What Will The New Administration Mean for US Manufacturing?

Short answer: I haven’t a clue.

And if anyone tells you that they do, rest assured they are just guessing.

I just took a break to watch the pomp and circumstance of swearing in a new President of the United States. A continuous tradition of 220 years of peacefully transferring power from one man to the next. Maybe someday while I still live we can make the pronoun general instead of gender specific. But, we now have a new guy.

I have written a column for an Italian magazine, Automazione Oggi, for many years. They asked me four years ago to devote a column to what Donald Trump might mean for manufacturing. My current column there contains a few thoughts about Joe Biden. The problem with these pieces is really two-fold. First, I don’t prognosticate. I’m not a soothsayer or fortune teller. As Yogi Berra supposedly said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Second, almost no politician knows anything about manufacturing other than a few statistics they are fed. Same with technology. I think Obama tried to be tech savvy, but he wasn’t. Trump was a real estate guy and TV star.

However, the US government has promoted some good things about technology and manufacturing. Just not as focused as, say, Germany’s Industrie 4.0 initiative. That has huge backing within the country. I have on my shelf The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution that Made Computing Personal by M. Mitchell Waldrop. The US Defense Department DARPA unleashed most of the technologies that we still use in technology.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Energy initiated a number of manufacturing projects one of which became CESMII-The Smart Manufacturing Institute headed by my old friend John Dyck and staffed by a number of people I’ve worked with over the years.

Biden has many problems on his plate. I don’t think manufacturing came up very often in the campaigns. Some effort has been made to bring more actual manufacturing to the US. I don’t expect an emphasis, but I do expect some continuing attention to that issue. CESMII is making progress. If you are looking for a US response, I’d both pay attention to what it’s doing and also see where you can help.

Heck, I’m impressed when I find even a half-way knowledgeable discussion of manufacturing in the national media. I guess they all worked as interns on Wall Street rather than (like me) worked in manufacturing to help fund college.

COVID-19 Reshapes Manufacturing Landscape, New Google Cloud Findings Show

This information came to me about a month ago. I’m still catching up with filtering through all the releases from the last couple of months last year. Covid may have kept many people indoors, but it didn’t slow down work in engineering, marketing, or PR. This is a survey conducted by Google Cloud and the Harris Poll regarding the effects of Covid on manufacturing. This is a blog post from Google’s Dominik Wee, Managing Director Manufacturing and Industrial.

After facing severe headwinds from COVID-19, ranging from decreased orders to negative impacts on operations, manufacturers around the world have started to revamp their operating models and supply chain strategies—and now feel more prepared to successfully navigate future pandemics, according to our new research released today.

The key for manufacturers’ ability to transform—despite the ongoing pandemic—is their embrace of digital enablers and disruptive technologies. In fact, more than two in five manufacturers have increased their use of data and analytics, digital productivity tools, and public cloud platforms, irrespective of their location in the world.

“Manufacturers have always prepared for unpredictable events that could adversely impact operations,” said Bob Parker, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Applications, Data Intelligence, Services, and Industry Research for IDC. “But what makes COVID-19 so unique is its sustained nature that touches the supply chain, irrespective of geographical location, in a way we haven’t seen in our lifetime. As a result, we’re seeing an urgency from manufacturers to quickly put the right technological levers in place, sooner rather than later. While there may have only been initial conversations about digital transformation in the past, we’re now seeing a rapid acceleration of critical tools and technologies being adopted within the industry.”

Below are five noteworthy takeaways we’ve identified within our findings:

1. Not surprisingly, as with other industries, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on manufacturers overall. Nearly all of manufacturers (95%) believe their manufacturing or supply chain operations have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. The top three adverse impacts include lost productivity (46%), lower sales (44%), and increased lead times, possibly due to supply chain disruptions (39%). About a third of manufacturers have also experienced downward pressure on overall customer demand (35%), labor shortages (34%), and/or the inability to maintain a safe working environment (33%).

2. To overcome COVID-19-related challenges, manufacturers were forced to pivot their operating models and supply chain strategies. More than three-fourths of surveyed manufacturers (77%) said COVID-19 caused their companies to re-evaluate their operating model strategies. The most common reasons include an inability to collaborate effectively with value chain partners (41%), the inability to collaborate effectively with employees (40%), and a lack of the right technology to operate without a large number of on-site workers (39%).

3. Technology played the most critical role in maneuvering through the pandemic, particularly “disruptive” AI, robotics, and more. More than three-fourths of surveyed manufacturers (76%) revealed that the pandemic has caused their companies to increase the use of digital enablers and disruptive technologies such as: cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, robotics, 3D printing/additive manufacturing, Internet of Things, and augmented or virtual reality. More specifically, the top three digital enablers/disruptive technologies that respondents are further utilizing are data and analytics (46%), digital productivity tools (43%), and public cloud platforms (42%).

