The Manufacturers Agenda

The Manufacturer's Agenda: When IW Talks about Manufacturing, We Mean Business

  While we at IW celebrate excellence in running factories and making things, we have a broader view. We cover manufacturing business, including issues ranging from leadership, innovation, operations and workforce to concerns about technology, supply chain, finance and the global economy.

It took reading the profiles of the IndustryWeek 2012 Hall of Fame inductees for me to realize that I got ahead of myself in my last column, "Why We Need a Better Definition of 'Advanced Manufacturing.'"

That's when it became clear that we're still fighting against a reductive, literal meaning of the word "manufacturing" and the image that it creates in most people's minds.

Most dictionaries define manufacturing as "the making of goods … by manual labor or by machinery, especially on a large scale." The definition of "manufacturer" isn't much better: "a person, group or company that owns or runs a manufacturing plant."

Runs a plant?!

Well, yes, but that's not the half of it. While we at IW celebrate excellence in running factories and making things, we have a broader view. We cover manufacturing business, including issues ranging from leadership, innovation, operations and workforce to concerns about technology, supply chain, finance and the global economy.

Each of these important manufacturing C-suite matters is represented in our Hall of Fame, along with some of the other characteristics not traditionally associated with "manufacturing." To wit:

Manufacturing is inventive and entrepreneurial. From Steve Jobs and Joseph Engelberger in the inaugural class of 2009 to Michael Dell and Jerry Sanders (2010), Gordon Moore and Richard Morley (2011) and Scott Crump and Robert Curl (2012), the manufacturing business community is replete with inventors, many of whom not only launched companies, but entire industry sectors.  

Manufacturing is high-tech. Manufacturing businesses get credit for their leadership in R&D, but too many of their most important contributions are credited elsewhere—most often to the "high-tech" industry. Apple computers and Intel semiconductors are the cotton gin and steam engine of their day, as Stratasys 3-D printers and nanotechnology are to today and the future.

Manufacturing is business innovation. Though they first made their mark on business practices in the manufacturing sector, the lean, Six Sigma, QRM and continuous-improvement leaders in the IW Hall of Fame -- Jim Womack (2009), Norm Bodek, Rajan Suri and George Koenigsaecker (2010), Armand Feigenbaum and John Shook (2011) and Art Byrne and Doc Hall (2012) -- have changed business practices in all sectors of the economy.

Manufacturing is business leadership. Together, the IW Hall of Fame inductees are history-making business thought leaders who, in piloting their companies to extraordinary success, influenced not only their industries and manufacturing communities, but also other business sectors and the society at large.

It's this image that should come to mind when hearing the words "manufacturer" or "manufacturing." In all, the IW Hall of Fame's members illustrate the true definition of the terms.

Our honorees show, by example, that manufacturing is the most dynamic, most innovative sector of the global economy.

Read. Get inspired. And pass it on.

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