From C-Suite to D-Suite: Manufacturing’s Digital Leaders

Automation, robotics and artificial intelligence are reshaping manufacturing—boosting productivity, enhancing agility and significantly impacting workforces. High-performance companies are upskilling their teams to complement technology and to perform new tasks that machines can’t accomplish. Making peace with such a skills revolution requires leadership that can encourage a culture of learning and agility. Change is the new normal, starting with role models at the top of the organization who show they can adapt fast.

ManpowerGroup has analyzed the skills revolution required to support the future of industry in a new report: “The Future Factory.” Although the manufacturing industry was our backdrop and focus, the insight we garnered isn’t limited to the factory floor. Many of our findings relate to all industries, and can be narrowed down to two key insights:

  1. It is now possible to ‘dissect’ industries and companies to forecast future workforce needs. We can do it, so we should do it, to stay ahead of the change.
  2. Positioning a workforce for the future requires a different kind of leadership. Companies need to transition their C-suite to a Digital-Suite – a group of Digital Leaders.

This is the start line.

D-suite leaders are analytical thinkers who are connected and comfortable with digital technology. As with any kind of leader, they need to be bright, adaptable and possess endurance and drive. D-Suite leaders also need to emphasize the following competencies:

  • Unleashing talent by building a culture of learning and career development
  • Accelerating performance by encouraging collaboration
  • Daring to lead by fostering innovation, taking calculated risks and managing courageous decisions

These qualities are coachable - all the better because leaders who learn set a great example for employees who are confronted with the task of acquiring new skills. 

D-Suite leadership is essential in guiding the broader digitization of roles across the manufacturing enterprise. More than a quarter (28 percent) of jobs in production and processing will be completely different in the future. Other industries will soon find their futures looking equally ripe for transformation. The D-Suite needs to identify digital leaders throughout the ranks of the workforce. ManpowerGroup has identified three archetypes based on the level of impact that they have in an organization and one of these, Pioneers, has a pivotal role to play in driving change.

Pioneers are the people in your teams who come up with new ideas or processes (the other archetypes are Keystones who turn pioneering ideas into workable strategies and Producers who follow through and create the final product).

Pioneers among the ranks of your own workforce can influence suppliers, especially strategic suppliers where relationships are very close. That means decisions by a Pioneer on your team can ripple through your entire supply network. Conversely, if your organization is short on digital leaders and/or idea-generating pioneers, your entire organization and supply chain will feel it.  Digital leadership needs to be cultivated at all levels of the organization. The D-Suite sets the tone, enabling other  leaders to spread new, digital processes to all corners of the community.

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