivity to next-generation products, a futurist at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show said this week.

“The number of in-person visits to hospitals is decreasing and the number of bio-connective, virtual visits is increasing,” Jim Carroll, futurist and author, told a gathering of engineers at the show.

Carroll challenged engineers and device manufacturers there to examine those trends and to be ready use them to innovate their products. He cited statistics showing that there are now 17,000 healthcare software apps available for smartphones, and noted that 78 percent of consumers have expressed interest in such apps. Moreover, he predicted that 500 million smartphone users will be employing health and wellness apps in the next few years. ”The patient is changing; the consumer is changing,” he noted. “And we need to align ourselves to the changes that are occurring.”

Today’s doctors are more likely to do patient consultations over Skype, Carroll said, adding that 40 percent of physicians are now willing to track patients via text messaging, email, and Facebook. He cited examples of such companies as Withings Inc., which makes a blood pressure monitor for use with iPhones and iPads, and MedCottage, which sells one bedroom “granny pods” that can be placed in the backyards of families caring for elderly patients. The cottage incorporates cameras and sensors, enabling patients to be monitored and managed from afar.

Carroll also pointed to a growing number of diabetes management technologies that enable patients to monitor themselves at home and share their data with physicians.

Some high-level healthcare executives have gone as far as to say that the need for dedicated central facilities is changing, Carroll said. “One CEO said that the concept of a hospital as a physical place is disappearing,” he told the audience of engineers. “Eventually, it’s going to go virtual.”

Carroll warned engineers not to discount such trends. He described a technical conference a few years ago where manufacturing executives laughed aloud at the prospect of anyone using 3D printers. Now, he said, engineers routinely shop for such systems at technical conferences. ”World class innovators look out at the future and see a trend, not a threat,” he said. “They see an opportunity.”

As we wind down 2011, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the events I highlighted this year. It proved to be quite the year year, with many fascinating events where I opened or closed a large scale conference or corporate meeting with a keynote address.

One of Jim's key themes is the opportunities of the future - at one in Las Vegas, one fellow was so inspired by the message that he asked Jim when he might consider running for President of the United States. Click to watch!

As we approach the end of the year, everyone turns their attention to 2012 — and begins to wonder “what comes next?” All of my clients are focused on that theme when they engage me for a keynote or corporate workshop — and so a sense of what they were thinking about in 2011 gives you a good sense of what’s going to be important in 2012!

Some of the highlights from this year includes these events:

