STIMS Institute offers its vision of 21st Century Manufacturing.

CEO Dialogue 2I

In a recent CEO Forum organized by MGTL, Dr. K. (Subbu) Subramanian, President STIMS Institute Inc., offered his vision of the 21st Century Manufacturing and outlined the need for requisite work force skills to meet the emerging needs. This forum was held at Pune, India on Nov. 21, 2014. For a complete presentation, please see: Manufacturing in the 21st Century

Few excerpts:

  • “Manufacturing” is a collection of (a) physical processes enabled by a host of (b) information processes and aided by a collection of (c) pick and place and transfer processes, which at the moment are a combination of physical events and information events.
  • Core capability for any manufacturing:  repetitive use of physical processes, to achieve or USE the “Product” at the required quantity, place and time to meet the end user needs.
  • Manufacturers have two options: (a) Steady improvement in the processes already deployed; The result is a constant reduction in the explicit knowledge and skill required with respect to the Physical Processes used. Over time, they have become the black boxes surrounded by a myriad of service processes, which are generic and practiced in all companies and industries. (b) Introduction of a stream of new solutions resulting in New Products, New Processes and New Applications/ USE. These new solutions are the result of intense knowledge of the physical processes unique to the manufacturing company.
  • Breakthrough – step change – solutions will be expected as a routine output of manufacturing professionals of the future. But, in order to sustain such improvements the process has to be managed as a whole – as a system. Constant tweaking or small changes in the system which disturbs the equilibrium of the process cannot be tolerated, if maximum impact is the desired outcome. This will require manufacturing professionals who are simultaneously good at process science as well as process economics, with expertise to integrate knowledge from all available sources.
  • We find two parallel chains operating across all manufacturing companies (i.e.) Supply Chain which deals with the information processes that interconnect the various tiers of manufacturers and Functional Value Chain, where the physical processes and their exploitation play a silent but foundational role across the manufacturers.
  •  Since the products are enables by processes and the USE is also a process in a manner of speaking, we are left with “Process and its knowledge and the capability to manipulate any process” may be the primary core capability or skill set of future manufacturing professionals! The role of human labor and their employment in large numbers is not a critical need in this description of manufacturing. It is important for policy makers to make note of this subtle but significant point.
  • Work force skills required for 21st century manufacturing:

Manufacturing Processes

Traditional Sources of Knowledge

New Knowledge Required

 Traditional Worker Skills

 New Worker Skills Required

   Physical Processes Engineers and shop floor workers with technical training, trade skills and academic education. ·  Process Science·  Diagnostics·  Data and   Analysis·  Sector specific know-how Engineers with years of experience located close to the shop floor operations ·       System Thinkers and Solution Providers Reliant on Process Science·       Reliant on sensors, signals and their use.
 Information Processes Collection of tasks that evolved through the years ·       IT·       Data Base·       Big data·       Analytics White Collar Workers with standard plug and play IT solutions ·       System Thinkers·       Solution Providers·       Customized IT solutions
  Pick and Place / Transfer Processes Industrial work force through many years of training and hands on experience. ·       CNC, Robotics and AGV·       Drones ·       Blue collar workers·       Standard work and tasks·       Physical effort and de-skilled operations. ·       System Thinkers·       Solution Providers·       Comfortable in virtual control environment

Learn to swim against the tide of Binary Economy

It is an undeniable axiom of globalization: anyone in any job or profession has to be better than anyone else who can do the same job from a pool of workers across the globe. Conversely, those who can do a job in a similar manner to others around the globe will be rewarded for their effort at the lowest value at which the work can be procured from anyone else across the globe! Every worker will fall into one of these two extremes. Anyone in the middle will be ultimately swept to the low-labor-cost pool.
While there will be a natural tendency to be swept into the lower-wage pool, it will require a special effort to swim against the current to be associated with the limited few in the high-wage, high-reward pool. Swim against the stream and reach a high place (of New Solutions with identifiable impact) or be swept away into the global pool of low-cost resources (needed for Replication Solutions) is the true paradigm of globalization. There is little or no opportunity for treading water in this paradigm. This constant struggle to swim upstream and against the current is what is perceived as the volatility and uncertainty in the workplace. Suggestions such as higher education, higher SAT scores, and more grit and perseverance are all means to the same end. But as we have detailed in our book – see the links below – all of these have to be formatted toward identification, development, and exploitation of New Solutions using Transformational Skills as the means to this end.

Do you know your “core” capability?

