Increase Your Influence and Impact Through Membership

With an annual agenda shaped by over 1500 executives from across all industries in manufacturing,
the Manufacturing Leadership Council helps you gain insights on your most pressing challenges.


Access exclusive research, presentations, videos and more through a members-only content library and the Manufacturing Leadership Journal.


Networking at quarterly Plant Tours and at the annual ML Summit & Awards Gala leads to meaningful professional and personal relationships.


Participating in weekly and monthly member debates and discussions, you’ll gain insights on the cutting-edge ideas that are driving industry forward.


Maximize your membership from wherever business takes you. Access other members, research and event updates, using a powerful platform for collaboration.

Critical Issues 2020/2021

Guiding Theme: The Journey to Manufacturing 4.0

The growing importance of data entrepreneurship and digital acumen in manufacturing leadership, the need for a three-dimensional approach to M4.0 transformation, a heightened emphasis on new digital skills and employee training, and the increasing value of digital twins and virtualization are among the key highlights of the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Critical Issues agenda for 2020/2021.

Overall Theme: The Journey to Manufacturing 4.0

The manufacturing industry is at a pivotal point in its history. Driven by competitive pressures to become more agile, innovative, and cost effective, and enabled by advanced digital and analytical technologies, manufacturing companies of all sizes are now pursuing a future vision for their businesses that will transform the rules of competition, how work will be performed, how companies will be organized, and how leadership must lead.

We term this future state: Manufacturing 4.0.

The vision for Manufacturing 4.0 is a state in which production and supply networks are increasingly data-driven, predictive, sustainable, secure, and rapidly reconfigurable to meet changing market demands and competition. Products can be smart, easily customized, autonomous, and provide a rich platform for new service revenue streams. Supply chains are responsive, risk-resilient, traceable, socially responsible, and constantly analyzed in real-time to support faster and more accurate decisions. Enterprises are cross-functional, collaborative, inclusive, and highly integrated, often supported by a digital thread that stretches from design, to deployment, to materials reclamation. And leaders and employees at all levels are digitally-savvy, customer-centric, continually innovative, highly engaged, and ready to adapt to new challenges and grasp new business opportunities.

Underpinning these fundamental changes is the growing importance of data as a critical asset in an M4.0 world – harnessing insights to drive better and more effective decisions. Access to new data-derived insights also provides the foundation for a new era of data entrepreneurship, allowing manufacturing companies and leaders to imagine, develop, and deliver new processes, services, and potentially disruptive business models for the future.

Such a comprehensive and enterprise-wide Manufacturing 4.0 transformation requires a three-dimensional approach in which companies need to identify and master the challenges and opportunities of advanced new technologies and data assets, organizational restructuring and cultural improvement, and new workforce and leadership skills and strategies.

The Manufacturing Leadership Council's Critical Issues Agenda, therefore, is specifically designed to help manufacturers align their thinking and practices for a successful journey to Manufacturing 4.0.


The six Critical Issues for 2021, and their key areas of focus, are the following:

COVID-19: Road to Recovery

Widespread disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a transformative impact on manufacturing worldwide. Over the last year, manufacturing leaders have reassessed many existing activities from employee safety, to production flexibility, to supply chain resiliency. In many cases, they have also had to rethink their own leadership approaches and the effectiveness of their traditional corporate cultures. With COVID vaccination programs underway, manufacturers are now focusing on business recovery and seeking ways to harness M4.0 technologies and new workforce, management, and partnership approaches to identify new growth opportunities and create safer, more collaborative, adaptable, and resilient internal operations and external value chains for the future.

Areas of Focus

  • Operations & Supply: Manufacturing facility and workspace design to improve all working environments, including hygiene, air quality, distance, people flows, and individual protection; flexible, adaptable, automated production lines and processes that strengthen preparedness and respond faster to sudden impacts ; focus on supply chain resiliency to reduce complexity and shorten response times through localized supply networks, strategic inventory, reshoring, and proximity production closer to demand.
  • Workforce & Culture: Creating more adaptive, proactive, and transparent cultures, leadership approaches, and working procedures with flexible operational talent management strategies to cope more effectively with disruption. Continuing to educate and train employees on best practices and new productivity metrics in increasingly data-driven, remote, and virtual working environments as they evolve into more permanent ‘work from here’ or ‘work from anywhere’ cultures, where that’s found to be feasible.
  • Virtual Environments: Ensuring the organization has effective, easily accessible, collaborative, and secure virtual working, design and production, remote operations, conferencing, ecommerce, and product showcasing platforms in place to support employee, supply, partner, and customer engagement in the new normal.
Factories of the Future

Manufacturers of all sizes, in both process and discrete manufacturing, need to understand and embrace the potential of new and evolving production models, materials, and technologies including advanced analytical tools along the journey towards Manufacturing 4.0. These help increase business value by enabling more cost efficient, responsive, quality-driven, secure, safer, and more sustainable factories, production processes, and new business models for the future.

