A convergence of economic conditions is leading to the return of manufacturing to the U.S. Among these factors are increasing labor costs in traditional off-shore manufacturing locations, increased transportation costs and sustainability impacts associated with long-tailed supply-chains, the emergence of natural shale gas as a plentiful and affordable source of energy in the U.S., and the return of consumer and institutional confidence.
In response, planning and development of new manufacturing capacity is increasing. But these new factories are not your father’s factories. They are smaller, leaner, more agile … and much more intelligent. The same will be required of FM’s who develop and operate them, with an emphasis on business intelligence and the ability to translate it into operational advantage.
“Data Scientist will be the sexiest job of the 21st Century” is now a commonly heard proclamation, pointing to the emergence of Big Data, Data Management and Analytics as key skillsets. If your FM organization is not collecting, curating and culling data then you are losing ground against your internal customers and external competitors. Portraying disparate data via business intelligence dashboards improves the ability to understand what is going on inside the “factory” and make better, faster decisions, but it goes much further. Always a requirement, the FM suite’s need to include a high level of business acumen is now an imperative. Having this type of business smarts resident in FM and operating with an FM perspective contributes to FM’s value proposition to the enterprise and increases its ability to influence strategic direction.
Energy management and efficiency is an absolute imperative. Especially in the manufacturing sector where energy consumption is high, the ability to produce goods at the lowest possible energy consumption and cost is a critical competitive issue. Hard engineering expertise is required here, both to maximize design advantage and to optimize operational execution. Front line operators may still wear blue collars (figuratively speaking) but they have much more in common with the engineering set than their predecessors did. Along with this front line tactical alignment the strategic move towards net-zero buildings becomes a force multiplier. As Dr. Amory Lovins states in his book Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, “A global clean-energy race has emerged with astounding speed. The ability to operate without fossil fuels will define winners and losers in business – and among nations.”
Effectiveness is more important than efficiency. We all know about the never-ending drives for efficiency that have seemed the norm for the last thirty-plus years. Flatter organizations, fewer resources, higher expectations and higher stress levels were often the aftermath. In many cases this resulted in organizations that are more efficient but less effective and therefore less relevant. Today, the emphasis is turning towards effectiveness. This change is expressed in the shift from a focus on cost cutting to a focus on value creation. Innovation, collaboration, agility, and increased productivity are the hallmarks of this new focus. Leaders, many having survived their own harrowing “efficiency” experiences, recognize the advantages of more intelligent human and capital investment strategies over raw efficiency for efficiency’s sake. This is not to say the Six Sigma, Lean, or Continuous Improvement initiatives will have any less emphasis, but they may have a changed underlying purpose – to enhance value creation as a first order of business.
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