More than 600 manufacturing executives gathered in Orlando, Fla., for the fifth annual MFG Meeting from March 4-7, 2015. Attendees from AMT, NTMA (National Tooling and Machining Association) and PMA (Precision Metalforming Association) raved that this year’s meeting was one of the best ever. 

Former executive of Apple and Tesla Motors George Blankenship urged attendees to engage in “disruptive” thinking. He stressed that innovation is often about following your convictions and not being swayed by outside influences. 

Apple and Tesla certainly followed this model, especially CEOs Jobs and Musk, by creating ground-breaking products, like the iPhone, and revolutionizing the business model of auto sales. “What can you give them [customers] that others won’t or can’t?” he said. “What can you do that would be unexpected?”

Sandy Munro, CEO, Munro & Associates, provided attendees his perspective into what the future may hold for the manufacturing industry. 

He used the BMW i3 to illustrate how improvements in material and process technologies will cause radical change not just in the automotive manufacturing sector, but also in the aircraft, high-speed train, household appliance, computer and cell phone industries. 

“First you need to honestly assess the gap between your current technology and the technology you’re striving to achieve,” he said. “Next, you need to benchmark the market, not only in your own industry, but also in other industries to assess where cross overs in technology are being used and where you truly stand in terms of technology.” 

Economist Eli Lustgarten assured manufacturers that the industry will continue to improve as the U.S. economy expands. Despite “global negatives and headwinds,” he predicts our economy will grow “near 3% for 2015 and 2016,” spurred by job creation early in the year. 

He stressed that manufacturing continues to be a great business to be in. To continue the positive signs, there has to be more investment in capital equipment and hiring of new employees, he said.  
To emphasize how Big Data is affecting manufacturing, Rob Gremley, an executive at PTC, spoke on the Industrial Internet. He stressed the importance of monitoring processes in factories but also in products after they leave the factory. Retrieving data from products can help a manufacturer understand how their product is used, its life cycle, service needs, etc., thus influencing how products are made in the future.

We have a tremendous amount of data and more all the time, he said. The current push is to develop tools that can make the data more accessible and easier to use. This helps manufacturers optimize their processes to improve production. 

As usual, attendees were able to connect with their peers through receptions, networking breaks, the golf outing and the formal gala event on Saturday night. 

The MFG Meeting 2016, co-hosted with NTMA, will take place March 2-5, 2016, in Palm Springs, Calif., at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. We hope to see you there!