Rick Rubin is one of the most prolific producers in the history of music. If you haven’t heard of Rubin, he has worked with some of the best known artists in the world such as Johnny Cash, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, the Dixie Chicks, the Beastie Boys, and Jay Z to name a few. As a producer, Rick’s job is to pull together and service many pieces of the musical creation process such as gathering ideas for songs, coaching artists, and rearranging the music into the final production.


Photo: The Source

The music producer’s ultimate goal is to pull a lot of different moving parts together into harmony and create a song or album that aligns to an artist’s vision. Rubin has done this for more than thirty years in an industry that rapidly changed from selling physical albums to becoming almost completely digital with products like iTunes or service-oriented offerings like Apple Music and Spotify.

So what makes Rick Rubin still so prolific in an industry that has evolved and how does he work across so many genres of music? The answer lies in his ability to ask questions and get to the root of what the artist is trying to achieve:

“I’ll ask a lot of questions and we’ll probably listen to some of the riffs that they’ve been writing. Usually, I’ll hear something that will sort of indicate the direction and then we’ll talk about it from there” –  2011 interview.

Asking questions and finding the right direction in a rapidly changing industry – it’s a very similar scenario to what manufacturers are looking at right now as the industry becomes more competitive and digitized.

It’s a journey to find the right elements and bring them together into harmony. The modern manufacturer is gathering ideas, coaching, and re-arranging their processes – much like a music producer.

While Rick Rubin is a “super producer” and has done this job for decades, his formula has remained consistent in getting the best out of artists. Rubin approaches each project by asking a series questions to work through the discovery process with his artists. Similar to music, there are artists in every part of the manufacturing process – from engineering artists, to supply chain artists, to production artists who work together to output a product, just like a band making an album or song.

So what are some of the questions that these new “producers” should ask these “artists” as they begin their journey together into digital manufacturing?

While I can’t list them all in a blog post, here are some good ones to start with:

  • Do the current teams have the right skill set and are they trained on the latest technology?
  • How can we align teams to drive change?
  • How can we adopt new processes to get the most out of investments?
  • Do I know what resources I need?
  • Have we done an assessment of our potential security risks?

As you begin to lay the foundation for your digital journey, you don’t have to start from scratch and you can’t become a Rick Rubin overnight. Rubin has noted that his path began with working with mentors and he is always open to coaching and learning. There are resources available to help you identify the right questions to ask and help you on your path to digitization.

Additionally, at Cisco we have a services group who helps bring out the best performances across many organizations. Cisco Services can help lay the foundation for orchestrating the integration of technologies, coordinating and aligning IT and manufacturing line of business teams, and helping organizations adopt change.

To start your journey, all you have to do is ASK us the most basic question – “How can Cisco help me?” and you can be on your way to producing the next big manufacturing hit. I look forward to hearing your thoughts below. Happy Harmonizing!

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Eric Ehlers

Marketing Manager

Manufacturing and Energy