4. Interestingly, despite many manufacturers not being prepared for COVID-19, most now feel prepared to successfully navigate future pandemics. As mentioned earlier, nearly (95%) believe their manufacturing or supply chain operations have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. That said, 82% of those surveyed now feel prepared to deal with another COVID-19-like event in the future. This sentiment could be related to how manufacturers successfully ventured into new verticals, such as providing ventilators and PPE during shortages and resuming investments in new digital factory plans.

5. Finally, the pandemic—and its aftermath on the manufacturing industry—has differed greatly by country.

1. In Japan, approximately half of manufacturers who cited a negative impact (51%) say that the pandemic has led to lower sales, compared to 44% globally.

2. In Korea, more than two in five manufacturers who cited a negative impact (43%) said that the pandemic hindered their ability to maintain a safe working environment, compared to 33% globally.

3. In France, nearly half of manufacturers (48%) felt equipped with the right technological tools to maintain business continuity in the first 1-3 months of the pandemic, compared to 37% globally.

4. In the UK, more than two in five manufacturers (43%) said that dependency on legacy technology has created more risk for their respective business operations over the next year, compared to 30% globally.

5. In Italy, more than a third of manufacturers (35%) felt that their IT systems lacked necessary redundancies, which undermined their overall operational resiliency, compared to slightly less than a quarter of overall surveyed manufacturers (23%).

6. In Germany, for 86% of manufacturers, COVID-19 has caused an increased use of digital enablers and disruptive technologies, compared to 76% globally.

7. In the United States, 64%of manufacturers have increased their use of data and analytics, compared to 46% globally.

Research Methodology

The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Google Cloud, from October 15 – November 4, 2020, among 1,154 senior manufacturing executives in France (n=150), Germany (n=200), Italy (n=154), Japan (n=150), South Korea (n=150), the UK (n=150), and the U.S. (n=200) who are employed full-time at a company with more than 500 employees, and who work in the manufacturing industry with a title of director level or higher. The data in each country were weighted by number of employees to bring them into line with actual company size proportions in the population. A global post-weight was applied to ensure equal weight of each country in the global total.

Manufacturing Industry Asked to Participate in Survey of Reshoring Opportunities

Sometimes when I’m considering manufacturing trends and requirements, I feel like Odysseus caught between Scylla and Charybdis. Regarding trade and manufacturing—one the one hand I’ve seen the evidence that international trade can be beneficial for everyone, while on the other, it is important that each country maintains a strong manufacturing base in order to assure survival.

Often these policies are decided by MBA-Finance types who only look at (usually incomplete) spreadsheets trying to find ways to save a dollar. Or politicians intent only on stirring up their supporters in payment for a vote.

Financial people have finally awakened to the drawbacks of having all manufacturing done at remote factories searching for the lowest possible wage. You don’t get a motivated and skilled workforce that becomes the source for much manufacturing innovation. You also don’t always win additional customers for your products in that other country. Your spreadsheets lead you to that dangerous path between Scylla and Charybdis.

Several organizations in the US have taken on the challenge to “rebuild” manufacturing in the US. These include CESMII, The Reshoring Institute, and the source for this report, AMT—The Association for Manufacturing Technology. Actually, my research so far seems to show that the US has been losing in the OEM and machine building market while it has maintained some final manufacturing, albeit with wages no higher than $15/hour. Not a good situation.

Help with the effort. Participate in this survey.

What products and components offer the biggest opportunities for reshoring? What advanced manufacturing technology is needed to enable the reshoring?  To what degree did the pandemic disrupt supply chains, and how did it affect sourcing? To answer these questions and better understand the needs of the manufacturing technology community, AMT – The  Association For Manufacturing Technology is asking industry, including OEMs, job shops, technology suppliers and distributors, to participate in an online survey to help in “Rebuilding the Supply Chain.” The survey is open through February 28, 2021.

The survey takes about five minutes to complete. Results will be published in March on the AMT website and on IMTS.com/supply-chain, a one-stop repository for supply chain information, content and guidance resources. One of the key survey questions is whether or not OEMs and job shops would value an AMT service to connect OEMs with manufacturing technology solutions for reshoring opportunities.

“Participating in this survey will provide valuable insight on sourcing issues and which processes, products and components face the most pressure from imports and which offer the biggest opportunities to reshore,” says Peter R. Eelman, Vice President & CXO at AMT, which owns and produces IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show. “The input we receive helps AMT and IMTS develop resources to help companies make more detailed sourcing assessments and better-informed sourcing decisions.”

