Navigating the global manufacturing landscape

It takes persistence, but the world is waiting for your products.


The Global Manufacturing Forum, a roundtable discussion at the 2011 Manufacturing/Automation Summit, about how manufacturing on a global basis affects American manufacturing – and how it should affect American manufacturing.

Plant Engineering content manager Bob Vavra moderated the panel of speakers, which included Richard Clos from Accenture, Marco Seibert from Hannover Messe, and Mary T. Bunzel, from IBM.

Clos works with companies worldwide, typically in heavy industries such as pulp and paper, chemicals, and metals. He said that people have learned how to manufacture. “We’ve taught a lot of people how to be effective,” he said. “Maybe 20 years ago, if I were to go to India, I could have taken someone up the curve pretty rapidly. These days, everyone is good at it.”

Clos described a “maturity curve,” where in the beginning, companies achieve a higher rate of performance and growth. But as they mature, the change in performance and growth vs. effort begins to level off.

“Is there a way to get off that curve?” Clos asked. “You leave your competition on the primary maturity curve where they are just pecking away at incremental gains, and then it’s easier to go find ‘immaturity curves’,” he said. “That’s where high tech industry does a much better job. They’re actually on a reverse type of curve where they’re spending less but produce more performance.”

Clos suggested that the issue is not how to move further along the curve, it’s how to change the shape and direction of the curve. “We need to do a lot more of that in manufacturing,” he said.

A global forum

Siebert’s presentation discussed the challenges and benefits of collaboration in a global environment. The global marketplace presents more than just language barriers. “This is a challenge,” said Siebert. “That’s why we invite companies from all over the world every year to Hannover Messe to meet at one time, one place to negotiate to find new partners and prospective clients and save time and money.”

Siebert talked about the history and development of what has become Hannover Messe. “We started our business in the Middle Ages,” he said. “People created attention to their products. It was clear then that you have to present to show. In Paris around 1889, at ‘Galerie des Machines,’ they presented tools and machines, live presentations, and sold solutions. This is still allowed today in Europe. If you present products at the exhibition show, you’re allowed to sell them immediately.”

The organization that became Hannover Messe began in 1947 to support the recovery after World War II. “The name of the show was not the ‘Industrial Show,’ it was not ‘Industrial Automation,’ it was ‘Export Messe’ to show how to develop and how to recover the export effort.”

The pace of evolution

Bunzel focused on manufacturing culture, leadership, and how to succeed in a global manufacturing environment. “Companies are evolving at different paces,” said Bunzel. “New techniques and strategies have benefits that you can learn from. The benefits of organizations coming together for a live forum, for conversations, enable us to learn and expand our capabilities.

“People want to be excellent in their work – naturally,” Bunzel said. “If they don’t have a tool or direction, they evolve it on their own. While that information might be quite excellent in isolation, it is isolated. And the rest of the organization is not able to benefit from that.

“One of the ways that I see manufacturing evolving on a global perspective is through the joint effort of multi-cultures, multi-sites, coming together, picking really smart people to come together into governance so they can set the strategy for global approach to maintenance and operations,” Bunzel continued.

“With these representatives from a variety of different places coming together, they can bring the best of the best from each of their plants, but they also can provide another forum for their internal customers,” Bunzel said. “We’re seeing quite a bit of that as the next wave of technology and growth in our manufacturing industry.”

Bunzel said that governance committees help individual sites understand their capabilities and opportunities. “There’s also a bit of competition – people want their site to be the best,” said Bunzel. “But this is built on understanding and trusting the data. And if you’re not collecting the data in the same way, if the elements are not the same, if the report formats are not the same, then you can’t trust the data from site to site. In fact, it will be challenged.”

Breaking the codes

As these cultures and islands have evolved on their own, they’ve developed their own set of failure codes just like the plant across the world has their own set of different failure codes, according to Bunzel. “Every site has their own,” she said. “When you come together at first, you have the big challenge of having to normalize those codes. And it is a challenge, but it’s worth conquering because once you have established a data set that everyone understands, you can start to really have an understanding of how different classes of equipment are performing because the codes are the same.

“Of course, it has to be enforced,” Bunzel said. “It goes back to the requirements to have an executive level commitment to excellence and getting the right data. The enforcement that comes from top management is absolutely critical.”

Bunzel also discussed the importance of procurement and maintenance/operations working together instead of against each other. “Quite often, we see that procurement isn’t always necessarily side by side with the maintenance team,” she said. “There’s a separation because there’s a conflicting agenda. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a good planning program in place, if you don’t have a good PM program in place, maintenance has to catch their breath by ensuring against failure with more inventory. Strategically, in a global forum, you still need an understanding of what that demand is.”

Clos wrapped up the discussion by advocating determination. “A lot of it comes down to persistence,” he said. “The stories we’ve heard at this Summit are really about being persistent – driving through barriers. “For U.S. manufacturing, the message is the easy parts are over. It’s all hard now. I don’t see any silver bullets. I get asked for them a lot: ‘do you have something that can save us or even set us apart?’ Yes. It’s called hard work. You have to get in and just keep pushing.

“There’s always going to be a winner,” Clos continued. “And even if something’s declining and you’re still making money, it buys you a lot of time to transition. Where I see mistakes being made are people clinging to their position too long. They fight and complain: ‘But that was justified.’ They have to realize that the world’s not fair. And you just have to plow right on through – keep banging away at it.”

Talking Points

Among the benefits and opportunities of attending an international trade show such as Hannover Messe are:

  • One-to-one meetings with potential business and networking partners
  • Customers get appointments corresponding to their individual business target group
  • Profiling of the business target group
  • Acquisition of business partners
  • Coordination of one-to-one appointments
  • Evaluation of meetings and lead generation services - directly after meetings.


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