The 2023 edition of the long-running and successful North American Manufacturing Excellence Summit ran April 16th through to the 18th at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel in the heart of downtown Fort Worth, Texas. It was attended by 575 delegates, speakers, sponsor representatives, and guests from more than 400 different companies and organizations. The agenda included more than 65 keynotes, case studies, workshops, roundtable discussions, focus groups, interactive think tanks, and more. In the days after the event, feedback has been universally positive, and work is already underway to build upon this success and make next year’s summit even bigger and better.

That is the shortest overview we can offer of the event. Here is the longer version, which we will try to make both concise and at times entertaining.

In the Beginning…

The NAMES series has an unusual origin story in that no one agrees exactly how it began. Chicago has been its home from 2015 to 2022 with the exception of one virtual year due to COVID-19, and before that it was not quite branded as NAMES or built exactly the same way, although many of the old hands at Executive Platforms played roles in earlier iterations, and so friendly internal debate about, ‘which of those counts as NAMES’ is a perennial topic.

However it began, the years at the Westin Chicago North Shore make up the bulk of the summit’s history, and almost all of the innovations Executive Platforms has built into its portfolio of events —roundtable lunch-and-learn discussions, focus groups, interactive think tanks, the enormous LED wall behind the stage in Room 1, live entertainment on the Welcome Days, and so on— were piloted at various NAMES in Chicago. The event grew every year without fail, and soon we were selling out all the rooms in the hotel and also filling room blocks in neighboring hotels with shuttle buses able to bring in attendees in the morning and take them back in the evening of each day.

For several iterations before the pandemic Executive Platforms started running up against the fire marshal’s capacity limits for Conference Room 1 at the Westin Chicago North Shore. Workarounds were tried without satisfying the underlying problem: We had outgrown the venue. The decision to move the series was delayed by COVID-19, and Executive Platforms’ first live event after the worst of the pandemic had passed was NAMES22 back at the Westin Chicago North Shore, but upon the successful completion of that event we committed to finding a new home where the series could continue to grow and thrive.

The Omni Fort Worth Hotel is a new venue to the Executive Platforms team. We got our first look at it via a virtual tour due to COVID restrictions, and we liked what we saw: It is right in the heart of historic downtown Fort Worth; it has the capacity for both our current attendees and room to grow in the future; it’s not too far from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines’ largest hub and one of the busiest airports in the world. From prior visits to Texas we knew the food was good and the people were friendly. The intangibles were all positive, and all the stars seemed to align.

There was much to recommend it, and so the decision was made to make Fort Worth the new home of the NAMES series.

The Welcome Day

Sunday, April 16th, was a beautiful spring day in Texas. Attendees of NAMES23 began checking in as members and supporters of the NCAA Women’s College Gymnastics Florida and LSU teams were checking out. There was a lot of positive energy in a very busy lobby.

NAMES23 ran on the second floor, above the hurly-burly of the hotel’s front desk.

Sponsors and corporate partners were admitted to the Exhibition Hall to begin setting up their booths at 2 pm. By 2:30 pm, delegates and speakers began lining up at Executive Platforms’ Registration Desk to be admitted to the afternoon’s sessions.

The Welcome Day content all ran in Room 3 as our AV team worked to prepare Rooms 1 and 2 for the next day. There were three back-to-back sessions. At 3 pm delegates enjoyed a panel on, “Plant/Shopfloor Optimization- Elevating Safety, Automation, Staffing and Process Systems,” followed by a client case study workshop from Anaplan entitled, “How Billerud Uses Connected Planning to Meet Its Complex Supply Chain Challenges,” with the Welcome Day content finishing with a bang with a panel on “Women in Manufacturing.”

The Q&A for the last panel was particularly strong, and a number of delegates stayed as much as half an hour after the session had ended to continue to chat with some of the panelists. Meanwhile, the Welcome Drinks Reception was in full swing out in the foyer, with a band fronted by singer-songwriters Nick Hoffman and Philip Myers giving spirited performances.

It was a fantastic start to a fantastic event.

Day One

The first full day of the event boasted weather as good as the Welcome Day, much to the delight of the delegates who had booked in some of the other hotels in downtown Fort Worth who got to enjoy a short early morning walk to join their colleagues who stayed at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel itself.

The Registration Desk opened at 7 am and delegates, speakers, and sponsor representatives arrived to enjoy breakfast together in our Exhibition Hall. Opening remarks and important announcements started at 7:45 am, and then Daniel Myers, a Senior Fellow at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam School of Business and the Retired EVP of Integrated Supply Chain of Mondelēz International began his welcome address a little before 8 am to a full and attentive room of senior manufacturing executives.

