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Engineering in America

Leaders in Manufacturing on What to Expect Next from the Industry

Photo: Courtesy of Louis Reed

Our panel of experts in manufacturing talk to Mediaplanet about the obstacles and opportunities in the industry’s future.

Derek Coughlin

Superior Glove, Key Industry Manager – Automotive and Metal

How is your industry benefiting from the renewed focus on manufacturing in the U.S.? 

70% of hand injuries in the United States workforce happen when an employee isn’t wearing gloves. As a work glove manufacturer, a renewed focus on manufacturing in the U.S. means that there are more hands to put gloves on. But it also means that we’re challenged with educating people on why protecting their hands is so important.

What can we do to bridge the skilled labor gap?

More money needs to be invested in programs to promote skills needed in these sectors. We need to return to funding trade schools, bring shop programs back to public high schools and let kids entering high school know that there are other options than four-year college programs.

What innovations in manufacturing are changing the industry? 

Three decades ago most of the gloves we manufactured were made of leather. Today we can create yarns that protect you from butcher knives, hypodermic needles or chainsaws. The ability to create yarns that have better protective properties, higher levels of comfort and less bulk are revolutionizing the way we do business.

What are the major challenges for manufacturing companies today? 

Cost will always be the biggest challenge. Gloves made overseas will have a cheaper price tag but won’t last as long. That means that we have to do extra legwork to explain to our customers that our gloves might be $2 more per pair but they’ll get five uses out of the glove instead of one.

How would you advise manufacturers about implementing effective safety strategies?

Look at the jobs in that are being done in your facility and the risks involved. Find ways to eliminate those risks through lockout/tagout, machine guarding, etc. Then find the personal protective equipment (PPE) that will stand up to those hazards. Make getting your employees home safe at the end of the day your primary concern.

Mike Schlagenhaufer

Manufacturing Business Segment Specialist

How is your industry benefiting from the renewed focus on manufacturing in the U.S.? 

A focus on manufacturing in the U.S. is not only leading to expansion of the sector, but also triggering the creation of startup companies. This is creating growth in jobs, payroll, and property, which increases the amount of insurance coverage needed by manufacturers we insure. Additionally, more manufacturing will also drive growth in construction, trucking, and other related industries that are also in our insurance portfolio.

What can we do to bridge the skilled labor gap? 

Apprenticeship programs are a great way to grow the pool of skilled employees and bridge the skilled labor gap. Another benefit of apprenticeship programs is that employees who have had the opportunity to learn a trade or skill at a company are often more loyal and tend to stay with the company longer. Reduced turnover can also save a company a great deal of money.

What innovations in manufacturing are changing the industry? 

In the last two years, innovation in manufacturing has gone from linear growth to exponential growth. One key driver is the Industrial Internet of Things, which has driven innovation and the push to make manufacturing parts smaller. Another innovation changing manufacturing is Artificial Intelligence (AI), making machines smarter. Machines can now make “decisions” just like humans. This is still in the beginning, but has quickly grown and is accepted by many manufacturers, especially in mid- to high-volume manufacturing.

What are the major challenges for manufacturing companies today? 

Finding and retaining quality people is a major challenge for manufacturers. No matter how good your processes are, it is the people on the floor who make things happen. Another challenge is that manufacturing can be slow to adopt new technology, especially in small and midsize companies. If manufacturers are not willing to invest in new technology, they will not be able to stay competitive in today’s manufacturing environment.

How would you advise manufacturers about implementing effective safety strategies? 

I believe the key to safety is to promote a safety culture. A few posters and some yellow paint will not prevent injuries. A true safety culture includes everyone—from third-shift machine operators to the CEO. To create a safety culture, everyone needs to make themselves accountable.  You need to take all concerns seriously and follow up on them. Safety doesn’t happen by mistake—it happens when the company has a culture of openness with good communication.