Are you the owner of a small or medium sized manufacturing company? Are you the head of a profit center or a Business Unit that is part of a company group? If you are, it is very likely that you are one of the business leaders, trying to find ways to keep your business above water. Some of you may be concerned about growing your bottom line and in rare occasions seeking ways to further grow your business. But, no matter what your needs are, it is certain that you are facing the stiff winds of global competition, cost pressures, challenges from outsourced operations and above all a sense of uncertainty about the future.

We believe that such pessimism and the sense of gloom and doom about manufacturing industries and their future is not warranted. It is true that there are stiff head winds and it is also true that the waters are turbulent. But, you are not up the creek, with out a paddle!

Have you ever sat back and asked yourself, “How did we (your business unit) get here?” No, I do not mean, how you got into a situation of stiff competition and low profit margins and high costs. These are all obvious and readily known to every one. But, have you figured out how your business or operation grew from its beginnings to where it is today? It did not happen by chance or by some luck or through magic! It happened because you and your people along with your suppliers and your customers contributed their share of knowledge and know-how that resulted in the products you manufacture, the processes you use to make them and also the applications know-how through which your customers use your products. The “Products. Processes and Applications knowhow” are your core capabilities. These core capabilities are embedded in the knowledge of many people connected with your company – through your employees, suppliers and customers and their customers.

You might say “It is indeed true that we did not grow out of thin air. We built our company, brick by brick though our products, manufacturing process capabilities and our know-how to help our customers use our products better. Then, whatever happened to my business or operation, over the years? Why are we struggling today with low profitability and shrinking margins and low to no growth?” One can ask such valid questions and wallow in misery or merely be nostalgic about the good old days for ever. Instead, you can muster the passion to dig deeper.

Your product is not any widget you put in your shipping box. It is not merely something you identify by a product number or a bar code. Product is something of value to some one (the user), who is willing to pay you (the manufacturer) something of value to you. Can you describe your “Product” using the above definition? Is there any one in your sales, product design/development, manufacturing/production, tech-support or general management who can describe your product in terms of the value to your customer and the expected value for you in return? Do you know who they are? Do they all have the same understanding of the user value and manufacture’s value or are they speaking over each other in different languages? Your journey for the future can start right here and now, by developing a common definition of your “Product” and developing a core team across the business functions that speaks the same language about your product.

How well do you know your Processes to manufacture your products? They are not “black box” that nobody knows anything about, after Joe Smith retires from the company! All processes in your manufacturing floor have well defined Inputs, which are converted into Outputs. All processes are “Input/Transformation/Output” system. No, we are not talking about Ph.D language. In the past years, few who knew about the process could tweak them and keep them going, while others were simply pairs of hands to help them out. We can not do that any more. All processes can be diagnosed (using proper sensors and IT tools for measurement), repaired, improved and in some cases changed dramatically. But, you can not do any of the above, if you think that the processes in your shop floor are merely “black box” put in place by some one who left the company years ago! Your journey for the future can start right here and now, by developing a common definition of the key “Processes” in your manufacturing floor and developing a system view of these processes across all the business functions that support such processes. You would not like to see any medical professional with out a stethoscope and a thermometer. Then, why would you not want all your manufacturing process professionals have similar capability to measure and diagnose and cure the problem with respect to your processes and their health?

How well do you know your customer’s processes (Application) and how you can add value in their processes through your products? If software is the enabler of all the growth and success in the IT industry, you can make your AT (Applications Technology) as the enabler for your growth and success in the manufacturing industry. AT helps you to build alliances with your suppliers and customers towards building solutions of shared benefits. If you have treated your process as a black box, it is likely that your customers have done the same with their processes. It is about time, you helped them to do a “health check up” on their processes, while they use your product. After all, strong and healthy customer process is essential for your long term strength and success.

Product, Process and Applications know-how are your core capabilities, which got you where you are today! They are the bench strength of your team. You can do more or less with them enabled by all the plug and play IT capabilities. But, you can not build a manufacturing industry with out the brick and mortar (i.e) Product, Process and Applications Technology. Have you taken the time to cultivate them? If not, may be it is time for you and the key personnel in your team to go through the “Core Capability Boot Camp”?

Commentary on “American Factory”

Oscar 2020: Obamas thrilled at American Factory nomination | Daily Mail  Online

American Factory is a 2019 documentary film directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, about Chinese company Fuyao’s factory in Moraine, a city near Dayton, Ohio, that occupies Moraine Assembly, a shuttered General Motors plant.   It is the first film produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company. 

