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Apr 10, 201703:32 PMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Turn down the volume, focus on manufacturing wins

(page 1 of 2)

I feel a bit guilty about telling you to turn down the volume in your life while the radio is blaring in the background as I write this blog.

Noise keeps building in our lives. This is especially true in manufacturing. Concern about economic conditions generates noise: tax policy, regulation discussions, energy sources old and new, and all the gridlock involved in dealing with these challenges. On the technology front, the power of the connected world, improved and cheaper computer power, and the ongoing advances in scientific discoveries add new layers of complexity to the picture. Multiply this with the accelerating pace of change and I believe Yogi Berra is right once again — “The future ain’t what it used to be.” In fact, it’s much, MUCH noisier!

Many of the factors creating this noise are outside of our control. None of us will do much to influence dollar fluctuations, government policies, or demographics — all important to our future, but not factors we will individually control or alter. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by these obstacles. Many people will use them as excuses for their failure. All of these factors and the arguments around them create incredible noise.

It’s time to turn down the volume and work on what you can control. Focus on the fundamental changes taking place in the manufacturing arena. Three of these changes impact every single market segment: additive manufacturing, robotics and automation, and connected devices. Cost declines and capability increases make these new technologies ubiquitous — available to every manufacturer. In fact, these technologies can make anyone a manufacturer, anywhere in the cosmos (think astronauts on the International Space Station). Turning down the volume means creating a strategy for your organization to take advantage of the opportunities these changes make possible.

Creating that strategy puts you in position to experiment and make small bets on promising ideas. Test new theories and learn what works in your organization in your situation. Use that new knowledge to reimagine your entire business and how you create value. Experimentation and making small bets put you in motion, starting the momentum that exposes you to more opportunities and makes it easier to react to new information. All of this positions the organization to grow into new opportunities, new businesses, and new ideas.

It's hard to do this alone. The changes are coming too fast and from too many directions. If you want to go on this journey, it’s important to engage a forward-looking scout. You will be cutting new paths through the forest and a good scout will make you more effective. Be sure to find someone who is truly aligned with your goals who is also connected to the best data sources and the resources to effectively turn that data into information. That scout will enable you to move more quickly, confidently, and in the right direction — turning down the volume.


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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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