The survey is one of many activities related to AMT’s Rebuilding the Supply Chain initiative, which has gained greater visibility due to COVID-19 disruptions and shifting the emphasis of IMTS to further support the industrial base. Rebuilding the Supply Chain activities also include collaboration with the Reshoring Initiative, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

Post-Covid Conferences

Everyone is imagining a post-Covid time, most likely coming by May or June 2021, wondering how many changes we’ve made this year to meetings, conferences, church services, and other gatherings. I have been receiving a steady stream of announcements for 2021 technology conferences. All of them up until May will build upon the tech foundations pioneered this year. 

Many of the conferences have been well put together. They have packed information in a succinct package. I could actually attend several conflicting conferences without the hassle of either trying to travel to each or blow some off. There are benefits. As the year went on, some of the trade shows got interesting by adding Zoom or other technology to allow “booth chats” or “booth appointments” where a visitor could discuss products and questions in real time with a live engineer.

I’ve talked with many people about their reactions to church (for the Christian among you). Even Roman Catholic ladies were quite satisfied to watch church from home. The many varieties of Protestants seem to have adapted to staying home, as well, except for a small portion of the more conservative evangelicals who needed to brave exposure to Covid-19 due to the need for companionship (and many people I know did that and became infected, but that’s another story for another blog site).

This is an ideal time to leverage all of these experiments and experiences and look at the second half of 2021 and beyond as a time to do things differently. I would still like to see some in-person gatherings. I miss the conversations, meeting new people, personal contact that you get from being together. It has gotten to the point, though, that conversations have taken the place of actually going to sessions. I’d love a blend of learning online and meeting in person.

What triggered this post was this announcement from PTC about its LiveWorx conference. It is moving toward a continuous model strung out over the year rather than one shot at one time. Interesting. We’ll see how that works for it.

This upcoming year, LiveWorx is going to be a little bit different.

LiveWorx 2021: The Limited Series is a year-round high-impact digital program. Each episode will take its own approach to delivering fresh and relevant insight on digital transformation for the industrial enterprise in a TV show-style format. Throughout the year, viewers will hear perspectives from thought leaders, subject matter experts, technology practitioners and familiar faces from PTC as well.

There are two ways to watch: episodes will air live on key dates and will also be available afterwards on-demand, so viewers can pick and choose whichever is more convenient.

More details will be announced soon, so be sure to subscribe for LiveWorx 21 updates to learn more as 2020 turns into 2021. 

Registration for LiveWorx 2021: The Limited Series will get underway in early 2021. The first episode is scheduled for early spring, with more to come afterwards throughout the rest of the year.

Zoom fatigue is very real at this point, and it’s worth noting that these episodes will be delivered through concise and high impact TV show-style broadcasts, each with a run time of less than two hours.

For a comprehensive rundown of general information about LiveWorx 21, visit our FAQ. If there’s anything additional that you’re curious about, you can always ask us here as well.

2020 has been a year unlike any other. Get ready for a whole new LiveWorx! We can’t wait for you to join us for this unique program in 2021.

Steve Wozniak Launches his Next Billion-Dollar Venture

Apple co-founder rolls out Efforce to enable any investor to help the planet and participate in the massive $250 billion energy efficiency market. 

This is not specifically manufacturing or even technology news. What we have here is a unique financing instrument to help companies achieve energy savings. Energy savings were a part of my portfolios over my years in product development. I view it as a Lean initiative in that it is a process for eliminating waste. Not to mention side benefits of both helping a company’s bottom line as well as helping the planet’s bottom line.

Here is the press release I received last week.

Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, is rolling out his second company, Efforce, to transform and disrupt the energy efficiency market, 45 years after starting the computer company that changed technology. His new business may be on track to do the same with a token listing December 6, 2020 that sent its market capitalization to $950M in the first 13 minutes,10 times the listing price. The company had received an initial valuation of $80M by investors in private sales.

Efforce is a marketplace that enables companies to undertake energy efficiency measures at no cost so that they can invest their liquidity in more critical tasks. With Efforce, the energy efficiency market is accessible to large and small investors alike who can then monetize the transferable energy savings.

Currently, financing energy efficiency measures can be a complex mix of financial and regulatory challenges that limit the speed of growth. Efforce uses an innovative web-based platform to leverage the blockchain, and tokens called WOZX, as the mechanisms to create a seamless platform to spur global energy efficiency. Efforce’s WOZX tokens were listed December 6, 2020 on bithumb.pro.

