After more than 170 years of working closely with U.S. manufacturers, Milwaukee-based law firm Foley & Lardner LLP has created a hub to address the uncharted issues that next generation manufacturers are facing as they rely on new technologies, new business models and new partners to compete globally.
The Legal Innovation Hub for Next Generation Manufacturers, which launched recently after about five months of preparation and structuring, aims to support next generation manufacturers in tackling emerging challenges associated with innovative approaches to manufacturing and redesigned business strategies.
“We see a renaissance in manufacturing and want to be part of it,” said Pat Quick, a partner in Foley & Lardner’s Milwaukee office. “We have a long history of representing manufacturers in any number of things. This is kind of a new collaborative focus across all of our practices and offices to focus on the next generation of manufacturers.”
According to the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, this next generation of manufacturers is characterized by companies demonstrating excellence in growth, innovation, continuous improvement, partnerships with suppliers and customers, global engagement and profit sustainability.
Within its new, company-wide hub, Foley & Lardner has devoted thought leaders to several of these business categories as well as to human capital acquisition, development and retention; enterprise-wide supply and distribution chain management and collaboration; re-shoring of manufacturing operations and administration; facilities siting, reconfiguration and management; foreign direct investment in manufacturing; strategic acquisitions/divestitures and market positioning; government and public affairs; and big data.
“We are attacking each of them in a way that makes us knowledgeable on the different business categories, and then we are sharing what we learn, our ideas (and) our experiences across the firm so that we hope to be in a position to address all of the issues facing next generation manufacturers,” said Quick, who is serving as a thought leader within the firm’s continuous process improvement focus area.
Each category is staffed by a group of current team members from various departments and practice areas. Quick’s team in continuous process improvement includes specialists in financing, labor relations, intellectual property, and commercial arrangements.
“We have people across our firm that are part of that category, and we collaborate to make sure that we understand as much as possible all of the legal needs that our clients will have in that category,” Quick said.
The firm will rely on its existing staff to run the hub and doesn’t plan to hire any additional employees to operate the hub in the foreseeable future, according to Quick.
Externally, Foley & Lardner is in the process of devising a client advisory board, reaching out to industry associations and establishing partnerships with academic organizations and government groups to get direct industry input about each of the categories it is touching.
“To keep a finger on the pulse of manufacturers, we hear firsthand from them what their business perspectives are so we’re in the best position to respond to their needs,” Quick said.
Part of the hub’s services will be rolled out in the form of social media posts, blogs and roundtable discussions with some content generated by contributing manufacturing professionals and other content reflecting the firm’s experiences with clients and its input from clients. These supplementary vehicles will grant Foley & Lardner’s clients easy access to legal and business information pertinent to next generation manufacturing.
But the hub, which Foley & Lardner believes is the first of its kind, will also advise clients individually, ranging from C-suite level executives to engineers, and will cater to a diverse cadre of manufacturers.
“We take a broad view of manufacturing to include basically any industry that results in a physical product as opposed to just providing a service,” Quick said.
In one example of its past efforts geared toward next generation manufacturers, Foley & Lardner assisted Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Company with continuous improvement through the restructuring of its manufacturing operations in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Missouri. The firm helped Harley-Davidson negotiate new labor agreements in support of flexible manufacturing, continuous improvement and third-party sequencing.
Foley & Lardner has also contributed to efficiency efforts at Harley-Davidson by helping the company with the insourcing of its transportation management operations and by helping develop contracts in shipping and tracking services.
Through the legal innovation hub, Foley & Lardner will build on its history of serving manufacturers to become a top resource for next generation manufacturers adapting to the demands of the future.
“We want to be in a position where we know what (next generation manufacturers are) thinking and what they’re facing,” Quick said. “We want to be able to come to them with an understanding of their business challenges and have a ready solution.”
Quick anticipates that all of the firm’s manufacturing clients, which constitute about a third of its top 1,000 clients nationwide, will benefit from the hub.
“We are looking forward,” Quick said. “We are looking for ways to build on what we have done but fit it into next generation manufacturing in a way that’s innovative and more helpful for our clients. We are doing a better job understanding their needs, the issues that they will face in next generation manufacturing and making sure that we can grow with them and address these new concerns.”