Last month, MIT held its annual Emerging Technology conference, EmTech 11. The conference focused primarily on advocating—and demonstrating—innovative and disruptive technologies, but also business drivers and means of innovation.
In other words, new ideas are great, but are there markets for them and if so, how do you produce and deliver the final goods?
What really caught my eye while looking through the session agenda was the day-one, session-one panel discussion titled “Does Manufacturing Matter?” This was an interesting discussion set amid topics such as the cloud, energy, and healthcare.
So why is manufacturing relevant in the context of innovation and emerging technologies? And what role does it play in a 21st century global economy?
Professor Willy Shih of Harvard Business School, spoke convincingly at the conference about manufacturing’s role in the innovation value chain and its impact on global competitiveness.
Shih argues for the need to develop, maintain, and nurture manufacturing know-how. Modern manufacturers can use this ecosystem of knowledge and insight for economic advantage as new technologies emerge from all corners of industry.
The challenge is to apply the knowledge and insight gained at manufacturing sites, and share that amongst R&D and other manufacturing outlets, globally, and without delay.
We’re not in a binary world where single-site product development is effective for a globally consumed product. Companies design, build, and sell in just about every corner of the globe.
Global product development requires a different approach to managing the product’s lifecycle for those who are strategically expanding to new geographic markets.
Companies must intelligently target their manufacturing operations for geographies with desirable markets, but also ones that can foster the innovation and expertise required for best-in-class products.
For example, Cummins, a leading global engine manufacturer based in Columbus, IN, recently announced a joint venture to supply mid-range engines to Chinese construction equipment maker, Guangxi LiuGong Machinery.
For LiuGong, this partnership will not only serve the needs of its Chinese customers, but also customers around the world.
In 2009, LiuGong became the first Chinese manufacturer to build and operate a site outside of China. In order to expand its reach, it opened a site in Pritampur, India in order to quickly adapt to the market and better meet the requirements of that region.
The important lesson here is globalization is not just about finding cheap labor or materials, but about sharing innovative processes and technologies which drive shorter time to market and deliver better targeted products.
How can manufacturing innovation and excellence grow and flourish in a global economy? What challenges do you see?