Industry Voices: Scot Webster

Scot Webster, Senior Vice President, CAS engineering and laboratory operations at Underwriters Laboratories, discusses the company’s latest global manufacturing and marketing report, The Product Mindset, with Plant Engineering.

02/18/2013


Scot WebsterQ: The 2012 UL study seems to indicate that last year was kind of a lost year for manufacturers – that concerns about the global economy were matched by concerns over product quality and safety. What’s your sense of the manufacturing pulse right now?

Our study shows that optimism has given way to realism impacted by numerous external forces including economic instability, political turmoil and natural disasters. Our sense of the manufacturing pulse right now is that these forces are still in play and thus their impact is still relevant today. Moreover, attributes such as environmental sustainability, responsible sourcing practices, country of origin, safety, and performance are having a greater influence on buying decisions.

Q: Quality does seem to be the key. From UL’s perspective, what are the barriers to product quality, and how can these be overcome?

It’s clear from our study that product quality is an imperative for both consumers and manufacturers, regardless of region or industry. Quality appears to be the factor manufacturers most believe will drive future success, and it’s what consumers most look for when making purchasing decisions. From UL’s perspective, we holistically view quality in terms of safety, environmental responsibility, performance, dependability and lack of defects.

The challenges to produce consistent, quality products are too numerous to name here, but they include key fundamentals such as effective, reliable sourcing partnerships, efficient, dependable manufacturing processes, and quality testing and inspection services. From our perspective, high quality and safety are most easily achieved when they are built into the product design versus testing for them in the end product. UL often partners with customers on powerful improvement tools such as early design engagements, six sigma and lean processes.

Q: The environmental pressures worldwide seem to be at least getting some attention in developing economies. What will it take for that to get more attention? Is the environment truly an economic issue for manufacturers as yet, or do we have some distance to go?

From our study, all indications are that the environment is becoming more important to manufacturers (with 80-90% of them stating sustainability is critical to their ability to compete effectively). Furthermore, manufacturers in emerging countries cite higher consumer demand for eco-friendly products than do manufacturers in developed countries. So, it appears that environmental concerns are growing across the globe. 

Q: The debate over “Made in the USA” vs. global sourcing continues, but it’s less of an issue worldwide. What is your view of global sourcing and its importance, both to manufacturers and to consumers?

The study clearly shows that what is in the product and where it is made are both equally important to consumers (not only where the products are manufactured but where its sourced ingredients or components come from). Likewise, manufacturers’ perspectives on the importance of country of origin on product quality has grown in importance.

Recently there have been some high profile published cases of companies bringing production back to the U.S. from overseas, however our study revealed that more than 76% of manufacturers believe global sourcing is a means to improve product quality, and 46% will increase their global sourcing over the next five years. The desire to find suppliers in new countries is often evidence of a manufacturer’s need to maintain compliance, reduce costs and increase quality. It appears that global sourcing will be a preferred supply chain choice for many manufacturers in the foreseeable future.

Q: What do you see as the keys to success in a global, competitive manufacturing environment?

There are many keys to success for manufacturers today. This study offers some insights to discover new keys and perhaps sharpen existing ones. One example is related to the quality and safety perception gap between manufacturers and consumers. Specifically, consumers are demanding safe, reliable, and quality products, but there is a consumer mindset that manufacturers value profits over these attributes. On the other hand, it’s clear that manufacturers value and invest in processes, sourcing, and testing to impact quality, safety and reliability. This perception gap might be lessened if manufactures were to provide greater transparency and educate consumers about how much they invest and what they do to incorporate quality and safety into their products.

The bottom line: Consumers continue to demand more and hold manufacturers accountable when there is a problem with a product. So the pressures are on for manufacturers to be trustworthy, to demonstrate a continued focus on quality and safety, to be more transparent, and to effectively manage complex supply chain challenges. I see the winners as being those who will continue to deliver customer value, on time, and at the right profitable price.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
click me