The Future of Manufacturing: Behind the Scenes at the 2018 NAM Board Meeting

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Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. to represent Matrix 4 at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)'s board meeting. It was an honor to be among the biggest and best in manufacturing to identify and discuss macro trends, economics and policies impacting the industry.

It's an exciting time as manufacturing in the U.S. is still on the rise and momentum is building. A much different story compared to five years ago. We kicked off the meeting looking at the industry five years ago vs. today and the difference was stark.

In the latest NAM Manufacturer's Outlook Survey, we've seen strong levels of optimism among manufacturers for the last seven quarters (Figure 2). The survey also shows wages, product prices, sales, employment, capital expenditure, inventories and production are on the rise.

While optimism and growth is good, it's not a time to become complacent. We must leverage insights and opportunities to ensure we continue this momentum. 

Here are my top takeaways from the NAM boarding September 27 - 28, 2018:

Tariffs

There was a lot of discussion on tariffs and how they are impacting businesses. The group was divided on the benefits and challenges of this to each of their businesses and the uncertainty moving forward until we resolve with China.

Security

Cyber Security was another big topic last week, and seems to be each board meeting, as we see data breeches on the rise with manufacturing being one of the most targeted sectors. As M4 moves most of its business to the cloud, including IQMS, we will start to conduct additional training around phishing emails, security and how we stay protected.

Culture

Culture was a focus as well. I am excited to say M4 is doing a lot of the right things here but there is always opportunity for improvement. One thing was clear to me after they asked this question—would you invest more in people or equipment to deliver the most value? We are a business of people.

While we need equipment, technology and automation where possible to remain competitive, the most important investment we can make is in our people. I am excited to roll out stronger training programs and promote more inclusion with our core leadership team as we move forward.

People

Human Capital is a CEO's most valuable asset and the structure for transformation will be different from the traditional model. Research presented at the board meeting proved small, agile teams perform the best, in addition to wearing multiple hats and not being siloed into one role. Our teammates at M4 wear many hats well but I'm excited to look more into cross functional engagement.

Talent, not just people, is going to be an important part of maintaining our forward momentum. As the skills gap is expected increase, it will be crucial for M4 to hire teammates who get it, want it and can do it.

Technology

Lastly, Slack was discussed over dinner as the latest craze but many are having a hard time adopting it. I am proud to say that M4 is ahead of the curve here. Teammates have embraced the communication tool and are doing a pretty awesome job using it communicate purposefully. We push it to every level of the organization. Slack supports informal communication and provides accessibility to everyone, at all levels.

Looking Forward

In 2030, there is an estimated 85.2 Million worker deficit and $8.5 Trillion in unrealized annual revenue from the worker shortage. In manufacturing that translates to a 7.9 Millon worker deficit and $607 Billion in unrealized revenue.

As a 21st century manufacturing company, we are working to excite the next generation of skilled workers in our local community and beyond, supporting job training programs, promoting opportunities in the industry and building an internal culture that breaks the mold of traditional manufacturing and helps change the perception of skilled labor jobs.

What trends are you seeing in manufacturing as either a business or manufacturer? Connect with me and let me know.