Collaboration offers hope in a fractured world

The world is a fairly fractured place these days. War and politics and Yankees fans and Red Sox fans – it's enough to make you yearn for the good old days of the Cold War. So the ARC Advisory Group's discussion of collaboration at its manufacturing forum in late June in Boston came at an especially good time.


The world is a fairly fractured place these days. War and politics and Yankees fans and Red Sox fans %%MDASSML%% it's enough to make you yearn for the good old days of the Cold War.

So the ARC Advisory Group's discussion of collaboration at its manufacturing forum in late June in Boston came at an especially good time. The discussions centered on a theme we've written about extensively %%MDASSML%% the need for the enterprise level to understand what's happening on the plant floor, and for the plant floor to understand the business implications of its work.

Jay Weldon, the senior manager of information services for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, said at one ARC presentation that the problem is too many of us get caught up in the data and not the analysis. As Weldon described his own relationship with the plant floor, “I can kill them with data, but I often don't give them data they can use in meaningful ways.”

Weldon's challenge is one faced by many manufacturers: “We need to reduce the barriers on our own plant floor,” he said. “It's something that takes commitment throughout the company.”

Collaboration follows leadership %%MDASSML%% or is destroyed by the lack of it. It is certainly a top-down effort, but the initiative can come from anywhere. We have a Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe there ought to be a Nobel Piece-It-Together Prize for collaboration.

Whatever the motivation %%MDASSML%% altruism, profit or desperation %%MDASSML%% collaborative manufacturing must be injected into the DNA of the organization. Embracing it isn't enough, because you can always let go. Collaboration must become like breathing. Without it, you won't survive long.

That's important, because as ARC president Andy Chatha noted in his opening remarks, the world understands manufacturing collaboration. The growth of global manufacturing centers puts pressure on legacy plants to find new ways to reduce costs without losing more people. That requires the right data and the right initiative to act decisively on the data. That requires that everyone get involved.

“We see greater collaboration among people, processes and technologies,” Chatha said. “We need to bring them all together in a collaborative way.”

Manufacturing needs to get better at closing the historic gulf between the people who make the products, the people who administer the technology and the people who market and sell them. The software and systems designed to make this connection were on display at ARC, and attendees got a better view of some of the possibilities.

So there is hope. Some days, it seems hope is the only thing that sustains us in our fractured world. If we can get the IT department and the plant floor working together, maybe there's hope for the rest of the world. After all, they even let Yankees' fans into Boston.

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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.

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