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Operations conference explores new opportunities in manufacturing

A recap of the latest Dauch Center for the Management of Manufacturing Enterprises (DCMME) conference from Director Ananth Iyer, the Susan Bulkeley Butler Chair in Operations Management:

On Friday, September 17, 2010, DCMME hosted the 2010 Fall Operations conference at Rawls Hall, on the campus of Purdue University. The theme of the conference was “Manufacturing – New Opportunities Ahead” and focused on innovation in manufacturing as a way to create growth opportunities. With over 50 industry participants, students and faculty from Purdue, and economic development officials from the state and from Kokomo, the conference celebrated the successes of companies that have seen growth through innovation. Among the highlights:

DCMME Operations conference* Matt Caddell from Engine Aero spoke about the one-year-old collaboration between Rolls Royce and Goodrich Corporation and its focus on harnessing engine intelligence through continuous monitoring and proactive maintenance. He spoke about engine performance itself as stabilizing, but online data enabling efficiencies to be reaped in the future. Will remote diagnostics and thus proactive maintenance be a growth opportunity for companies across the industrial base?

* Steve Blanco from Eaton spoke about “Senior Kaizen” – a focus on using continuous improvement techniques to resolve strategic issues by pulling a senior management team along with line employees. Rich Sepeta spoke about managing the Delphi plant in Mexico – his view was that the rising Chinese currency, fuel and labor costs would provide opportunities for manufacturing closer to the U.S.

DCMME Operations conference* Jeb Conrad and Don McCreary from the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance described a project with DCMME to showcase firms in the Howard County region based on their supply chain capabilities and synchronization with proposal requests. They also discussed flexible ways to access engineering talent as well as availability of CAD software and systems at low hourly rates. A flexible, highly educated engineering talent available on-call, coupled with the ability to put together supply chain possibilities on demand, was Kokomo’s innovative plan to grow manufacturing.

* Mike Molnar from Cummins and Patsy Sebben from John Deere spoke about global opportunities for their countries in India and China. Cummins is focused on enabling sustainable manufacturing by monitoring its carbon footprint across the supply chain. But it is also focused on redesigning its products to enable higher efficiencies that will provide it a competitive edge. John Deere is focused on using software tools to identify efficient manufacturing and leveraging global capabilities across the company to deliver growth.

* Subaru’s Tom Easterday spoke about improving safety and quality performance while increasing line speeds to accommodate growth. He spoke of the use of “Obeya” rooms to get senior management to focus quickly on safety and reliability.

DCMME Operations conference* Finally, David Hummels, professor of economics, spoke about his research on global supply chains and the impact of the number of commodities used and global sourcing choices by commodity. His research focused on the Asian crisis as a way to understand the impact of the current global trade meltdown. His research on timeliness of sourcing from different countries enables macroeconomists to understand how trade frictions affect the level of trade and country level steps that could be initiated to improve trade.

The conference format encouraged a spirited discussion of ideas and opportunities to nurture growth in manufacturing through innovation. Whether it is a focus on sustainability, remote diagnostics, leveraging modeling technology, showcasing firms based on capability, flexible access to engineering talent, kaizen at a strategic level or a focus on safety and reliability – manufacturing remains a field where there is always room for innovation and thus growth.

Thanks to all who attended, and we look forward to our next opportunity to share thoughts and ideas.