Manufacturers that are ahead in scaling advanced production
technologies are successfully navigating four durable shifts that
are critical to managing unprecedented disruption.
by Francisco Betti, Enno de Boer, and Yves Giraud
McKinsey and Company
Since its inception in 2018, the Global Lighthouse
Network (GLN) of advanced manufacturers has
demonstrated how leading companies can work
toward realizing the full potential of the innovations
and advances at the core of the Fourth Industrial
Revolution (4IR). Beginning with a select collection
of leading-edge organizations, we have seen how
lighthouse factories can help entire organizations
navigate their modernization journeys, inspiring and
catalyzing change among partner organizations
along the way.
That’s why GLN now comprises 54 sites, with
ten sites added in Q3 2020 (Exhibit 1). This
growth reflects the accelerating adoption of core
4IR technologies, and their infusion into daily
manufacturing and supply-chain operations, as
organizations act on a new urgency to remain
competitive—even as others have fallen behind, still
stuck in pilot purgatory.
GLN includes companies that have achieved
remarkable 4IR advancements within the four walls
of factory sites or have effectively implemented
end-to-end (E2E) digitization across the value chain.
Indeed, in both cases, 4IR technology has powered
the reimagination of manufacturing and supply
chains across industries and sectors.
Moreover, an essential aspect of lighthouses’
success lies in a dedicated focus on workforce
development and capability building through a
variety of means. Indeed, these organizations have
prioritized their people by transforming the nature of
work through intentional upskilling and/or reskilling
efforts, empowering workers to realize their
potential through new ways of working.
Recent world events, most notably the COVID-19
pandemic, have led to significant disruptions on a
scale unprecedented in recent times, affecting nearly
every aspect of global industry and calling for a
“great reset” across all sectors of the global economy:
a decisive set of actions oriented toward delivering
value not only to companies themselves but also
to society as a whole. While supply-chain shocks
have uncovered operational vulnerabilities, they
also have presented transformative opportunities
for manufacturing and supply-chain leaders. The
advances in technology and new ways of working
implemented by these trailblazing organizations have
enabled them to adapt quickly during disruption,
while remaining viable and operational.
Even before the massive disruptions imposed by the
pandemic, the gap between 4IR frontrunners and
the majority was growing rapidly. Now, four durable
shifts in manufacturing and supply chains have
emerged as particularly critical:
— Improved agility and customer centricity across
E2E manufacturing and supply chains facilitates
faster recognition of customer preferences.
This, in turn, enables quicker adjustments
to manufacturing flows at next-generation,
small-scale modular plants to allow higher
levels of customization.
— Supply-chain resilience provides a competitive
advantage, requiring connected, reconfigurable
n-tier supply ecosystems and regionalization.
— Speed and productivity are attained through
increased levels of automation and workforce
augmentation coupled with upskilling and
— Eco-efficiency is increasingly considered a
must-have to remain in business and ensure
compliance with an increasingly complex
The level of agility and resiliency that these shifts
require sits at the core of true 4IR innovation, with
valuable assets that serve as critical levers during
unexpected adversity. The benchmarks and
achievements heralded in previous findings about
these leading companies remain impressive .