  • CSC Executive Exchange 2011, St. Andrews, Scotland. A small, intimate, invitation only event where I shared keynote duties with Jimmy Wales, the Founder of WikiPedia. I had CEO’s, CIO’s and CFO’s of some pretty major global organizations. Key theme: “The Next Wave of Digital Game-Changers” – I took a look at how every industry is soon to be caught up in Silicon Valley velocity, as technological comes to change every industry at lightening speed.
  • McKesson IdeaShare 2011, San Francisco, California. Changing roles, changing opportunities. I open this annual event with a message for 4,500 pharmacist / owners that with significant challenges and change in the world of healthcare and retail, the time is ripe for them to innovate with their role and their methods because their has never provided a bigger time for opportunity. The big theme: “Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future.” This proved to be a huge topic for this year, and continues into 2012, as people come to seek insight on what will really happen in the world of healthcare beyond the current political rhetoric.
  • Multi-Unit Franchising Conference 2011, Las Vegas. I share the stage with Sean Tuohy, subject of the Blind Side, who owns quite a few franchise operations on his own. The focus in my keynote is on the fast changes occurring in the world of retail with consumers, technology, advertising and branding, social networking – you name it all!
  • US Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio: This group, which controls the entire research budget for the Air Force, brings me in to open a conference in which they examine new opportunities and methodologies for innovative thinking. Fascinating audience, and indicative of the fact that every organization realizes that the world is changing so fast that a lot of traditional assumptions about innovation and R&D are changing at lightening speed!
  • Consumer Goods Technology Magazine 2011 , Orlando, Florida. The pre-eminent conference for packaged goods, food and consumer products companies, with a huge number of Fortune 500 executives. My theme focuses on ‘what world class innovators do that others don’t do‘, particularly to keep up with changing consumers, mobile technologies, social networks and a variety of other trends. It leads to a blog post by one fellow, “Some mind blowing stats from Jim Carroll ….” Big themes: “Mobile, Social, Location!
  • Maple Leaf Foods, Toronto, Canada. A blog post, “Food industry trends 2011; Report from a keynote” was based on this talk. This blog post is now one of the first search results for anyone searching for anything having to do with food trends — and is now easily the most trafficked Web page on my site. After health care, food trends is probably the second busiest topic area for the year.
  • T. Rowe Price 2011 Investment Symposium. 600 investment managers, senior executives and CEO’s. The other keynotes are Colin Powell and Charlie Cook. My job is to close this two day event with an inspirational, motivational message based on the theme “When Do We Get to Normal? Why Thinking BIG Will Help You Seize The Opportunities of the 21st Century.”
  • World Pharma Innovation Congress, London, UK. I’m honored to open this renowned global conference on innovation within their crucial sector – most of the global heavy hitters from the world of pharma and bio-science are in the room. Opportunities for growth and innovation are coming from hyper-science, opportunities for externally sourced innovation insight, and the big global ‘idea machine’ that is revolutionizing opportunities for innovative thinking.
  • Interactive Manufacturing Exchange, Las Vegas, Nevada. A massive highlight from September — with a dinner keynote for 600 major manufacturing executives, and a morning keynote for 1,000 more. My keynote focus is that there is plenty of room for growth in the North American manufacturing sector, given the tremendous advances that have occurred with methodology and technology. My message must have resonated — after my talk, one fellow got up during the Q&A and asked if I would consider running for President of the US!
  • DSSI Forum, San Antonio, Texas. One of the largest seniors care conferences in the US. I spoke at length and with passion about the big opportunities for innovative thinking in the sector, particularly in light of the big challenges that society faces. This was a very personal event; those who know me well know that we have learned quite a bit about the challenges society faces with Alzheimer’s as a close family member has suffered from the disease.
  • Lockheed Martin, Washington, DC. I’m asked to speak at their 2011 global HR conference. The organization is aligning itself to deal with fast paced change in ever sector of its operations: my theme is what companies are doing o achieve “skills agility”, and why the issue of “deploying the right skills at the right time for the right purpose” is an increasingly important model for the future.
  • Pearson 2011. The future of education. A talk that linked key future trends to the need for massive, transformation thinking in the world of knowledge delivery. Noted one attendee: “Jim Carroll gave a particularly poignant keynote address about the need for true, innovative thinking.  (Think of a 5 year mission on steroids…)”
  • Bombardier Global Operators Conference. The future of corporate and leisure travel. Manufacturing innovation. Consumer change, and the impact of mobility. A wide ranging talk that challenges global airline operators to think about innovation in every aspect of their operations.
  • Fairmont / Raffles Hotels International. A corporate event, focused on the future of the global meetings and events industry. Key theme: organizations will increasingly require short, sharp shocks of knowledge delivery — corporate meetings and events are a big part of this trend, and are a key part of the short term strategic planning cycles that organizations are focused upon.
  • Texas CattleFeeders Association, Amarillo, Texas. The 2nd of two major talks for the cattle/beef industry in the US. Earlier in the year, I opened a private event that had in the room the top 100 cattle ranchers from across the country – representing a  multi-billion dollar investment. My keynotes focus on the significant opportunities for growth in the agricultural industry.
  • International Foundation 57th annual Employee Benefits Congress, New Orleans, LA. A morning keynote for 4,500 people at 730AM in New Orleans — and they all show up, confirming that description that “what I do for a living is go out and talk to large groups of hungover people.” It’s a rousing talk on the theme of Healthcare 2020: Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Opportunities
  • Linde Health Group, Munich, Germany. Global opportunities in the world of healthcare – how do we link future trends to opportunities for growth.

There were quite a few other keynotes for associations, government and corporations. In addition to these high profile engagements, which featured audiences of up to 6,000, I also hosted a number of small CEO level events. In one case in Washington, I spent the morning with a small group of 15 CEO’s/CIO’s/CFO’s in a boardroom style setting, where we explored the opportunities for growth that coming from linking future trends to innovative thinking.

Advance bookings for 2012 are exceedingly strong — so far, I know I’ll be in Palm Springs, Tampa, Orlando, Phoenix, Aspen, New Orleans (x2), San Antonio and many other locations.

Think growth. Think opportunity. Think trends. Think positive!

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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