I was curious to learn where or how Fuyao Glass obtained its Glass Technology knowhow? Through Google search and reflection on the information obtained, here are some interesting observations:

1. The basic process technology / know-how came from two legacy companies: Saint-Gobain (French) and PPG (USA).

As much as the US and French companies have attempted to invest and globalize outside their national base, Fuyao has done the same by expanding outside of China and investing in the USA.

2. As is the case in most manufacturing sector industries, we see no focus on breakthrough or radical technologies in this movie for legacy business such as automotive glass.

At the end of the movie one can see the emphasis on robotics and automation. Automation is seen as “technology” and the way into the future (with the implied unavoidable diminishing of work force and employment for the factory workers). Paradoxically the theme of the movie is the fight against union workers and union’s stated goal to save their jobs! It is like fighting to serve the soup out of a pot where there is less and less soup left to serve!

Please see our blog post, “Do Americans really miss the unions?”

Process innovation and creating “New Solutions” is the way forward for better employment. Union or no-union would be merely a side show in this inevitable technology growth and migration.However, even legacy knowledge, application and know-how such as that required for current automotive glass would appear sufficient for a Chinese investor to take the risks and make money out of it in the USA.

The financial economics acceptable to the Chinese investor may work only under low wages for work force in USA. Hence the pressure and ultimately the success of Fuyao to keep the labor union out as seen in the movie.

At the same time, the Chinese parent Co. highlights the Worker Union in China under the local political system!

Anyone who believes the “the world is flat” under globalization should re-think such simplification and their enormous impact in public perception.

3. US Government (at the State as well as Federal levels) have failed to manage the global capital investments and transactions and their implications on work force wages even under the “Anti-China” attitude expressed in public by the Trump administration or the Republican led state Govt. in Ohio or the Dem. Senator such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio!

4. UAW has also failed miserably in that their only goal was to unionize the workforce in Fuyao. They did not see the need to train the workers and get them better skilled than the Chinese workers. The Chinese expatriates in the movie would appear to have only hands on experience acquired from their working in their plants in China.

UAW in collaboration with local universities could set up training and resources that empowers the workers with better knowledge and skills.

Such re-training and education on how to survive under globalization could be for all workers – union or non-union. After all such better educated workers would be better customers and future UAW union members?

5. The academic and other research/scientific resources – available in plenty in Ohio and Midwest – had not stepped in to improve the work content, training and quality of the workers.

The movie shows an American supervisor trying to mimic the Chinese drill for the workers in Ohio at the beginning of the shift. While this would seem as a parody at first, such meaningless copying of Chinese and Japanese work place habits are frequently noted in the industries.

It is sad to see the psychological stress of the workers left to believe that they had good paying jobs and good life in the past under GM (the plant which has now closed) and they are now left in a deplorable state of affairs. Better education, training and re-skilling would restore their confidence and the “can-do” attitude of the American spirit.

6. Piles of broken glass in the Chinese plant and the uncontrolled shattering of glass in the Ohio plant would suggest opportunities for process improvement. Such process improvements in glass parts making could also improve the speed and efficiency in handling of glass by robots in their future applications.

7. The emphasis in labor relations has been on the traditional issues of Union Vs. Non-Union fights, “keep the union out” mindset of the management and Chinese owners, “give me a job and good wages” mindset of the workers without challenging themselves to get better and competitive on their own, “state subsidies to foreign investors is the only way to grow new jobs” mindset of the Govt. and politicians, etc. A more comprehensive approach with System Thinking and Transformational Skills may be the real need from all sides?

Sadly the film American Factory does not delve into any of the above issues and hence leaves a dramatic presentation that merely perpetuates the apprehension and anxieties of the public at large! :-( The company formed a joint venture with Saint-Gobain in 1996 with the French firm’s 51 percent stake valued at $15.3 million. Three years later, Cao bought the stake back for $30 million.[6] Fuyao Glass America Inc.[edit]In 2013, Fuyao began looking at establishing a factory presence in the United States, considering several sites in Ohio and Michigan before deciding on the former General Motors Moraine Assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio.[7] Its initial commitment to the factory, which was made public in January 2014, was to buy 1.4 million square feet of the plant from Industrial Realty Group and invest $240 million into an auto glass production facility, which would create 800 jobs.[7] In 2014, it bought a float glass plant in Mount Zion, Illinois. In 2016, it announced an additional $131 million investment to add additional after-market glass lines at the plant, bringing it to 24 production lines. In exchange it received $6.6 million in incentives from JobsOhio. By then, the company planned to produce enough auto glass for 4 million to 5 million automobiles a year,[8] taking advantage of contraction in the U.S. auto market during the Great Recession.[9] By the time the plant entered full-scale production in October 2016, the company had invested $1 billion in the U.S. subsidiary, with long-term plans to grow to 5,000 employees in the United States.[10] As of early 2020, Fuyao has opened additional operating facilities in Greenville, South Carolina and Detroit, Michigan.[11