The opening keynote kicking off NAMES23 was, “Harnessing the Power of Digitalization” delivered by Torsten Pilz, Honeywell’s SVP and Chief Supply Chain Officer. The second keynote was, “Four is the Magic Number: The Key Battles for GSCOs in Our VUCA World,” given by Vikram Agarwal, Danone’s COO. After that presentation the agenda split into three streams of concurrent content. Room 1 continued to be chaired by Daniel Myers, with Room 2 being chaired by long-time NAMES supporter Rob Steward, the CEO of OpusWorks, and Room 3 being chaired by Nate D. Strong, a Partner with EY. Broadly speaking, the content of Room 1 during breakout sessions was geared towards Process Improvement, while Room 2 was about Quality Management, and Room 3 was about Manufacturing and Automation. Delegates were encouraged to check the agenda on the event app and choose the sessions that interested them the most.

The first round of case studies in breakout rooms included, “Improving Supply Chain and Operational Resilience- What We’ve Learned and What Can be Applied,” presented by Elito Siqueira, Global VP of Anheuser Busch InBev, “Staying at the Cutting Edge of Quality by Investing in Your People, Processes, and Technology” given by Colin Miller, Northrop Grumman’s VP, Mission & Quality Assurance, Aeronautics Systems, and “Supply Chains of the Future,” which was delivered virtually by frequent EP supporter Bart Talloen, Johnson & Johnson’s VP Operational Services & Standards and President of Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Systems, who unfortunately was unable to attend in person due to injury but went above and beyond to deliver his presentation to a full room and engage in great Q&A with his audience. Click here to enjoy a fantastic podcast interview Bart did in the run-up to NAMES23.

Following these sessions, summit attendees enjoyed a networking break that included pre-scheduled one-to-one meetings with other speakers, delegates, and sponsors. Meanwhile, several members of NAMES23’s speaker faculty sat down for an in-depth recorded roundtable discussion on issues and challenges drawn from audience submissions. Stay tuned for more information on that soon!

After the break, delegates had their choice of workshops: “How a Single Platform Solution Can Drive Action Across the Entire Manufacturing Value Chain to Lower Costs, Increase Productivity and Reduce Operating Risk” presented by John Dougherty of ServiceNow, “3 Steps to Use Advanced Manufacturing Analytics to Empower Staff” given by frequent NAMES supporter Willem Sundblad of Oden Technologies and his client co-presenter Chris Tucker, INX International Ink Company’s VP Offset Operations, and “Process Intelligence (PQ): The Key to Building High Functioning Leaders” offered by long-time EP contributor Shane Yount of Competitive Solutions, Inc.

The lunch break that followed included both a general lunch where delegates could sit with whoever they liked and talk about whatever they wanted, as well as more structured themed lunch-and-learn discussions hosted by executives who chose a topic that delegates could opt into ahead of time. These lunches are often among the most popular features of Executive Platforms events because of their intimate and unstructured but focused networking and group discussion on a topic of common interest. NAMES23 had almost twenty such lunches on Day One.

Returning from lunch, attendees had their choice of two sessions. In Room 1, Siemens hosted a virtual facility tour showcasing exciting industry-transforming manufacturing innovations. In Room 2, Sandra Wisniewski, W. R. Grace’s President, Materials Technologies, talked about, “Creating a Clear Governance Model in Your Organization to Successfully Implement New Processes and Quality Systems.”

These sessions were then followed by a block of three workshops. In Room 1, Siemens followed up on their virtual tour with a presentation called, “Digital Threads: Unlocking the Power of Smart Manufacturing.” In Room 2, IBM discussed, “Transforming Manufacturing By Combining Reliability Engineering With Digital Capabilities”, and in Room 3, Performance Solutions by Milliken shared their insights on, “The Great Resignation Dilemma.”

The afternoon’s networking break was shorter than the morning’s, but no less productive and enjoyable. Afterwards, the delegates all moved to Room 1 to enjoy a fireside chat, “Dow’s ESG Program and our Path to Zero” with John Sampson, Dow’s SVP Operations, Manufacturing, & Engineering, followed by an interactive musical closing keynote, “Building Your Personal Brand” from Daniel Myers, his brother Philip, award-winning Country fiddle player, singer-songwriter and recording artist Natalie Murphy, and record producer Alex Lusht.

Day One wrapped up with a networking drinks reception in the Exhibition Hall that included more live music, a bourbon station, a leather-branding station, and three hang-out zones where attendees were encouraged to discuss the day’s sessions. Many delegates were also invited to executive dinners sponsored by Siemens and SAP at Bob’s Steak & Chop House and Cast Iron Restaurant, respectively.

Day Two

Tuesday, April 18th was cooler and windier than the days before, but attendees took it in stride and warmed up with coffee and a good meal in both our Exhibition Hall and two breakfast workshops: Augury presenting with Canfor, a client case study, on, “Overcome Uncertain Times: Digitally Enabled Transformation to Drive Business and Workforce Success,” and PTC speaking about, “Rapidly Create Value: Driving Impact Across the Enterprise.”

