An open letter to the plastic manufacturer companies

We’re used to creative sector companies talking about innovation and leading the change within digital. What about companies within manufacturing? This article will be covering how one can look at alternative solutions in order to create a sustainable business by applying new technology and human centric leadership. Explaining how you can be more profitable by leaving the industrial-age and transforming into the social-change-age.

Dear plastic manufacturers,

Listen up…I’m giving you a head start! The responsibility for your company is in your hands, and its future success depends on the decisions you make today. A big shift is coming for you, and it will change the entire manufacturing industry as a whole.

The big shift

The first change is that we have the issue that if we don’t reduce the global carbon emissions quickly, the damage to our lovely planet will be massive due to climate change. That will affect our infrastructure. This means that the roads, railroad tracks, airport runways etc that you are counting on today will not be reliable, which will harm trade and transportation. And even if we manage to prevent most damages in time, my guess is that there will be environmental regulations and taxes to consider.

Moreover, plastics are one of the most used materials in manufacturing today. It takes around 500–1000 years to decompose, so it’s a real possibility that producing plastics will become expensive or forbidden to produce due to environmental and health issues.

Finally, one might consider that you no longer need a factory to build products and consumer goods. Today, new digitally driven manufacturing devices are rising and enabling people to create stuff that were traditionally only possible in expensive factories. With the low-cost 3D printers and CNC (computerized numerical control) machines people will be able to create products right from their home.

Only the sky is the limit

With today’s technology, opportunities abound and are growing exponentially. Industrial Internet of Things will introduce new data types and cut the decision window for manufacturer companies. By adding intelligent machine learning in your manufacturing process, you will be provided with valuable data — data that can help your factory to predict and give you real-time insights about the process. This improves productivity in the production and supply chain processes. Today there our products out there with the the size of a bar of soap that doesn’t interfere with production at all. It’s still the early days for machine-reengineering, but it’s already clear that workers can become more efficient and effective if they learn to identify the gaps in the data. This means you can have higher profits and become more sustainable since less material is being used.

Thanks to technology, your employees can evolve in their roles from operators, to curators and eventually, mentors. Their freed up time can now be channeled more toward innovative initiatives which is crucial in helping map your organization’s future. In an industry where disruptive changes take time to happen, you could now be a change agent in this social-change-age.

A Human & Environment Centric Focus

Some of the world’s most disruptive companies today such as Airbnb, Tictail, Amazon, Didi, and Alibaba don’t sell products, but instead they are building open platforms with a strategic focus. You could go directly to your end-consumer and skip the wholesalers and retailers by creating your own platform.

You can do this by inventing self-decomposed manufacturing devices for home use that you sell to the end-user combined with a weekly subscription base of product blueprints. To get your platform of blueprints up and running, you could start off on freemium blueprints. The more blueprints that runs on your manufacturing devices, the more users wants it, and therefore more people will develop blueprints.

In the future, you shouldn’t forget to explore artificial intelligence and generative design, you can then use algorithms to explore entire solution sets. Your staff just needs to state the goals and constraints and allow the computer to generate designs and iterations for you that you might never have thought of. You will then have an automotive-design process for your blueprints.

Your goal should be to make everything you sell from material to your manufacturing devices part of an environmental friendly ecosystem by only using self-decomposed materials.

Even today you have plastic alternatives that are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable made by barley and wheat. Another example that you can see in the picture below is made by red algae powder that can be formed into shapes by adding water, heat and then placing the resulting jelly into a mold and then putting the mold into a freezer.

The new company order

The first thing you need to do to achieve the vision with your own platform is to create the right culture for your company. After years of intensive analysis, Google found the key to good teamwork is being nice. The best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally. It has less to do with who is in a team, but crucially how team members interact with one another. Google now describes psychological safetyas the most important thing to build a victorious team.

The kindness needs to start from the leadership. Your staff could be both your potential consumer and your companies savior. Which is why I propose that you never should bite the hand that feeds you as some companies do. Today, big companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever had before as wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. Therefore I would also suggest you to not hire private contractors as I think you shouldn’t fuel the rise of the freelance economy, if there will be no change to today’s social system. I believe it will be a social tragedy when the workers stands without any social security. Instead, you should use some of your profit to give them security and more vacation. The “Nordic Model” of public welfare and companies like Spotify and Netflix are good examples. Today, Netflix’s employees can take vacation any time they desire and for as long as they want — provided that their managers know where they are and that their work is covered. As people get more security at the workplace, higher wages and more vacation, it will increase the happiness and quality of life to your staff which will lead to better productivity and give them more time to experiment and test new hypothesis.

I believe it will be your workers — rather than the experts — that will be the ones that come up with the creative solutions and answers for your self-decomposed manufacturing devices. Sure — there will always be a need for experts, but far too often they engage in a kind of blind thinking and therefore are likely to miss the big picture and not seeing how to connect the dots. Instead, you have to make your staff believe in themselves and present them with the big vision with this platform. Create a ”this is us, this is ours, and we’re going to do this” mentality.

Execute a feasible plan

When you created a happy organization with self-management, wholeness, and a deeper sense of purpose — you start by breaking your company into smaller teams. The groups should have the same goal but with a different approach and frameworks. When you have a diversity of people creating solutions, you have fundamentally better solutions, so it’s important that you try to maximize the diversity in the group.

Embrace creative collaboration with other companies — the more you share, the bigger your ideas become. Tweet, snap, write and talk about your ideas and magic will happen.

Here are some tips to get the process of exploring new materials, building the platform and the self-decomposed manufacturing-home-device going:

• Set bold goals to create a culture of bravery and persistence.

• Be quick and decisive in policy implementation.

• Let the community validate your solutions.

• Challenge your solutions and kill them fast if they don’t work.

• See failure as learnings but don’t fail just to fail.

• Be as lean as possible during the development.

• Have one side project going to fuel the inspiration

• Stay positive and make sure to have fun.

Best of luck in your journey!

When the time comes and you can close down your factories, your staff will move on to other positions in your company and therefore you will have the opportunity to use the space in more effective ways: 1) donate the factories to homeless people or 2) use some of the profits that will be left over from your new sustainable business to re-build the factory to a research center that focuses on restoring the ecology of our wonderful planet.

Imagine what a great feeling when you tell your grandchildren that you went from being an environmental bandit to a company that works for social change. That is what success is all about!

All the best,

Sam Englund