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OM in the News: Eight Drivers for Manufacturing’s Next 50 Years

February 16, 2020

In the last several decades, we’ve seen major disruptions to the manufacturing environment. We experienced the “China Price,” which prompted offshoring of manufacturing operations, nearly decimating U.S. manufacturing. More recently we’ve seen the trend toward personalized products, resulting in smaller lot sizes, thus straining traditional economies of scale production. And the “Amazon Effect” of rapid turnaround in orders and delivery times of 2 days or less continues to challenge the longer lead times typical in manufacturing.

“What might manufacturing look like in 2030, or 2070?” asks Industry Week (Feb, 10, 2020). In the future we will still have large-volume, low-mix operations that will continue to harvest the advantages of economies of scale production. However, the competitive dynamics of manufacturing will change for a large portion of the traditional manufacturing world. Industry Week sees 8 drivers to the future:

1. Quality will still be Job 1, but how we achieve it will change. With sensors everywhere, critical operational variables will be exposed.

2. Economies of scale will coexist with economies of one production. 3D printing/additive manufacturing technologies will have matured and will be cost competitive.

3. Because of 3D printing, production will be more closely tied to either the location of these raw materials or the location of the customer.

4. Automation will continue to replace repetitive tasks, and the costs of robots and their control systems will decline to a point where even smaller manufacturers can take advantage of them.

5. Products will be made through naturalistic design and their materials will be functionally graded to combine materials in new ways.

6. Humans and digital tools will not only coexist; they will be tightly integrated through AI. Wearables and exoskeleton supports will increase human performance and improve safety.

7. Strategic partners will collaborate to create end-to-end solutions that manufacturers can deploy with limited tweaking.

8. Manufacturing operations will be guided by a unified architecture that links the edge (asset) to the cloud.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What changes do you think will take place in manufacturing in the next decade?
  2.  Where can 3D printing play a role in change?



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