World Economic Forum adds Protolabs facility to the Global Lighthouse Network

Oct. 12, 2021
Digital manufacturer becomes one of 10 U.S. companies recognized for 4IR manufacturing technology

The World Economic Forum added the Plymouth, Minnesota, injection-molding facility of Protolabs to the Global Lighthouse Network, a community of manufacturers demonstrating leadership in using Fourth-Industrial-Revolution (4IR) technologies to transform factories, value chains and business models, for compelling financial and operational returns.

Protolabs’ injection molding facility is the 10th lighthouse based in the United States and is one of two North American companies entering the Lighthouse Network in 2021. 

The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with McKinsey, established the Global Lighthouse Network in 2018 in response to the global manufacturing community lagging in the adoption of 4IR technologies. The Lighthouse Network serves as a platform for manufacturers showing leadership in using 4IR technologies to share and learn from best practices, support new partnerships and help other manufacturers deploy technology, adopt sustainable solutions and transform their workforces.

Through its induction into the Global Lighthouse Network, Protolabs’ injection molding facility was recognized for its transformation as a prototype provider to now a full production provider through the implementation of 4IR technologies connecting its e-commerce experience to the shop floor. Its end-to-end connection—termed the digital thread—enables the technology-driven manufacturer to provide production lead times in as fast as one day.

“Protolabs was founded over 20 years ago with a digital mindset, and we have never stopped working toward our mission of offering the fastest and most comprehensive digital manufacturing service in the world, serving our customers’ needs for high-quality prototyping and production using the most advanced manufacturing processes in the world,” explained Protolabs President and CEO Rob Bodor. “We are honored to have these efforts recognized as part of the Lighthouse Network, and I look forward to exchanging learnings with our peers as Industry 4.0 continues to advance by leaps and bounds.”

The 4IR technologies recognized by the World Economic Forum include Protolabs’ interactive e-commerce quoting system with automated design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis, its automated mold design and tool pathing programs, and its digital process controls and inspections. The prevailing theme with those technologies is the overall reduction in manual processes—both for Protolabs and its customer—due to strategic implementation of automation. That automation then drives significant customer value such as product innovation, speed to market and supply chain risk reduction.

“Lighthouses have achieved a sustainability breakthrough: companies no longer have to choose competitiveness or sustainability because smart manufacturing lets them achieve both," said Enno de Boer, partner, McKinsey, and global lead of its manufacturing work.

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