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Jan 3, 201802:55 PMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Reflecting forward on manufacturing possibilities

(page 1 of 2)

The time between the holidays is always a good time for me to pause and reflect. This year my reflections turned from the past to the future. Looking forward, I grew more and more excited about the possibilities for 2018. It’s a terrific time to be a manufacturer — especially in Wisconsin. Industry trends have rarely been clearer, the resources to harness those trends are ready and coordinated, and Foxconn’s arrival adds an energy and urgency not found elsewhere. The New Year will reward those who move confidently and take advantage of conditions that will not happen again in our lifetime.

The more time I invest in learning about manufacturing trends, the more it becomes clear that four will affect all operations — both alone and collectively:

  • The body gap is real and will affect everyone’s ability to grow because workers will be harder and harder to find for the next decade.
  • Additive manufacturing (3-D printing) can make anyone, anywhere a manufacturer for a very small investment.  
  • Automation/robotic costs continue to plummet while capabilities skyrocket, making this technology practical for almost every operation.
  • Connected devices (industrial internet of things) will revolutionize the way we use data and run operations.

These four trends will transform how manufacturing charges into the future, and people who move boldly will reap the greatest benefits.

Fortunately, we live in Wisconsin, a state that celebrates manufacturing and knows how to coordinate and engage available resources in productive ways to build a bright future. Wisconsin possesses some of the best manufacturing expertise in the world to make manufacturers capable and competitive. Much of that expertise takes root because of effective alliances between industry, education, government, and other talented organizations. We know how to focus on critical issues and align our efforts to make real impact in the face of transformational trends and accelerating change.

These alliances make a difference on multiple fronts. Here are some examples. Every community in the state feels pressure from the body gap, and most have created workforce initiatives to address the issue. What’s exciting is watching these initiatives align and build on each other’s success. That’s also reflected in the team approach we use to make exporting easier for state companies, as a core group of organizations assist local efforts across Wisconsin. We’re also pushing the frontiers in technology, as groups like the Manufacturing Outreach Center and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership move innovation out of pilots and laboratories into practical applications for manufacturers.

(Continued)

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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

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