June 19, 2017 | The monthly mutmacher


Only those who regularly and objectively lock horns with the best in the world and systematically eliminate weaknesses will survive long term in this age of digitalization. This demands speed, openness and above all courage. Are you ready? Then don’t hang around—enter our Factory of the Year competition before June 30, 2017.

By Dr. Marc Lakner

As the A.T. Kearney Partner in charge of Factory of the Year/GEO, two months ago I had the pleasure of celebrating this competition’s 25th anniversary together with an elite group of production managers. It was a  fantastic party, with plenty of VIPs and razzmatazz, and appreciation of more than two decades of world-class work in production. In my address, I expressed my conviction that it wouldn’t be a good idea to sit on one’s laurels. After all, like at the beginning of the 90s when the first ‘lean wave’ rolled over Germany and scores of Japanese companies adopted leading positions, the onset of digitalization once again finds us at the dawn of a new age. The hierarchy in the production world is in the process of being restructured.

If done correctly, digitalization enables production departments to implement aggressive increases in productivity, improve their customer orientation and make a smart contribution toward new business models. During my last visit to the Hanover Fair, it was plain to see that the flagships of the German economy are moving full steam ahead to meet this challenge. Nevertheless, as I work on consulting projects, visit factories and take part in panel discussions, it becomes clear to me that a large section of the Germany’s famed mittelstand is practicing a policy of wait and see. To ensure that these companies don’t get left behind, it’s essential that action be taken! In my eyes, this demands speed, openness and above all courage.

And as I see it, it’s courage that’s the key challenge we face. The mittelstand, so spoiled by success, needs to venture out of its comfort zone and ask some radical questions about itself. And these SMEs need to define a clear target and prioritized ideas that they can trial on a small scale and roll out rapidly if successful. In parallel with this, they must build digital competencies, a sustainable IT system and an agile ecosystem of partners.

To make this happen across a wide spectrum, we in the Factory of the Year/GEO team will assume the dual role of forerunners and pacesetters during this new dawning. We have revised the competition and expanded its digital bias. In addition, I will use this monthly column to do my best to ensure this issue remains a top priority for management. As regards the production manager elite, one thing still applies: Only those who regularly and objectively lock horns with the best in the world and systematically eliminate weaknesses will survive long term. So, here’s my appeal to everyone as an encourager: Enter, take part and reap the benefits!

The closing date for entries to Factory of the Year is June 30, 2017.