5 minutes with Brian Legan, EY’s Industrial Products Lead

Brian Legan is EY’s Industrial Products Americas Lead. Here he explores the intersection of technology, business and people in manufacturing

Hi Brian, tell us about your education, career and role models. 

“I’ve always been fascinated by the way people perform, learn, adapt, and excel in different areas. So, my original career aspiration was to be a neurosurgeon. After initially pursuing a psychophysiology pre-med degree at the University of Illinois, the financial realities of medical school caused me to pivot to Engineering Psychology – a unique interdepartmental program at University of Illinois that focused on using advanced automation and technology to design systems that enhanced human performance. This program allowed me to blend my understanding of psychology and human performance with systems engineering and design principles, which was extremely satisfying and perhaps even more relevant in today’s digital, Industry 4.0 age. 

“Upon graduation, I worked for McDonnell Douglas Corporation as a Crew Systems Engineer responsible for designing advanced automation systems for F/A-18 and F-15 fighter jets. I was fortunate to work with engineers from multiple disciplines as well as the pilots who would use the systems that we built. This early experience exposed me to the importance of understanding the operational context and end users to design human-centred systems that are ‘fit for purpose’. The tenets of human-centred design continue to benefit me as a consultant to some of the most innovative companies in the world. 

“I’m also grateful to have served a variety of commercial and government organisations across the globe over my subsequent career journey that spans early stage, start-up companies to large, multifaceted consultancies. The perspectives I gained from navigating the intricacies of technology, economics, policy and regulations, cultural and global business dynamics have made me appreciate the importance of applying a holistic approach to serving my clients.”


You're EY’s Industrial Products Americas Lead, tell us about your role and how it relates to the manufacturing sector.

“As the EY Industrial Products Leader for the Americas, my responsibilities include helping companies navigate the technology, business, and people aspects of their businesses to make informed, confident decisions that deliver measurable business advantages. 

“With the advent of Industry 4.0 (e.g., connected products, AI and machine learning) the industrial manufacturing industry is arguably experiencing the most change it has seen in decades. Given the current geopolitical and economic turbulence, industrial manufacturing companies must also overcome more immediate challenges such as increasing material costs, supply chain uncertainty, sustainability and ESG imperatives, and increased competition to attract and retain a changing workforce. 

“To survive, and thrive, companies must figure out how to improve operating efficiency and contain costs while maximising the return on innovation investments that will define their future. To this end, I work with clients and Ecosystem Alliance partners to accelerate the progression from strategy to execution, avoid proof-of-concept purgatory, and create innovation from invention.”

Brian M. Legan

Brian Legan is EY’s Industrial Products Americas Lead

Tell us about the intersection of technology, business and people in manufacturing. 

“A focus on all three of these dimensions is necessary to maximise performance and competitive advantage. Let me share a simple example to illustrate this point. I recently took up the game of golf and as a lifelong baseball player, I could hit the ball far but not very accurately or consistently. So, I upgraded my clubs with the latest technology. The result was that – after spending a lot of money – I hit the ball a little further, but my accuracy and score did not significantly improve. My good friend, and PGA golf pro, said to me, “It’s not your clubs, it’s your swing, stupid!” I invested in the latest technology but was overconfident and didn’t invest enough in improving my swing or approach to the game. 

“This experience is akin to digitising your manufacturing process and investing in the latest ERP, MRP, PLM systems, but underinvesting in transforming your business approach: your processes, operating model, and workforce development. While marginal gains may be realised, results will typically fall short of expectations.”

Why do you think not every invention needs to be disruptive and not every company needs to be a leader in their industry?

“Let me qualify what I meant by being a ‘leader’. Of course, companies should strive to be the best in their business – as judged by their employees, customers, and stakeholders. 

“However, being a ‘leader’ in a technological sense does not guarantee this outcome as I illustrated in my previous story. The level of disruption will depend on their business ambitions: to improve their game, win the game or change the game. This viewpoint goes back to my earlier point about fit-for-purpose and return on investment. Companies can both overbuild or under build their enabling systems and infrastructure. In the capital intensive industrial manufacturing industry, it is imperative that companies pursue technological innovations that are outcome-driven, mission-oriented, and customer-focused. The timing of investments is also critical as are decisions to access required capabilities and resources. The leaders are adept at managing a growing tapestry of data essential to improve decision making and performance. 

“Competing on analytics will continue to be a critical differentiator in the advanced manufacturing and industrial products industry. Finally, to execute their strategy, companies must not only understand the promise of emerging technologies but also the organisational, cultural, process and workforce aspects that will influence the implementation.”

Where do you want EY’s Industrial Products to be by 2024?

“My vision for the EY Industrial Products business is to be the ‘go-to’ resource that our clients count on to help navigate complexity and develop executable strategies that deliver lasting value. I joined EY because I was impressed by the distinctive blend of industry expertise, business and technology consulting acumen, strategy and transaction competencies, and an array of assets that can uniquely benefit our advanced manufacturing and industrial products clients. For example, we are investing in an initiative called ‘Advanced Manufacturing – Realised (AMR)’ that offers capabilities beyond the typical experience centres, design thinking exercises, and innovation theatre that has become all too commonplace. 

“We are also cultivating relationships with Ecosystem Alliance partners to harness the power of enabling technologies, platforms, and an abundance of data. Over the coming year, we will continue to mobilise our AMR approach and assets to help clients address immediate challenges, commercialise and scale innovations, improve speed-to-market while de-risking their investments by accounting for immovable constraints and factors that may impinge upon success. At EY, we are relentlessly focused on delivering measurable, enterprise value which is how we – and our clients – ultimately measure success.”


Featured Articles

Cristina Semperboni: Women In Engineering Spotlight

We interviewed Cristina Semperboni about her career journey from graduate to Engineering Manager at manufacturer Flex

Aerospace Insight: Where does Boeing make all of its Planes

After safety concerns rise by 500%, Manufacturing Digital takes an in-depth look at Boeing’s global manufacturing facilities

Comau's Automation Solutions for Outside of Manufacturing

Comau is expanding automation solutions across the sectors, from food to pharma. Nicole Clement says the company wants to make automation more accessible

Toyota Partners with Artelys to Streamline Post-Production

Procurement & Supply Chain

Voltpost: Overcoming Manufacturing Challenges & EV Charging


How Intelligent Automation is Reshaping Manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing