BizTimes to host conference for manufacturers

BizTimes Media’s 2013 Manufacturing Summit will fuse concepts of design with innovation strategies in manufacturing in a panel event centered on the creative problem-solving process of design thinking.

The event, titled “Design Thinking For Manufacturers,” will introduce area manufacturers to the elements of design thinking, an approach to problem solving that helps companies enhance their products and services by exploring a wide net of innovative ideas – some that might appear logical and others that appear anything but.

One key component of the design thinking process involves connecting bits of ideas that, at first glance, are disparate and detached, said John Caruso, associate professor of industrial design at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) and a nationally known expert on design thinking.

“I think design thinking is really speaking to the process of designing and understanding what designers do in terms of an intellectual process that is an easier fit into a business model,” Caruso told BizTimes for a cover story on design thinking. “It’s something that’s extremely hard to define, but essentially design thinking is embracing creative problem-solving for creative problem-solving’s sake, being able to explore and allow solutions that on the outset don’t immediately address the issue at hand but will allow lateral thinking to jump to the invention, the creation.”

Caruso will serve as one of five panelists at the 2013 Manufacturing Summit, which will be held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center on Wednesday, Oct. 9, during the Wisconsin Manufacturing & Technology Show. The summit will tailor elements of design thinking specifically to manufacturing to demonstrate to industry executives how employing design thinking can spark innovation and business development.

Caruso’s presence on the panel will serve to teach attendees how to incorporate the process of design thinking into the structure of their company so that their products meet the needs of consumers as best as possible.

While the process can be customized to a specific company’s objectives, there are fundamental steps to take into consideration, such as identification of the problem, evaluation of the user’s needs and establishment of the product criteria, he said.

Bob Schwartz, general manager of global design and user experience at Waukesha-based GE Healthcare, will also take part in the manufacturing summit, coloring the panel discussion with his expertise on design thinking and its impact on the look, feel, usability and end-to-end experience of a product or service.

Much of Schwartz’s work at GE Healthcare has revolved around reinserting an element of emotion back into health care delivery, which Schwartz said has so often become “devoid of emotion.” For example, in a year-long project the company embarked on with Caruso’s students at MIAD, they looked at ways to improve the health care delivery process for patients with breast cancer. One design resulted in a reinvented hospital gown that resembles traditional clothing and can be worn to and from hospital visits. Another student design under “The Compassion Project” created an IV device enclosed in a small portable bag so that women undergoing chemotherapy treatments can retain their independence and walk freely while receiving treatment.

Michael Warsaw, vice president of global innovation and design at Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc., echoes the need for empathy throughout the process of design thinking.

“It’s really about this human-centered approach, which starts with empathy,” said Warsaw, who will serve as another panelist at the summit, focusing on how Johnson Controls has cultivated a corporate culture of innovation.

This corporate culture is particularly evident in Johnson Controls’ innovation center, which opened last year in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. The center steps beyond the layout of a typical corporate office and operates much more like a loft or a startup workspace, Warsaw said, with plenty of open space to encourage collaboration.

Additional manufacturing summit panelists include Steven Dyer, president and chief executive officer of Lake Geneva-based Trostel Ltd., and Jeff Zeiler, vice president of global product innovation for research and development at Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp.

Dyer, whose manufacturing career also includes serving as CEO of Dickten Masch Plastics in Nashotah, helping found and chair the Waukesha County Business Alliance Manufacturing Steering Committee, and participating on the Milwaukee 7 Regional Economic Development Advisory Council, will draw in the CEO’s perspective on design thinking and its potential to stimulate company growth.

Zeiler’s input on the panel will highlight ways that companies can continuously push innovation into their product lines so that their customers remain satisfied and loyal.

The “Design Thinking For Manufacturers” Summit is currently open for registration. Visit to register and find additional event details.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display