Harnessing Change in Manufacturing

  

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Mississippi Manufacturer’s Association President and CEO Jay Moon Embraces Manufacturing Evolution

History abounds with technological revolutions, or time periods during which technology advances and ushers in new ways of doing things. Until recently, these periods typically encompassed at least a few years, but now it seems a new technological revolution happens weekly or even daily. As MMA President and CEO Jay Moon puts it, “the speed of change is accelerating.” Within the manufacturing sector, this age of continuous innovation is called advanced manufacturing, and it is rapidly transforming the world of manufacturing in a big way. The saying certainly holds true that change is the only constant.

How can manufacturers in Mississippi keep up with all the changes? How can they compete with new, unfamiliar innovations overtaking old, familiar ones so regularly? A closer look at how Jay Moon and the MMA face these challenges shows that, by finding a balance between holding onto the past’s strengths and letting its weaknesses be replaced by better options, manufacturers can overcome the challenges of advanced manufacturing and even utilize them to their advantage.

Looking Back
Timeless Business Strategies
“Although it may seem contradictory, for a business model to withstand a barrage of new ideas and innovations, it must first be built on the same foundation that has made businesses strong for years: people and truth.” This wisdom has grown out of Moon’s own career experiences, which have taught him how important it is to be able to work with people — from colleagues to attorneys to legislative officials — and how to identify the truth in a world overrun with data. And he is not the only person at the MMA who understands the value of stability: five of his colleagues have been working for the MMA for over 40 of the company’s 60 years, and one of them has never held another job. Investing in relationships with people and upholding the truth is an enduring recipe for a dedicated community.

Understanding the Industry
An equally important way that understanding the past can help manufacturers tackle the future is by analyzing major changes that have occurred in the field so far. A particularly well-known example of a huge change the manufacturing sector went through recently was the recession. The economic failure that began in 2008 led to a significant decrease in manufacturing jobs in Mississippi. Manufacturing jobs have been back on the rise for the past few years, however, and understanding why these ups and downs occur when they do is an essential part of preparing for the future.

The most obvious factor in the rise and fall of manufacturing jobs is how susceptible manufacturing is to fluctuations in the economy. Material, energy, labor, and other costs determine how many people a company can afford to employ, so when these things vary, so do jobs. Recent developments such as a significant increase in labor costs in many countries outside the United States, the implementation of natural gas lowering energy costs, and the increased popularity of customization have led to growth in local manufacturing jobs.

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Moving Forward
Once a business model is built on the firm foundation of lessons learned from the past, it needs to be able to adapt to what Moon calls the innovative economy. Modern manufacturing is rife with disruptive technology, or developments that are completely transformative in their industry. Innovations like robotics, 3D printing, self-driving cars, voice assistants, and smart home accessories are just a few examples of the types of advancements that multiply at an overwhelming rate and drive technological revolution. It’s extremely common for two innovations to join forces and form a third. Every technological disruption opens the door for more.

Understanding Change
The most important thing manufacturers can do to adapt is to understand the innovative economy. All too often, people subscribe to myths about technological advancements rather than investigating them for themselves. For example, the implementation of robotics into manufacturing worries a lot of people because statistics show that one robot replaces six human jobs. What these numbers fail to account for is that while robots phase out old jobs, they create new ones like industrial maintenance and data management.

According to Moon, understanding and implementing data management is so essential that children should be learning about it in school. Data accumulates exponentially faster every day, so learning how to sift through it all to identify and prioritize what is important is a must.

A great example of successful data management is predictive analytics, or the way online retailers track and gauge customers’ shopping and buying habits to personalize their shopping experience. Combined with the simplicity and convenience of ordering online, predictive analytics gives online retailers a major advantage over local venders.

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Choosing business strategies based on someone’s personal assessment of the market is risky and often unsuccessful, whereas predictive analytics save time and energy for both manufacturers and their customers.

If local manufacturers offer the same modern convenience that big online companies do, they may have a competitive edge by offering high-quality products, faster shipping times or none at all, more convenient returns and exchanges, and an inviting, personal touch. Plus, local manufacturers can make themselves even more approachable through an active social media presence that highlights their community involvement and personality.

Leading
The biggest takeaways from Jay Moon’s career and business management style are to always remember the value of people and truth, to keep up with what’s happening in the manufacturing world and why it’s happening, and to be adaptable and willing to implement new innovations. It is possible for manufacturers in Mississippi to face the challenges of technological revolution head-on, making their business stronger than ever in the process. With the help of the MMA, Mississippi can take the advanced manufacturing world by storm.