3 Global Realities That Every CEO Needs to Be Aware Of

Mark Dohnalek  |   July 19, 2017

Being CEO of a global company today looks very different than it did 20, even 10 years ago.

For one thing, the global economy is in a very different – many would say less stable – place.

For another, global conflicts, terrorism, and the resulting refugee crisis have made life for hundreds of thousands of people around the world more difficult and far more risky. Many of these people are employees of the kind of global company that I and my fellow product development and manufacturing CEOs run.

In light of these issues, CEOs are needing to consider a whole host of developments and uncertainties that many of us have never faced before. Here are a few global business realities we should all be aware of.

CEO confidence in the global economy is slowly inching back up, after several years of significant downturn.

PricewaterhouseCoopers releases an annual survey of more than 1,000 CEOs from countries around the globe.

Just last year, 2 out of 3 corporate chief executives were worried about the global business environment. They saw this environment as riskier than it has been in the past.

This year’s survey, however, found that at least among U.S. CEOs, confidence in the global economy is picking back up – however, that’s after several years of a significant downturn. So while the uptick is encouraging, it’s important to remember that caution still is, and should be, in the air.

The opposing forces of globalization and regionalization are both impacting manufacturing – but not necessarily in opposing ways.

Innovations like 3D printing and rapid prototyping have drastically changed the way product development and manufacturing work.

For one thing, these new technologies have allowed for much smaller product runs. Large plants that offer these services can therefore cater to smaller companies from around the world, in addition to the large corporations they’ve traditionally worked with.

At the same time, however, 3D printing has become so cost-effective, and the printers themselves are becoming less expensive every year. As such, lots of smaller 3D printing manufacturers are popping up, catering to a more localized, regional customer base.

While these forces would at first seem to be at odds with each other – regionalization and globalization, that is – in reality, neither one will “win.” There will always be a need for large-scale, global manufacturing, especially as the global market for consumer goods grows.

What the availability of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, seems to be doing, is making it easier for new products to come into the market – products that otherwise may have faced serious cost barriers to ever getting off the ground. Many of these products that start off in runs of 50 or 100 may eventually end up being manufactured in the 10,000s at a traditional manufacturing facility.

This is good for our industry as a whole.

Cyberattacks have become a major threat to company security, requiring a whole new way of thinking about risk management and crisis response.

In the past decade, we’ve seen cyberattacks on companies grow in both scope and sophistication. With the many high-profile attacks we’ve seen on corporations like Sony, Yahoo, and even Google, CEOs are taking cybersecurity seriously. In fact, respondents to the PwC CEO survey rated cybersecurity as their #2 concern.

As our manufacturing plants and machines become more and more connected to each other via the Internet of Things, cybersecurity will only increase in importance. As CEOs, it’s our job to make sure that we’re giving our CIOs and IT departments the resources they need to combat any threats.

Running any company, let alone a global one, is an ongoing challenge. It’s important to stay abreast of economic, business, and security issues to ensure that we’re making the best choices for the people we lead.