As senior leaders register for Executive Platforms’ events they are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire that allows us to better understand their role within their organizations and what they want to take away from our gatherings. By and large this information is not published for a number of reasons, but a few months ago we used some of it in developing the questions and prompts for the first edition of our popular new Speaker Roundtable series, and we thought it might be valuable and interesting to take some of our preparatory notes and translate them into a short blog post with a few relevant links to each topic area.

For context about what exactly we are going to share, among the questions put to every delegate and speaker of an Executive Platforms event is a request to name up to three current business issues, trends, challenges, or opportunities they are working on now and would be interested in hearing more about at the summit. This lets us sense-check our agendas, coach speakers, suggest prescheduled one-to-one meetings with like-minded people, confirm we have the right service and solution providers in our exhibition hall, and generally confirm we have a clear picture of what our audiences and speaker faculties need and want included in our offerings.

Not every delegate offers three answers, or even one answer, but we received more than five hundred responses to that request in the run up to the 2023 edition of our North American Manufacturing Excellent Summit held in Fort Worth, Texas, and we collated those responses and then weighted what we put to the Speaker Roundtable Discussion based on how many suggestions we received from our audience in each topic area.

Here is a summary of the responses, and a little about how we interpret the results as well as links to content we believe you might find interesting from our recent sessions, interviews, and blog posts.

The Most Common Answers Were…

18% of responses related to Digital Transformation in some way. Now before anyone says this sounds low, let’s keep in mind that everyone was given an opportunity to offer up to three answers, so while not everyone offered three issues, it is impossible for any one possible topic area to make up more than 33% of the total submissions, so that 18% actually works out to more than half of the possible respondents mentioning digital transformation content as an issue, trend, challenge, or opportunity they are currently working on, and/or that they would like to hear more about.

With that more expected number in mind, we can admit that we are in no way surprised to hear it. Every Executive Platforms event has a lot of Digital Transformation content included in it, and a quick look through our recent blog posts, podcast episodes, and published presentations will back up how often we get into this content. Here are a few of our recent favorites:

16% of responses revolved around talent and workforce challenges. Again, we expected something like that kind of result. In every event Executive Platforms runs across every industry and job function, the ever-present issue of attracting, developing, and retaining the people companies need to succeed now and in the future. We have a lot of content we can offer you about these important issues. Here are a few great examples:

14% of responses revolved around supply chain topics, with inventory supply chain challenges coming up as a particularly popular ‘first this, then that’ follow-up in many delegates’ submissions that we did not see very often in other topic areas. While these survey results are from our North American Manufacturing Excellence Summit and not one of our specifically Supply Chain summit series, supply chain content has always been baked into our annual manufacturing event’s agenda. We were not at all surprised that Supply Chain topics came in as the third most popular area attendees wanted to discuss, and we take the spike in interest on inventory content to relate to the growing need to build resiliency into organizations in the new business environment of frequent disruption. Again, here are some recent posts from us we believe you will find interesting:

We will round out the most popular topic areas by admitting we created a 10.5% Business Challenges category as a catch-all for submissions that did not fit into more specific buckets but were focused principally on pain points. Our manufacturing delegates are often in troubleshooting mode whether they are going through good times or bad times, so this did not surprise us as much as it reinforced our conviction that most people making the time to attend an event like ours comes looking for fresh insights and ideas into something they are currently working on, and if we can put them together with enough like-minded people, there is a good chance we can give them the inspiration and insight they were hoping for through either formal or informal networking.

Other Important Categories Included…

Moving on from ‘the big topic areas,’ a solid 8% of submissions talked about workforce and corporate culture, Continuous Improvement, and Operational Excellence topics. We were pleased to get such a solid response rate from our manufacturing delegates, as culture and how it connects to the different philosophies of CI and OpEx and different production systems is a front-and-center everyday issue for leaders in that space, and while there is always something new to talk about there, one of the most important pieces is sharing what is working for others that can be applied to each delegate’s own journey. If they were not asking for this content, it would be a red-flag to us that they feel those kinds of conversations do not happen at the NAMES series, which is something we would seek to rectify immediately if we ever got that feedback. Here are a few links to relevant EP content we hope you will enjoy:

As popular? 8% of delegate submissions talked about capacity challenges. Now this was one of those ‘anticipated surprises,’ if you will allow us to use such a muddled term. Through our pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing events, Executive Platforms is very familiar with conversations around capacity limits. Here are a few great examples:

With that said, other industries suddenly struggling with capacity almost certainly speaks to the ongoing trend of re-evaluating global footprints and suppliers in a move towards more regionalized and semi-autonomous supply chains that each serve a specific market rather than one size fits all. It would naturally fall to the senior leadership within manufacturing operations to figure out how to build that additional capacity —or scalable, flexible capacity— into both their existing facilities and any new facilities that might need to be constructed. We anticipate this will be a growing topic of conversation over the next several years, and we are planning our future agendas accordingly.

Almost as popular, and something of a surprise? A whopping 7% of submissions talked about Overall Equipment Effectiveness, Asset Lifecycle Management, and Maintenance content. To clarify, we know all of that is of vital importance to manufacturing operations, but it has been our experience over the years that the senior executives who attend our events are not usually as hands-on when it comes to these issues. There are subject matter experts further down the company hierarchy who live and breathe this stuff on a daily basis, and while skilled professionals such as these are recognized as the kind of top talent manufacturing organizations depend upon, the specifics or what they do are not often discussed in detail at NAMES23 beyond the elements of leadership, technology, and culture required to support them and help them perform at their best. To have so many senior leaders say it was what they wanted to talk about at our event was eye-opening, and probably speaks to a wider interest in building resiliency into all levels of an organization in a cost-effective and impactful way. Here are a few conversations we have had in this space that we can share, and you can look forward to more in the future now that we have had such a resounding request for additional content on these issues:

Further Topics of Interest

This could turn into a very long blog post about increasingly niche topics where we highlight so many posts, we shift from picking good examples to making sure everything we have to share gets its moment in the spotlight. Why don’t we speed things up a little in the name of brevity?

Roughly 5% of submissions talked about cost and price issues, specific training challenges we did not already include in larger workforce development content, and quality topics that are always tough to get into on an event like NAMES23 where so many different manufacturing sectors are represented that talking about quality in anything other than the broadest possible strokes quickly becomes too specific to be universally interesting and useful to our audience.

Areas of interest that garnered less than 5% include customer issues beyond supply chain topics, regulatory and compliance issues, Sustainability, and safety. We do not attribute the lack of submissions on these topics to any kind of statement about what manufacturing companies care about. In fact, Executive Platforms has a summit series that focuses on Sustainability in detail, and regulatory compliance features heavily in our Food Safety, Life Sciences, HR, and Finance events too. It would be fairer to say the seniority of the delegates at the North American Manufacturing Excellence Summit probably means each of these vital issues has dedicated teams and leaders focusing on them who report to the executives who make up our audience. Given that, while we would expect some interest in all of these topics, we understand why none of them came up more often.

And there we have it! A mix of what we expected, what we were not surprised to see, and a couple of genuine surprises that will inform our future event planning. If any of these resonated with you, we hope the additional content we provided via the links gives you further ideas and insights.