Change in Control at Ford, and How to See Opportunity Better and Faster

Presentations on remaining relevant in business and controls platforms from Siemens Manufacturing in America Symposium.

By Mike Bacidore, Chief Editor

This year, Ford Motor’s stamping business unit launched all new controls in its equipment in Dearborn, Michigan. “We have a pretty diverse organization,” said Andy Herbert, chief stamping engineer for the unit at Ford, who spoke at Siemens Manufacturing in America Symposium in Detroit. Herbert spent the past 16 years as plant manager of two different Ford facilities before taking on his current role as head of stamping.

“When you think of stamping, and you look at a new vehicle, the first things you look at are the lines on the vehicle. We have 10 plants in the United States, five in Europe and eight in Asia-Pacific.”

In the past, our controls used to be very select, said Herbert. “We’re putting controls in place to help people running the lines,” he explained. “We’re trying to standardize on one controls platform. We’re working with Siemens to standardize that across the globe. When we have common controls across the business, safety becomes much easier. As we partner up with companies like Siemens, we make the business easier to run. People can help themselves, instead of us calling in the OEM suppliers.”

Better and faster

Change is inevitable, whether it’s your choice or the result of someone else’s. Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of TrendHunter and author of “Better and Faster”, knows about the importance and impact of change and evolution in a business environment. He’s spent the past decade studying chaos. “In an era of change, how do you know if you’re making the right choice?” he asked. “Our brain is a product of 10,000 years of evolution as a farmer.”

“There are patterns and clues around you that you can tie together to get your solution, but too often we overlook those.”

– Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of TrendHunter
A Fortune 500 brand used to last for 75 years, said Gutsche. “Today, the average lifespan of a Fortune 500 is 15 years. If companies are failing to adapt, they need to understand how chaos works.”

He related the story of human hearts, rocket ships, scorpions and origami. Robert Lang is a pioneer of the cross-disciplinary union or mathematics and origami. “There are patterns and clues around you that you can tie together to get your solution, but too often we overlook those,” said Gutsche. Lang developed a technique for folding a single piece of paper into a black scorpion, which is why he’s also worked on projects such as how to fold expandable space telescopes and heart stents. “Origami was the answer,” said Gutsche. “How come most people miss out and don’t see it? After 10,000 years of evolution as farmers, once you figure out your process, it’s difficult to break free.”

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Gutsche offered examples of organizations that were so intent upon protecting their own success that they didn’t see the opportunities in front of them—from Smith Corona and BlackBerry to Blockbuster, which could have bought Netflix three times, but didn’t. “In each case, they were icons of innovation, and they repeated their success and protected their fields of opportunity,” said Gutsche. “Each of them developed a breakthrough technology, but they pulled out of innovating. We are evolved farmers, and we protect what led to last year’s harvest.”

Gutsche explained the three traps of the farmer mentality. “First, when we are successful, we become complacent,” he said. “Second, we want to repeat and optimize what happened in the past, which hinders our ability to adapt. And, third, we’re protective of our insight; with success, we don’t see the opportunities. It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Success fuels complacency, warned Gutsche. “How do you break free?” he asked. “When we’re successful, we repeat and optimize until we reach irrelevance. How often do you experiment with ideas that you know might not work? How much time do you spend in your week hunting for new opportunities? How many ways could you connect the dots and rebuild your business? We create rules, policies, procedures and even culture to protect our status quo. To adapt, you need to understand when it’s time to let go. Chaos creates predictable opportunity.”

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