Areas of Focus

  • M4.0 roadmaps, maturity models, and transformation frameworks to help companies move along their journey to Manufacturing 4.0, from current production models, often based on legacy systems, to a future state of increasingly digitally-enabled production readiness.
  • End-to-end digitization and analysis of manufacturing and engineering processes and functions in both centralized and distributed production networks. This also covers integration upstream with the tiered supply chain, and integration downstream through channels-to-market to connect with end customers.
  • Deployment of M4.0 visualization, digital twin, simulation, and advanced modeling techniques to help digitize, accelerate, and streamline a more materials-efficient manufacturing design and production process.
  • Increasingly more effective cybersecurity risk management approaches to combat the exponentially expanding issue of cyber threat in today’s increasingly networked manufacturing environment. A key focus is effective collaboration with corporate IT teams to ensure successful preventative measures and cyber attack response strategies that minimize potential vulnerabilities – from direct production interruption, to data / IP theft, and ransomware.
Establishing M4.0 Cultures: Collaborative, Innovative, Integrated, and Connected

To maximize and harness the potential of Manufacturing 4.0, manufacturers of all sizes need to actively transform traditional operational cultures by empowering people to help drive growth and strengthen competitiveness. This is achieved by improving collaboration to deliver operational efficiencies, innovating more effectively to develop new products and services, and integrating and connecting functions to maximize the value of shared data and drive greater organizational agility and speed.

Areas of Focus

  • Cross-functional processes, change management approaches, collaborative structures, and more integrated organizational designs that leverage multiple sources of data and expertise to drive both continuous and disruptive innovation, make faster and better decisions, reduce time to market, and enhance competitive agility.

  • Collaborative innovation cultures, behaviors, and platforms that leverage the ideas and development resources of employees, suppliers, external partners, customers, academia, and 'the crowd' to create new products, improve business processes, and create innovative new business models.

  • Best practice approaches, and the challenges involved, in deploying integrated Manufacturing 4.0 technologies and platforms, such as digital threads, that enhance collaboration, integration, and innovation to help manufacturers deliver new ideas and improvements faster across the enterprise.

Transformative Technologies in Manufacturing

In order to create innovative new business models and drive competitiveness, manufacturers must learn how to identify, assess, and scale the most promising M4.0-enabling technologies in order to achieve greater speed, agility, efficiency, and quality to improve customer experiences.

Areas of Focus

  • The impact of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cognitive analytics on the future of manufacturing.

  • The latest developments in key transformational technologies including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), additive manufacturing, virtualization and simulation, collaborative robotics, augmented and virtual realities, 5G networks, blockchain, and other emerging technologies.

  • Best practice business case approaches for evaluating, selecting, and deploying new value-generating M4.0 technologies to enhance business capability, while embracing standards and architectures that support open, interoperable digital ecosystems.

Next-Generation Manufacturing Leadership and the Changing Workforce

Leaders in the M4.0 era must develop the digital acumen needed to understand the business-changing impact of new technologies, how to lead a collaborative enterprise empowered by information, and to prepare for the workforce of the future. This will require them to identify the new digital skill-sets their companies will need for their M4.0 journey, while continuing to attract, develop, train, retain, and inspire both the current workforce and the next generation of employees. It also requires M4.0 leaders themselves to embrace new behaviors and value systems and be comfortable with new corporate structures and collaborative cultures.

Areas of Focus

  • Effective leadership role models, behaviors, and mindsets that best support the company’s journey to Manufacturing 4.0 and help define a successful set of competencies for tomorrow’s manufacturing leaders.

  • Employee training, transition, development, and engagement strategies for a diverse and inclusive multi-generational, multi-cultural, multinational workforce that is increasingly interacting with advanced technologies such as AI and cobots.

  • Identifying, attracting, and encouraging next-generation talent and skills for tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce, including adopting new working cultures and ethical value systems, and by developing more effective ways to collaborate with educational institutions at all age levels and multiple types of community organizations.

Manufacturing 4.0 Sustainability

New analytical insights derived from Manufacturing 4.0 technologies help provide companies of all sizes with the opportunity to optimize the use of resources, achieve major efficiency gains, reduce time and materials in mass-customization, minimize waste and environmental impacts, and add direct value to the business. Successful engagement with customers, suppliers, partners and the next-generation workforce also requires manufacturers to become increasingly transparent about their environmental and socially-responsible practices.

Areas of Focus

  • Key M4.0 design technologies to support the intentional design of products for easier reuse, remanufacture, refurbishment, materials reclamation, or recycling at end of life.

  • Manufacturing 4.0 production and supply chain strategies that streamline processes to increase efficiency, reduce costs and waste, and ensure all resources, products, components, energy, and materials are kept at their highest utility and value at all times.

  • Holistic, sustainable manufacturing business models, supported by collaborative cross-sector partnerships and deeper community engagement that help create a circular manufacturing economy.

Who are our Members?











Member Snapshot

Interested in learning about membership? Apply today!

The Manufacturing Leadership Council offers an annual corporate membership allowing any number of leaders from different functional areas across your organization to participate.  Complete the information below and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly!

Contact Us