Sep 17, 2020

McKinsey: Managing Unprecedented Disruption in Manufacturing

Supply Chain
Scott Birch
3 min
McKinsey: Managing Unprecedented Disruption in Manufacturing
Manufacturers that are ahead in scaling advanced production technologies are successfully navigating shifts critical to managing unprecedented disruptio...

Companies that realise the full potential of the innovations and advances at the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have a significant advantage in navigating four durable shifts that are critical to managing unprecedented disruption in the global manufacturing industry, a report by McKinsey has found.

Citing evidence from a select collection of leading-edge organisations in the Global Lighthouse Network (GLN), the report says that it is clear how lighthouse factories can help entire organisations navigate their modernisation journeys, inspiring and catalysing change amongst partner organisations along the way.

This growth is reflected in data that shows that the GLN now comprises of 54 sites, with ten sites added in Q3 2020 alone. This growth reflects the accelerating adoption of core 4IR technologies, and their infusion into the daily manufacturing and supply-chain operations, as organisations act on the new urgency to remain competitive – even as others fall behind, it highlights.

The GLN includes companies that have achieved 4IR advances within the four walls of factory sites or have effectively implemented end-to-end (E2E) digitisation across the value chain. In both cases, 4IR technology has powered the reimagination of manufacturing and supply chains across industries and sectors.

An essential part of this success has been the dedicated focus on workforce development and capability building through a variety of means, the McKinsey report says. Organisations that have prioritized their people by transforming the nature of work through intentional upskilling and/or reskilling efforts, have been the ones to benefit the most, it adds.

With recent world events, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, causing significant disruptions on a scale unprecedented in modern times, there have been calls for a ‘great reset’ across all sectors of the global economy: a decisive set of actions that will not only delivery value to companies, but will also benefit society as a whole.

This has been most evident in the way leading companies have responded to supply chain shocks that have uncovered operational vulnerabilities. These companies have used the crisis as a transformative opportunity to implement the advances of technology and adopt new ways of working, which has enabled them to adapt quickly during disruption, while remaining viable and operational.

The report points out that even before the massive disruptions imposed by the pandemic, the gap between 4IR frontrunners and the majority was growing rapidly. There are now four durable shifts in manufacturing and supply chain that have emerged as particularly critical, it says:

  • Improved agility and customer centricity across E2E manufacturing and supply chains facilitates faster recognition of customer preferences. This, in turn, enables quicker adjustments to manufacturing flows at next-generation, small-scale modular plants to allow higher levels of customization.
  • Supply-chain resilience provides a competitive advantage, requiring connected, reconfigurable n-tier supply ecosystems and regionalization.
  • Speed and productivity are attained through increased levels of automation and workforce augmentation coupled with upskilling and reskilling efforts.
  • Eco-efficiency is increasingly considered a must-have to remain in business and ensure compliance with an increasingly complex regulatory landscape.

“It is in this context of unprecedented challenge that lighthouses serve as models of transformation and beacons of light that can guide us through the storm into a stronger, more resilient future. These organizations are leading the way by demonstrating how to reimagine and rebalance operations into the next normal. They are showing us how companies can provide value not only to their shareholders but also to a broader set of stakeholders including workers, consumers, and the environment—indeed, society at large,” the report says.

“Perhaps most importantly, today’s challenges make clear that lighthouses are not at the end of their transformation journeys—they are only just starting to unlock the true potential of 4IR technologies. As the network of lighthouses grows, its light will shine brighter, helping even more organizations be better prepared to weather the inevitable future storms, whenever and wherever they occur,” it concludes.

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Jun 16, 2021 x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line

2 min and BSH announce plans to bring speech-to-intent AI to the assembly line that will increase factory efficiency and improve worker ergonomics has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines. 


According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.


What Sets Apart? 

After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.  


  • Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions. 
  • Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately. 
  • Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations. 


How Voice Automation Works

Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production. 


‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’. 


Future Global Adoption 

In the coming years, BSH and will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier. 


Said Probal Lala,’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’. 



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