This was followed by Day Two’s opening keynote, “How a Global MedTech Leader Operates to Keep Growing Despite a Worldwide Pandemic” by Viju Menon, Stryker’s Group President, Global Quality & Operations, which was in turn followed by a fireside chat, “Driving Transformation at Toyota with a Focus on People, Process and Partnerships” with Natalie Wilkinson, Toyota’s VP, Vehicle Manufacturing Innovation. Click here to enjoy a terrific podcast interview Natalie did in the run-up to NAMES23.

At this point Day Two’s agenda broke into three concurrent streams of content in the same way as on Day One except Craig Lyjak, a Partner/Principal with EY, took his colleague’s place as chair of Room 3. The three case studies that began the streams of content were, “Delivering the Ramp-Up: Developing an Aerospace Ecosystem in Mobile, Alabama” by Daryl Taylor, Airbus Americas’ SVP Commercial Operations, in Room 1, “Manufacturing Your American Dream” by Bill Good, GE Appliances’ VP of Supply Chain, in Room 2 —click here to enjoy a wonderful podcast interview Bill did in the run-up to NAMES23— and, “Digital Transformation with Business Impact — How to Succeed Where Others are Failing?” by Jimmy Blaser, Nestlé’s VP of Manufacturing, in Room 3.

The Day Two morning networking break gave everyone a chance to both digest the content they had enjoyed so far, and also connect on any prescheduled one-on-one meetings they may have missed the day before. Delegates could also enjoy one of three focus groups taking place in the Exhibition Hall: “Developing & Attracting Talent” hosted by Griffith Maupin, Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Sr. Manufacturing Services Manager, “Integrating Complex Automation Affordably” hosted by Eduardo Fusaro, EMBRAER’s VP of Manufacturing Engineering, and “Navigating Through Digital Transformations” hosted by Geoffrey Jackson, GAF’s Sr. Director Process Services and Technology.

The break was followed by another keynote, “Revolutionizing Manufacturing: How Lean and Digitalization are Reshaping the Industry Together” by Tami Hedgren, John Deere’s VP, Manufacturing Lead, Tractors & Combines. This was followed by two workshops. Room 1’s, “Humans @ The Center — Harnessing the Power of Your People to Drive Rapid Performance Improvement and Sustainable Transformation” saw EY’s Morgan Malone sit down with Patrick Smith of Procter & Gamble, and Room 2’s, “Modern Data Architecture: The 4.0 Smart Manufacturing Game Changer for Mid-Sized Manufacturers” presented by Kausik “KD” Dasgupta, the Chief Technology Officer NA of FactoryEye by Magic Software.

Lunch on Day Two included both the general networking lunch option, as well as eight interactive think tank lunches breaking down delegates into groups discussing challenges specific to Automotive Manufacturing, Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing, CPG Manufacturing, Process and Batch Manufacturing, Small- and Mid-Size Manufacturing, as well as universal challenges revolving around reducing lead times, affordable automation integration, and workforce topics.

The final keynotes of NAMES23 were, “How Navigating the Pandemic Helped Us Write a Roadmap for Future Success” delivered by Rodrigo Lance, Kellogg Company’s SVP Global Supply Chain, and “Factories of the Future Now” by David Johnson, Nissan Motor Corporation’s SVP, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management.

In addition to the sessions mentioned here, Executive Platforms also recorded seven 15- to 30-minute interviews on site for future episodes of its bluEprint Podcast Series as well as the aforementioned hour-long speaker roundtable special, so look forward to the edited versions of those being published soon.

Executive Platforms would like to thank everyone who contributed so much of their time, energy, and expertise to make this event such a success. Stay tuned for news and updates on NAMES24, which will be returning to the Omni Fort Worth Hotel April 14-16, 2024!

Geoff Micks
Head of Content & Research
Executive Platforms

Geoff joined the industry events business as a conference producer in 2010 after four years working in print media. He has researched, planned, organized, run, and contributed to more than a hundred events across North America and Europe for senior leaders, with special emphasis on the energy, mining, manufacturing, maintenance, supply chain, human resources, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, finance, and sustainability sectors. As part of his role as Head of Content & Research, Geoff hosts Executive Platforms’ bluEPrint Podcast series as well as a weekly blog focusing on issues relevant to Executive Platforms’ network of business leaders.

Geoff is the author of five works of historical fiction: Inca, Zulu, Beginning, Middle, and End. The New York Times and National Public Radio have interviewed him about his writing, and he wrote and narrated an animated short for Vice Media that appeared on HBO. He has a BA Honours with High Distinction from the University of Toronto specializing in Journalism with a Double Minor in History and Classical Studies, as well as Diploma in Journalism from Centennial College.