Thermoforming Report

Smart Factory Initiatives in Manufacturing

September 2022.

No matter how technologically advanced businesses become, the personal touch is critical. We work together. Some roles and functions are done independently, but the personal side is what makes synergy truly shine – when the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts!

The state of manufacturing in the US and the impacts of the tight labor market are obviously tied together. The US has typically led the world in figuring out new and inventive ways to provide ever-higher valued products that are made in an efficient manner. This is vital in a world where there are labor shortages! Enter technology (again) and the creativity of how organizations apply it in order to gain a competitive edge. Lots of great articles about this floating around out there… articles that speak to specific smart factory initiatives and articles that speak to how leaders can best leverage these technologies.

September 2022

Smart Factory Initiatives in Manufacturing

Technology is nothing new in manufacturing. Acceleration in digital technology adoption could bring operational efficiencies to scale.  

Applying innovative techniques and approaches is part and parcel with how US manufacturing has grown and dominated the world platform over the decades. As we all know too well, the pace of innovation is extraordinary, and manufacturing organizations have been slow to adapt. Those that do will have a significant competitive – and financial – advantage over their competitors. 

Three trends that I keep seeing and hearing: 

Leveraging and Applying IoT is Critical.

In my role as a thermoforming manufacturing recruiter, I’ve been asked to search and seek out talented people that can bring that technology to bear on the manufacturing floor.   

This article from Metrology News unpacks specifics about how companies are applying IoT in different ways. 

3D printing is a Significant Advantage.

3D printing is another tool that is not necessarily on the cutting edge anymore but, if applied correctly, has allowed and enabled smaller companies to quickly produce unique prototypes in partnership with their clients and landed and/or secured new business as a result.  It isn’t hard – you just need the right people in the right places with leadership buy-in to take advantage of this technology. 

According to an August 2022 Forbes article, identifying the right additive manufacturing tools can help businesses optimize inventory, reduce cost, improve innovation and manufacturing speed, and create agile and elastic production capabilities.

AI is Altogether New in the Manufacturing World.

Again, not a new concept but the application of technology within and on the manufacturing floor is novel. I am not an expert, but I’ve been tasked with exploring and locating this skill set of late. Asking the right questions is important and realizing how to truly apply this to manufacturing processes is not common in the industry… yet. 

A recent Forbes article addresses how AI can help mitigate the rising labor shortage amidst the resurgence of US manufacturing. “The manufacturing labor shortage has paved the way for widespread deployment of some very exciting innovations in Artificial Intelligence for manufacturing.” The article proposes the implementation of robotic automation, additive manufacturing, machine vision, and production optimization as ways to increase efficiencies on the manufacturing floor. Technological tools like these can be utilized as integral support — rather than replacement — for growth in US manufacturing.

Moreover, a recent article from Plastics Today highlights the benefits of AI: “AI isn’t just about what can go wrong — it’s also about what can be done better. Using AI to understand one’s data can be an avenue to increasing efficiency and decreasing production variability, a big problem for manufacturers.”

It’s All About People!

As usual, it boils down to how organizations leverage their most important asset: people. It’s hard to learn new things in order to grow and advance. But making that decision – and investment – will enable a healthy and thriving business with a bunch of happy, satisfied, and committed team members. This is supported in a Forbes article by Christine Boles, a VP & General Manager of Intel Corporation.

Since the early 1980s, Intel has worked to transform our manufacturing by investing in automation and digitalization to accelerate production time, ramp capacity with high product quality and be more agile and resilient. The best practice we discovered during this journey was that a smart manufacturing strategy is much more than enabling technology—it is about transforming and digitizing data and its use, processes, decisions, business models and ultimately our people.

The Main Takeaway

So, what does this all mean for the manufacturing world? The challenge for leaders is to initiate, foster, and encourage a corporate culture that applies technology in creative and productive ways. The CEO Magazine article on the right provides tools to build this culture by incorporating resilience in leadership.

Change is here… and the reality is that it never really left! Being flexible, adaptable, and willing to change in order to leverage technology will be the hallmark of those companies that thrive in the coming years.

This article is a sequel to a previous blog: Manufacturing Trends: Looking Out for Outlooks.

“The best practice we discovered during this journey was that a smart manufacturing strategy is much more than enabling technology—it is about transforming and digitizing data and its use, processes, decisions, business models and ultimately our people.”

Christine Boles, a VP & General Manager of Intel Corporation, Forbes

  • Develop a More Resilient & Adaptable Team
    As the business world emerges from more than two years of unprecedented global upheaval, resilience and adaptability are now must-haves for leaders, teams, and organizations to not only survive… but thrive. CEO Magazine contributor shares five ways to build such teams. via CEO Magazine.
  • Exponential Technologies in Manufacturing
    In this recently published study (September 2022), global industry leaders share their views on the top manufacturing technologies that—when coupled with talent and innovation—will determine tomorrow’s manufacturing success stories. via Deloitte.

Senior Technical Leader: Multi-site/corporate level Technical Leader, bringing over 30 years of experience in leveraging and combining engineering & maintenance teams with tremendous capabilities in reliability 

Operations and Technical Leader: Gifted senior-level leader that brings BOTH operations AND technical leadership experience… including recent experience in leading warehousing and distribution operations

Automation & Continuous Improvement Engineer: This “3-for-1” Thermoforming Subject Matter Expert brings 25 years of experience in thin-gauge thermoforming; gifted in leveraging significant industry experience; able to implement cost and time-saving projects across an entire manufacturing footprint

R&D/NPD Leader: This Product Design Guru and Leader brings 30+years of experience in new product development, design engineering, and quality leadership (HACCP); he even has experience in paper/fiber forming

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At Siena Group, we are your Thermoforming Talent Partner. With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, hiring & recruiting talent, we bring a greater understanding of the companies we partner with and the candidates we pursue.

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