Manufacturing the Future

It’s no secret that the industrial revolution was directly born from the development of specialized machinery, thus providing the means of manufacturing a new path in history. Industrialization marked a societal shift through the development of these new systems, which also opened new ways of doing business. The principles and practices from these transformations continue to have a long-lasting ripple effect on the world today.

It may come as a surprise that America manufactures more today than we ever have before in the country’s history. The advancements in manufacturing have spurred the next era of global growth and innovation. As a local manufacturer for the past 20 years in Boulder, Colorado, FreeWave has a unique understanding of how producing goods locally actually improves the bottom line, as compared to sending the work offshore.

The Manufacturer is Evolving

According to a major report from the McKinsey Global Institute, manufacturing continues to evolve in many ways. Some of the key findings to note were:

  • Manufacturing’s role is changing. The way it contributes to the economy shifts as nations mature: in today’s advanced economies, manufacturing promotes innovation, productivity, and trade more than growth and employment. In these countries, manufacturing also has begun to consume more services and to rely more heavily on them to operate.
  • Manufacturing is not monolithic. It is a diverse sector with five distinct groups of industries, each with specific drivers of success.
  • Manufacturing is entering a dynamic new phase. As a new global consuming class emerges in developing nations, and innovations spark additional demand, global manufacturers will have substantial new opportunities—but in a much more uncertain environment.

The report also highlights two very critical priorities for the future: “Companies have to build their R&D capabilities, as well as expertise in data analytics and product design. They will need qualified, computer-savvy factory workers and agile managers for complex global supply chains. In addition to supporting ongoing efforts to improve public education—particularly the teaching of math and analytical skills—policy makers must work with industry and educational institutions to ensure that skills learned in school fit the needs of employers.”

IoT and Smart Manufacturing

Whether it’s called smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0 or Industrial IoT, even the casual observer of the industrial landscape can see how manufacturing is changing. Being driven by new technologies and rapidly evolving customer demands manufacturers have needed to respond with mass customization – the concept of building flexibility into mass production.

Through the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), factory and plant settings are becoming more outfitted with advanced instrumentation and being interconnected for a holistic approach to the modern assembly line. IoT provides the ability to gain valuable data off of all the “things” along the manufacturing process. From the condition of assets and equipment to quality and yield metrics, IoT provides live, real-time data from the manufacturing environment to our fingertips.

In addition, new data sets (and perhaps more importantly data analytics) are changing the way we see our machines, our processes and our business operations. Analytics can identify patterns in the data, model behaviors of equipment, and predict failures based on a variety of variables that exist in manufacturing.
As more factories and equipment are instrumented with the IoT, data volume will only grow larger.

In Closing

America is still making plenty of “things” and thanks to the latest advancements in technology, is still the leader in many of its fields of expertise. Below is a throwback video from PBS to remind us how the manufacturing sector continues to produce not just products, but ingenuity.

Video courtesy of PBS.org

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