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“Manufacturers that are ahead in scaling advanced production technologies are successfully navigating four durable shifts that are critical to managing unprecedented disruption.

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.


Exhibit 1


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.


Thus, it is in this context of unprecedented challenge that lighthouses serve as models of transformation and beacons of light that can guide us through the storm into a stronger, more resilient future. These organizations are leading the way by demonstrating how to reimagine and rebalance operations into the next normal. They are showing us how companies can provide value not only to their shareholders but also to a broader set of stakeholders including workers, consumers, and the environment—indeed, society at large.

Perhaps most importantly, today’s challenges make clear that lighthouses are not at the end of their transformation journeys—they are only just starting to unlock the true potential of 4IR technologies. As the network of lighthouses grows, its light will shine brighter, helping even more organizations be better prepared to weather the inevitable future storms, whenever and wherever they occur.This article is adapted from Global Lighthouse Network: Four Durable Shifts for a Great Reset in Manufacturing, as part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Production Platform and was created in collaboration with McKinsey & Company. The white paper originally appeared on the World Economic Forum website and is excerpted here with permission.”


Francisco Betti is the Head of Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Production at the World Economic Forum. Enno de Boer is a partner in McKinsey’s New Jersey office, and Yves Giraud is a senior expert in the Geneva office, seconded to the World Economic Forum.

The authors wish to thank Max Kleine Büning, Katy George, Magnus Larsson, Mathilde Lavacquery, Ingrid Millan, Julian Salguero, and Ken Somers for their contributions to this article.

This article was edited by Christian Johnson, a senior editor in the McKinsey Hong Kong office.”