The ability to shift business direction quickly is a strategic imperative, in an Industry 4.0 era when new technologies are reshaping industries. Our recent CEO Outlook, a global survey of 1,300 CEOs in 11 countries, found that 59 percent say that acting with agility is the new currency of business, and that if they are too slow they will go bankrupt.

You know yourself this is not hyperbole, and that the sentiment holds true for our sector, perhaps uniquely so. Realizing the opportunities of digitalization in manufacturing requires careful - but very quick - thinking. You've seen how your peers in manufacturing have ended up when they don't act with urgency. Doing nothing is not an option. In the era of digital transformation, your competitors have more tools, and more powerful ones, than before to change their operating model and change it quickly. But they're not the only ones that can leverage artificial intelligence, robotics, data analytics and all the other weapons in their new armory; you have these tools, too.

Embracing digital transformation is not about jumping on a bandwagon. Every organization is different and requires a unique set of arrows in its quiver. Still, manufacturing organizations share one thing: a need to act with agility. As we journey together along this bumpy road, here are a few things manufacturing CEOs should bear in mind:

  • Spend time studying disruptors in your own industry, as well as those creating entirely new markets, such as Uber and Airbnb.
  • Examine deeply where your existing competitors are going and what new entrants are doing; don't just focus inwardly, as you evaluate new operating models.
  • Think globally and develop a keen intelligence regarding the latest developments in emerging markets and those parts of the world that may have leapfrogged your own. These are the laboratories of our business future.
  • Don't discount your intuition, even as you analyse data to identify new trends. Two thirds of manufacturing CEOs in our survey say they have chosen intuition over the insights of data analysis in the past three years. In other words, do the analysis, but also trust your gut.

Manufacturing CEOs should understand that moving quickly is vital to success, and that their experience and intuition will support agile changes. It's the only way to go.

What does agility mean to you? Find out more by reading our latest report on the Global Manufacturing Outlook.

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