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Getting the World to Speak the Same Manufacturing Language

Nov. 2, 2015
"Today all manufacturing companies operate as a global supply chain and therefore need to have a common standard," explains Badr S. Al-Olama, CEO, Strata Manufacturing. 

Badr S. Al-Olama asks an interesting question: What if the manufacturing sector was standardized around the globe? The CEO of Strata Manufacturing, which was established in 2010 as a composite manufacturing facility based in UAE, makes the point that standards of manufacturing in the U.S. are different than China which is different from other parts of the world.

Al-Olama understands first-hand the issue of complying with varying manufacturing standards. He saw his company grow to $100 million in sales in five years based on two major clients – Boeing and Airbus. As a supplier to these global companies his products needed to meet the standards of both U.S.-based Boeing and European-based Airbus.

He was competing globally and doing well.  In fact the company, which is wholly-owned by Mubadala, and is part of Mubadala Aerospace, Communications Technology and Defense Services,  is planning to build a new plant (investing between $100 and $500 million), which will allow the company to manufacture larger structures for use as aircraft parts.

Badr S. Al-Olama, CEO, Strata Manufacturing

He wanted to pass this success onto his fellow countrymen to strengthen the manufacturing sector. He gathered private industry (which includes both domestic and foreign firms), the public sector (national and local government) and civil society (which includes those involved in policy advocacy, collective bargaining and political action) together to see if they could create a robust manufacturing ecosystem to benefit the country as a whole.

As manufacturing is a key contributor to every country’s economic growth and the source of many patents and innovations, Al-Olama envisioned a larger, global level of cooperation. The idea became a reality and Al-Olama is the lead representative for UAE, which is joining with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization to hold a Global Manufacturing & Industrialization Summit (GMIS) to be held in September 2016.

In September, the group held a ceremony in Al Ain, the second-largest city in Abu Dhabi emirate, to kick off a series of events leading up to the 2016 summit. The event was attended by companies such as GE Gulf, Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and Dessault Systemes.

IndustryWeek spoke with Badr Al-Olama about the vision of this group.

Q: What was the underlying strategy that interested the UN in joining this effort?

A: All sectors benefit from a global manufacturing strategy. Governments seek job creation and additional sources of tax revenue while the private sector seeks profit and shareholder value. Civil society seeks to ensure sustainability and fairness across all standards. And using the example of the IT Bubble, governments need to encourage re-skilling, private sectors benefit from skilled labor and civil society develops new studies and programs for training and development

Q: Can you make a case for the need for global standards in manufacturing?

A: Today, all manufacturing companies operate as a global supply chain and therefore need to have a common standard. From a perspective of skilled labor we must ensure that the sector is supported with the right skills. And from a perspective of civil society we must ensure that manufacturing activities are held accountable (or rewarded) for meeting certain targets, such as emissions, gender balance etc.

Q: What is the vision of GMIS?

A: September was about introducing GMIS to the world – an ambitious and courageous mandate that hopes for a better world. We envision a better world that creates employment, develops innovation, and sustains the quality of life that we enjoy today for the future generations that will come tomorrow.  We hope to foster new relationships to develop our current capabilities with the shared knowledge of advanced industrialists, and share our experience and knowledge with developing industrialists.

Q: Some say Abu Dhabi was chosen to host this event due to its “emphasis on diversification and new thinking on industrialization.”

A: The UAE is inclusive (it’s about the UAE and the rest of the world, never in isolation), it's progressive (always driving improvements and advancements) and it’s ambitious (setting greater targets as the country progresses).

With such an approach, Abu Dhabi has set an economic vision that is built on diversification away from oil & gas. This diversification has seen new industries sprouting. For example, in aerospace manufacturing, a high-tech and large employer that has a global market is built on standards of quality and safety.

Not only have we spoken about diversification, and not only have we shown that we can develop projects accordingly to that plan, but we are also in the process of growing those plans to a wider economy – the global economy – based on our win/win approach. And we have built this with a workforce that is mixed with young and bright UAE graduates combined with seasoned professionals from all around the world – to get unprecedented results.

Q: What specific steps will be taken this year leading up the conference in September?

A: There will be a knowledge-driven road show that spans across continents (U.S., UK, parts of Europe, parts of MENA, parts of South East Asia and part of East Asia).

There will be a draft declaration that will be put together – mainly by our Global Agenda Council on the Future of Manufacturing – and that will have its first round of deliberations at the Summit in 2016.

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