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Candid and impactful statements on leadership were made during the 10th National Manufacturing Debate. Guy Herbertson asks what could leaders do now? And how can we all help to maximise the UK's industrial potential? 

By Guy Herbertson
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Candid and impactful statements on leadership were made last week during the 10th National Manufacturing Debate.

Terry Scuoler CBE, former Chief Executive of the EEF and Paramilitary Officer, stated that two of the biggest factors in our nation’s reduced productivity were poor leadership and a lack of skills as confirmed by the World Economic Forum.

Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK, discussed the Made Smarter review and how leaders are often reluctant to adopt industrial digitalisation on both a macro and micro economic level.

Professor Janet Godsell, Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy at WMG, University of Warwick, gave us a presentation on whether Supply Chain Leaders want to be Lemmings or Leaders to disrupt the industry in a positive manner.

Professor Richard Wilding OBE, Professor & Chair in Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University, stated during the morning debate that leaders need to adapt their approach to deliver a ready and flexible supply chain in order to deliver on the increasing demands from OEMs and end customers. He stated that many people currently working in UK Supply Chain roles have grown up in these roles, they are often incredibly capable but are not qualified strategic supply chain professionals and therefore lack the vision and experience to deliver a digital integrated supply chain.

Whilst from an OEM perspective,  Andrew Schofield, Manufacturing & Materials Strategy and Technology Director at BAE Systems, suggested that the supply chain’s level of digital readiness is low and below where they need it to be.

The burning question is what can we all do now to make an immediate impact?

The opportunity within the fourth industrial revolution, as mentioned regularly by the panels throughout the day, is that the capital expenditure doesn’t need to be massive to see immediate benefits. There are pilots such as the Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring and the Catapult Programmes to collaborate and trial potential ideas.

There are also examples of such simple low costs solutions. One such example, trialled in the Institute for Manufacturing’s robot lab in Cambridge, is a system built from a 3D printer with low-cost control devices in the form of a few Raspberry Pi single-board computers. Connecting the printers to the Internet of Things (IoT) environment allows data to be collected cheaply. Also, using the Raspberry Pi as a coordination device, the printer is linked to a robot, which enables material handling to be automated at low cost.

There are plenty of positive stories of innovative leadership and the success it can bring. One that has featured in The Manufacturer Magazine is RS Components and their EMEA President Mike England. In the article “How electronics giant RS Components thrives in the digital world”, Mike discusses the shift in thinking from brand loyalty alone to a focus on customer experience, using digitalisation to connect to the customer and the results are evident. Since Mike took over in November 2015 the share price has gone from 217.50 to today’s 619.80 pence per share. We need to share more of these stories to create confidence in more leaders to create a collaborative ecosystem.

Companies must be prepared to consider perceived riskier talent, i.e. out of sector leadership or diverse talent, but they must also have a strong inclusivity agenda. Many industries are much further along on their digital journey, we should be learning from other sectors even if it is how to create a change ready environment. In a McKinsey report 55% of respondents felt that hiring externally would be key to ensure successful sustainable disruption in the industrial sector. Manufacturing & Engineering does have unique challenges but linking innovation to delivering business goals is not a challenge unique to the sector and wiliness to learn externally may well have its benefits.

Boyden already has a strong track record in helping Executives switching industries. We need to go further to continue to #DisruptTheNorm.

In our Further Female Leadership Diversity Study, mentoring and role models were shown to be instrumental for women becoming successful senior leaders in organisations. This doesn’t just apply to female leaders, all leaders could benefit from mentoring in order to upskill them. Encouraging a diverse and inclusive culture was proven by PWC to improve profitability and innovation.

Further leadership education in areas such as supply chain, which Richard Wilding was particularly passionate about, will also equip leaders with the knowledge to develop the entire ecosystem around them.

We should be celebrating and sharing the wins in this passionate and remarkable sector much more than we do. Inspiring companies and their work forces to think big.

The TMMX Awards, is a great example of business excellence, look through previous years winners to see which companies are doing what really well. Boyden sponsored the TMMX awards people and skills category last year and we were blown away by the quality of some businesses and their leadership teams.  Perhaps you could enter one of the categories this year, if not just to see how you compare to your peers.

Overall, leadership must become more willing to take calculated risks, challenge the status quo and embark on a path of continuous learning, leaders are at the core of the change required. They must embrace advancing technology and embrace it quickly if the UK is to maximise our industrial potential and unlock the hidden potential of Industry 4.0.

Contact me if you would like to discuss best practice around talent and leadership and to explore whether Boyden can assist you in attracting new talent from new areas. 

This blog post was also published on LinkedIn: 

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