I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA)’s Annual Manufacturing Summit.  The title of the Panel was “The Future of Manufacturing in Connecticut” and included three experienced manufacturing executives:  William Lee, President & CEO, The Lee Company; Severine Zygmont, President, Biomedical, Oxford Performance Materials, Inc.; and Pedro Soto, CFO, Space-Craft Manufacturing, Inc.

Here are some of the takeaways from the panel:

  1.  3-D Printing:  About two years ago, you could not read an industry article without hearing about 3-D printing.  While plenty of commentators said that it would revolutionize manufacturing, it was not clear when that revolution would arrive.  Two of the three panelists indicated that they use 3-D printing, including in production.  The one panelist that did not use 3-D printing said that he expects that his OEM customers in aerospace will likely be requiring such technology in the future.  Interestingly, one of the panelists mentioned that his company uses the technology as a “defensive mechanism.”
  2. Automation:  One of the big fears of automation is that less workers will be needed in a factory.  Not so, according to the panel.  One of the panelists indicated that his company has done the most hiring for the division that uses automation.  The other main theme was that automation should be used if it makes the process better and not necessarily faster.
  3. Tried-and-True:  I recently visited a manufacturing facility where the “newest” machinery was made in the 1960s.  All three panelists confirmed that a mix of new and old equipment remains necessary particularly if the company is serving the aftermarket.  Interestingly, all three executives confirmed though it often helps from a sales perspective for your customers to see some new equipment on the floor and also helps with employee retention.