Cross-Industry Exposure Can Accelerate Learning

April 26, 2013
Do you have opportunities to engage in open discussions with your peers in other industries, other disciplines, or in completely different types of companies? If not, you don’t know what you don’t know.

You probably know far more about the leader in your specific industry than you do about the leaders in other manufacturing and production industries. Can you ever become the leader with just that type of view? I would argue it’s not likely. You may discover tips and tricks that can help you emulate the leaders, but you will always be making incremental improvements while those leaders find the breakthroughs.

Breakthroughs come in different industries based on their focus and particular issues. Once someone establishes the value of that new approach, others can adapt it to their industry. Yet you have to tune in to what those who are making strides in other industries are doing.

Research shows that the biggest and best new ideas to solve problems and create real breakthroughs usually come from outside an industry. This is called “outside-in innovation,” and innovation competitions are springing up to solve thorny issues. Winners are typically from a completely different industry and discipline. Because these outsiders are not so caught up in “the way things are” in an industry, they can sometimes see easy ways out that are simply not apparent from the segment’s traditional point of view.

>> Workflow to Knowledge Transfer: Different industries have different ways of transferring knowledge. Visit

Another area where companies may need to find breakthroughs is in implementing manufacturing execution and/or operations software and solutions (MES/MOM). Julie Fraser’s column in March pointed out that quite a few MES/MOM implementations do not fully live up to expectations, so we need a breakthrough. Yet, some have succeeded very nicely.

Those who have succeeded with MES/MOM and other manufacturing enterprise solutions are in every segment. Many are MESA members. MESA members represent a wide range of manufacturing and production industries—chemicals, food, pharmaceutical, CPG, A&D, automotive, oil and gas, metals and mining, utilities, industrial equipment, medical devices and others. In a recent member survey, 80 percent have direct experience with an MES/MOM or related software implementation. These members average over 12 years of experience with manufacturing enterprise solutions—they have learned what works and what does not. And if the company that has made a breakthrough in MES/MOM is not a direct competitor, they may be more open to sharing details with you.

You probably also know more about the software and service providers you use than about others. Similarly, software and service providers take different approaches and may have offerings that are more sophisticated in some area than the one you use. Even if you can’t get your hands on that, you might be able to work toward it or incorporate the thought process in your plans.

Again, MESA members include a wide array of software companies, consulting and system integration service providers, academics, industry analysts, and others. Each brings their unique viewpoint and expertise and shares it. This is what we mean when we say “join the conversation, join MESA.”

Do you have opportunities to engage in open discussions with your peers in other industries, other disciplines, or in completely different types of companies? If not, you don’t know what you don’t know. In these environments, everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a student—we learn and gain from each other. This can occur at formal conferences, in committee and working group discussions, while developing new content, in webcasts, and at regional meetings. MESA has also codified best practices into the Global Education Program, which is an accredited IACET program for learning about manufacturing improvement and system project and ongoing maintenance best practices.

Look at the learning opportunities that you and your team take advantage of each year. Are you too heavily invested in only events that your current solution provider offers? Do you have any plans to attend topic-focused rather than vertical industry-focused events? If not, consider making the business case to move beyond incremental learning and into the possibility of a breakthrough.

>> John Dyck is Director of Software Business Development for Rockwell Automation, as well as Chairman of the Board for MESA International. He has spent his entire career working with leading global hardware and software suppliers to solve manufacturing problems. Learn more about Rockwell’s software business at and MESA International at

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