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January 12, 2023

The Biggest Manufacturing Challenges of 2023

At the start of 2023, what threats are keeping execs up at night? CEO Stephanie Feraday reveals the biggest problems facing manufacturing today, and how aPriori is helping to solve them.
Stephanie Feraday
Stephanie Feraday, CEO, aPriori


The job of a company’s top boss amongst many other tasks is to look above the fray at the industry as a whole and set a course for success. This is exactly what Stephanie Feraday has done for aPriori. Over the past 15 years, Stephanie Feraday has taken aPriori from a niche costing solution to an industry leader in digital transformation. And now she’s turning her sights towards sustainability and solving the carbon question for manufacturers. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining us today.

Stephanie Feraday: It’s a pleasure.

Can Manufacturing Be Profitable AND Sustainable?

Leah Archibald: The theme of aPriori’s Manufacturing Insights conference this year was: Making profitability and sustainability a reality for a better world. Tell me a little bit more: Why profitability AND sustainability? And why now?

Stephanie Feraday: If you look at what’s happened over the last couple of years – even in the last 12 months – there are many new challenges coming at us. Whether it’s the impact of the supply chain disruptions from the Ukraine War, or COVID, or issues due to increasing material prices, or inflation, margins are really impacted. So profitability is a focus for all organizations. It’s front and center right now. But coming down the pipeline – from different regulations worldwide or the SEC – sustainability is really moving from the phase of just discussion or intent – what people are thinking about doing – to action and impact. They need to actually act on this. They need to make a real difference in reducing the carbon footprint of their design decisions, as well as their sourcing decisions.

Leah Archibald: And in the past, we’ve often heard that profitability and sustainability move in two different directions. What we thought was: if we want to maintain profitability, then we have to cut corners on sustainability. Or if we want to focus on sustainability, it’s going to cost us a bit more. Now aPriori has found that that’s not necessarily the case.

Stephanie Feraday: Yes, you’re absolutely right. That was the trend historically, because there wasn’t a way to have all of this data coming together so you could feed it into a multi-factorial decision. But now, with all your data in the same aPriori application, you can be getting the cost feedback and the manufacturability insights that help you ensure you’re bringing products to market quickly, while also hitting your targets on carbon impact.

That’s what’s really changed. It’s the ability to have this data at your fingertips all at one time. And not only all at one time, but enabled for all the individuals in the product development cycle. So whether it’s design engineers during the design process, or sourcing professionals as they are deciding where to make it, or the manufacturing organizations behind the scenes, they can all act on the same data.

The Challenge Today: Everything Is Happening Faster

Leah Archibald: You recently held the 10th annual aPriori Insights Conference. How do you think the climate has changed over the past 10 years for manufacturers thinking of incorporating digital transformation?

Stephanie Feraday: I think while companies have been responding to different kinds of issues over the past 10 years, the challenge today is that everything’s happening faster. Product life cycles are less than half of what they used to be. The time to get products to market is even faster. The life cycles that products are on the market are shorter. And companies are getting feedback from their customers even sooner through IoT. So they need the ability to be able to react, to respond to market conditions very quickly, and there’s no way you can do that without having digital information across the whole cycle.

Why Is a Digital Thread Necessary?

Leah Archibald: I see this gap between intention and reality. Companies want profitability and they also want to focus on carbon footprint. But there’s this gap to get it to reality. And that’s where the digital thread comes in. The digital thread get the targets from intention to reality.

Stephanie Feraday: Exactly. What makes this possible is what’s at the core of our technology. At the very heart of what we do is the ability to create digital manufacturing simulations of all different manufacturing processes. From those digital simulations, we are able to generate insights on profitability and sustainability. And aPriori does it fast – in a matter of a few seconds to a few minutes. So that’s the way to make it a reality – to create a digital manufacturing thread that feeds insights to all of the constituents who need to make decisions.

Leah Archibald: And it’s not just having the digital model of one product, it’s having the entire digital factory that allows you to make buy verse build or off-shore versus near-shore trade-offs in real time.

Stephanie Feraday: Right.

Leah Archibald: Because as you’ve been saying in this conversation, the threats are going to come real time.

Stephanie Feraday: Right.

Leah Archibald: Looking ahead to 2023, are you feeling optimistic about what’s facing manufacturers? Or are you feeling cautiously hopeful?

Stephanie Feraday: A little bit of both. I think what I’m feeling really optimistic about is that we’re moving out of this phase of tactical actions that we saw deployed during COVID to much more strategic thoughtful initiatives that are driving long-term change. So we have a resilience now to not have future issues phase us. We are ready to flex and be able to deal with future issues.

Leah Archibald: Stephanie Feraday, thank you so much for joining us today.

Stephanie Feraday: Great. Thanks, Leah. Really glad to be here.


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