When Wozniak started Apple his goal was to build smaller, more efficient machines that one day could be accessible to anyone. Through his involvement in Efforce, Wozniak continues to focus on efficiency, broadening business access to energy improvements as well as public access to energy efficiency investments. 

“Energy consumption and CO2 emissions worldwide have grown exponentially, leading to climate change and extreme consequences to our environment. We can improve our energy footprint and lower our energy consumption without changing our habits. We can save the environment simply by making more energy improvements,” said Wozniak. “We created Efforce to be the first decentralized platform that allows everyone to participate and benefit financially from worldwide energy efficiency projects, and create meaningful environmental change.”

“In these difficult times, many small companies are struggling,” said Jacopo Visetti, project lead and co-founder, Efforce. “They can’t afford to switch to LED lighting, streamline production processes, or even insulate to conserve heat, all of which could save them money in the long term. Efforce allows business owners to safely register their energy upgrade project on the web and secure funding from all types of investors around the world. The companies will then have more available cash to use for other critical projects such as infrastructure or hiring.”

The Energy Efficiency Market

The market for energy efficiency projects has reached a staggering $250 billion.* Not only is private industry contributing to the booming market, but governments including the EU and China are investing heavily in energy efficiency funding. However, in order to achieve the International Energy Agency’s Efficient World Scenario, the sector still must double the size of investments to $580 billion by 2025.

Today, investor groups called energy services companies (ESCOs) must have access to large amounts of capital (typically $200,000 minimum) to undertake energy efficiency improvements. They often are unable to turn to traditional banking channels as banks lack the technical expertise to properly assess the return on investment.

In contrast, the Efforce platform democratizes the market. “We have created a business model that allows anyone to participate in the greater good of making the world cleaner and healthier, all by leveraging efficiency for economic growth,” said Visetti.  “Energy efficiency is a way to create a sustainable future, and this is a way to help counter climate change, reduce carbon — and make money while you do it.” 

The Efforce Business Model

Using the Efforce platform, the process of financing and undertaking projects is streamlined:

  • ESCOs register an intended energy efficiency project which is then validated by the Efforce team. 
  • Efforce develops the project with the company, including evaluating the investment need, calculating the anticipated return, and creating an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) that details the savings and the duration of the returns for the company and investors.
  • The platform then lists the project for crowd contribution. The participants may buy into the project using fractional or whole WOZX tokens. 
  • Efforce measures energy savings on these projects through smart meters attached to the blockchain. The savings data are loaded to the investor’s profile as an energy credit for use or sale by the investor. Energy credits are distributed in megawatt-hours.  

The company is run by veteran executives highly familiar with the energy efficiency sector, who after a decade of experience with the less efficient but still-profitable ESCO model began to develop the Efforce business model and platform. Visetti previously founded Milan-based AitherCO2, with annual revenues of $240 million and no outside investment funding. Wozniak was attracted to Efforce for its unique approach to democratizing energy efficiency, and this is the only company he has participated in as a co-founder since Apple.

About Efforce

Efforce has created the first platform leveraging the power of blockchain technology to democratize access to energy efficiency projects and investment opportunities. Co-founded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Jacopo Visetti, Jacopo Vanetti, and Andrea Castiglione who have more than a decade of experience in this field, Efforce believes in a world where sustainability actually generates outsized benefits without consumers needing to change their energy behavior. For more information, visit www.Efforce.io.

Partnerships Allow AVEVA (and others) to Scale

I wrote about the Microsoft and AVEVA announced extension to their partnership a couple of weeks ago to focus on Microsoft cloud services—especially Microsoft Azure (infrastructure, data and AI services). Key focus areas include the connected worker and building a common Asset Strategy (Asset Performance).

Mario Joao, vice president of AVEVA charged with developing these partnerships and alliances, took some time to chat about the Microsoft partnership.

“The companies have had a long history of working together,” he told me. “Partnerships and alliances are the only way forward to scale our offerings to customers. The relationship was solely based on technology. Now, it encompasses more than that by adding sales and focusing on results.”

  • Transforming Industrial Workforce–much of the work is geared toward workforce, the user experience, use of Microsoft Teams, and workforce safety,
  • Microsoft Azure Cloud AI–enhancing cognitive search, working with Asset Performance Management,
  • Further adoption of cloud with Azure–many companies have adopted an industrial cloud strategy, but many are still evaluating with many astute questions regarding security, geo-location of the servers, safety of operations data,
  • Emphasize business value–especially to both OT and to IT teams,
  • Foster sustainability,
  • Note: Microsoft is hiring people with industry expertise,
  • Microsoft provides a platform; AVEVA builds on top with applications that add value to customers.