Digital manufacturing and design are drawing attention from innovators and investors alike. Sometimes referred to as “Industry 4.0” (especially in Europe) or as the “Industrial Internet” (General Electric’s term), these labels reflect a basket of new digitally-enabled technologies that include advances in [a] production equipment (including 3-D printing, robotics, and adaptive CNC mills), [b] smart finished products (such as connected cars and others using the Internet of Things), and [c] data tools and analytics across the value chain.Reference: Digitizing the value chain.
These technologies are changing how things are designed, made, and serviced around the globe. In combination, they can create value by connecting individuals and machines in a new “digital thread” across the value chain—making it possible to generate, securely organize, and draw insights from vast new oceans of data. They hold the potential for disruptive change, analogous to the rise of consumer e-commerce. In 2010, when some two billion people connected online, the Internet contributed approximately $1.7 trillion to global GDP. What’s in store when 50 billion smart machines—deployed across factory floors, through supply chains, and in consumers’ hands—can connect with one another?
My intent in this article is neither to summarize it nor even comment on it. Rather, I mean to prompt CEOs and their leadership teams to pause and reflect on their business and industry, their market and competition, and their people and resources vis-a-vis the advent of digital value chain.
- How do you understand what is going on within and outside your company, and what is your experience of it, both individually and collectively?
- What are gaps in your understanding, which require bridging, and what haven't you experienced, which require experiencing?
- What meaning can you draw from such reflection and understanding, that is, in relation to the vision, the purpose, and the values that are at the heart and soul of your business?
- Besides your analytic or rational thinking hat, what does your intuitive, creative or non-rational brain say about all of this?
- What diverse or critical points of view do you need to engage in this reflection, that is, from your people, networks, advisers, competitors, customers, and resources?
- What would you like to do about it, or more pointedly what do you need to do about it; that is, what is it that you aim to accomplish?
- How can you best accomplish what you want and need to accomplish, given the capability, motivation and energy in your current and prospective people?
- What other reflective questions do you need to ask yourselves?