Paul Farrell

Senior Vice President Product Marketing, NetSuite

How is your industry benefiting from the renewed focus on manufacturing in the U.S.?
Manufacturing is a major vertical for NetSuite.  So the resurgence in US manufacturing is great for our team focused on manufacturing.  NetSuite is a modern cloud solution that not only helps manufacturers with traditional functions like engineering, planning, manufacturing, MES etc also helps companies take advantage of other competitive technologies such as Omnichannel Commerce, Supply Chain Collaboration, IOT etc.  Many companies that are on shoring have a flexible fulfillment model and work collaborative with sophisticated supply chains.  NetSuite has a large number of customers and features that support businesses who need to work in that model.  So NetSuite is benefiting from a growth in modern manufacturers that need this type of flexibility.

What can we do to bridge the skilled labor gap

NetSuite can help this in a number of ways.  Recently we released SuitePeople an embedded HR solution that helps companies recruit, nurture and reatain the right talent.  Rather than a bolt on HR product which many companies have SuitePeople ensures people information is front and center across the entire organization.  NetSuite is also a modern cloud product which means, unlike traditional solutions, it is built to be easily accessible to the entire organization.  It does this through its consumer oriented design which makes it not only easy to learn but easy to master.  Millennials coming into the workforce don’t want esoteric difficult to learn experiences.  They want easy to use products that they can run on their own devices , whether it be PC, tablet or phone and able to access it 24x7x365 from the office, home or on the go, as well as personalizing it to meet their needs.  NetSuite also has SuiteSocial at its core.  This a solution that allows collaboration across the business ensuring employees are able to ask questions and socialize issues.  Hence share knowledge and expertise quickly and effectively across the company.   NetSuite is a solution that truly reflects and support the modern workforce: easy to use, always connected and mobile.

What innovations in manufacturing are changing the industry?/ What are the major challenges for manufacturing companies today?

Manufacturing is going through multiple changes.

Business are focusing on where they truly add value and then using networks of companies to supply key elements of value.   Many of  these would have traditionally carried out in house.  For example the company may design, engineer and market the product and use local contractors to manufacture or fulfill the products.  Or may manufacture some and outsource others.  In short manufacturers are part of supply chains that are getting closer together and need tighter collaboration than just simple sales and purchase contracts.  They may collaborate on any information.  So it is vital that manufacturers have collaborative business systems that allow the seamless secure collaboration.  Many manufacturers are on old on premise systems that are difficult to open up to the outside world.  These companies will find it very cost prohibitive to work in the connected world of the modern manufacturer.

Getting close to the customer: Manufacturers are getting closer to their customers.  Rather than going through distribution networks many manufacturers are educating and selling directly to the end customer.  This is driving the need for sophisticated omnichannel commerce solutions  as well as the need to grow global sales and distribution presence.  Many manufacturers have systems that will only function in the USA and have little if any b2c commerce capabilities.

IOT is also driving automation: Not just within the 4 walls (Industrial IOT, machine integration etc) but also the way in which products are communicating back( requesting service, spare parts consumables etc).  It is vital for manufacturers to be able to change their workflows to automate processes driven by IOT.  Rigid business systems that require coding or extensive upgrades in order to accommodate this flexibility will place their users at a terrible disadvantage in this new automated world.

Intelligence: We are seeing a huge growth in data (The NetSuite cloud grows at over 9TB/day).  New intelligent technologies will help companies make smarter more timely decisions by learning business patterns and processes and pushing the information to us at the right time in the right context.

Technology and Best Practice: We are at a stage in business where Best Practice is falling behind technology.  In short if you are implementing or aspiring to best practice you are already falling behind.  It’s vital that manufacturers look beyond best practice and partner with leading vendors that can deliver the technology base that is always up to date and will allow a company to stay ahead of the pack. Again many manufacturers are utilizing on premise products that are stuck on old versions of the product built around old best practice.  Companies stuck on this technology will find it more and more difficult to compete. 

How would you advise manufacturers about implementing effective safety strategies?

Ensure your technology backbone is Modern, Relevant and Cloud.  A modern product will support traditional and emerging business models, allow workflows to be changed on the fly, support omnichannel commerce and be able to integrate up and down the supply chain.  A relevant product will be built for you industry and not only have the functionality but also the leading practices (not best practice) your industry needs as well as a consumption model that allows you to rapidly implement and take on the capability at a pace you company can accommodate.   A true cloud product (and there are many pretend players out there) will ensure you are on a platform that is always up to date, always on, easy to use and collaborative up and down the supply chan.

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