PPG reaches agreement to sell Mt. Zion float glass manufacturing facility  PITTSBURGH, July 18, 2014 – PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG) today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to sell substantially all the assets of its Mt. Zion, Illinois, glass manufacturing facility to automotive glass manufacturer Fuyao Glass America Inc. The Mt. Zion facility currently manufactures glass for use in residential and commercial construction markets. Fuyao plans to rebuild and retrofit the facility’s two production lines to manufacture automotive glass. PPG will continue to operate the plant for up to one year, producing SUNGATE® coated glass and clear glass. The production for these products will eventually be shifted to PPG’s other North American float glass manufacturing sites. The sale of the Mt. Zion facility is consistent with the strategic initiative by PPG’s flat glass business to focus on its higher-technology, coated glass capabilities for residential and commercial construction application. “Glass coatings technology remains the engine of our growth and we plan to make incremental technology investments in our facilities to improve our current capacity for better-performing, low-e glass and to expand our overall technical capabilities for newer, more advanced products,” said Richard Beuke, PPG vice president of flat glass.In regard to Mt. Zion facility, Beuke added, “Fuyao has been PPG’s business partner for 13 years and is a well-respected glass manufacturer and fabricator. We look forward to an ongoing collaborative relationship with Fuyao in North America as a PPG technology licensee. The Mt. Zion facility is ideally suited for their automotive glass mission, given its geographic proximity to major automotive manufacturers and history in automotive glass production. ”PPG’s flat glass business unit manufactures high-performing coated glass, tinted and clear float glass primarily for the residential and commercial segments of the construction industry, as well as other specialty glass markets. The Mt. Zion facility was built in 1959 and converted for float glass production in 1978.

ASME 2020 Awards Ceremony

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) held their 2020 Awards Ceremony on Nov. 16, 2020 to recognize outstanding achievement of several professionals in the engineering community. This online celebration included the award of the prestigious Merchant Medal for Manufacturing offered jointly by two professional societies: Society of Manufacturing Engineering (SME) and the ASME presented to Dr. Krishnamoorthy (Subbu) Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute, USA.

The video of the entire award ceremony can be seen at :

Following are few additional images from the ceremony:

Accepting the award, Dr. Subramanian shared the following brief remarks:

My sincere thanks to ASME and SME. I am very grateful to the awards committee, chairman as well as all my nominators; especially Prof. Jawahir from University of Kentucky.

The guidance from my parents and grandparents was the motivation in my early years. Thanks to Prof. Nathan Cook at MIT, Dr. Eugene Merchant and many others for my academic depth and professional approach

Special thanks to my family and especially my wife Dr. Durga Subramanian. As a fellow industry professional, as a Chemist, as a mother and grandmother, Durga equally deserves this award!

This award is also recognition of the work of a large body of people from Industry and academia from all across the globe. My sincere thanks to all of them.

In the field of Manufacturing, there are countless Physical Processes like Grinding, Machining, etc. They grow their roots through research; become visible through industrial use and yield fruits measured as commercial results. Merchant medal is an honor that recognizes the contribution to this combination of efforts and outcome in manufacturing. I am genuinely honored and humbled to receive this recognition and the award. Thank you very much!

Dynamic Diaspora – Global Webinar

Here is the link for an upcoming global webinar on Sunday August 16th

7.00 to 8.30 PM (IST); 6.30 to 8.00 AM (PST); 9.30 to 11.00 AM (EST).

Hope you will register and join.

Dynamic Diaspora

Special Guest: Shri Chaitanya Prakash Yogi, Director, Swami Vivekananda Cultural Center, Durban

Chair:  Dr. K Subramanian, Founder-President STIMS Institute (USA) – Indian Culture and Ethics in the Global Scenario”


  • Shri. Akshay Mahashabde, President, Marathi Mandal (the Netherlands) – Indian Cultural Identity in the Netherlands
  • Dr Balu Natarajan, First Indian Spell-Bee Champion and Physician (USA) – Indian Excellence from Sports to Spelling Bee
  • Dr. Ramesh Mehta, President, BAPIO (UK) – Contribution of Indian doctors to NHS
  • Dr Kadira Pethiyagoda, Former Diplomat (Australia) – Culture and Diplomacy