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New “Factory of the Future” Study Foresees Dramatic Changes by 2030

Posted By Jeff Moad, April 03, 2017 at 12:38 PM, in Category: Factories of the Future

136300536_Binary_Data.jpgThe transformative effects of four global megatrends are interacting to reshape the vision of tomorrow’s factory, according to a newly-released study by Frost & Sullivan’s Manufacturing Leadership Council. (https://go.frost.com/forms/mlc_fof)

The study, “Vision 2030: The Factory of the Future,” concludes that these forces will create both the demand and the means for manufacturers to create future factories that are “fueled by vast quantities of information from every corner of the enterprise and beyond, moderated by analytical systems that can identify and extract insights and opportunities from that information, and comprised of intelligent machines that learn, act, and work alongside highly skilled human beings in safe and collaborative environments.”

The high-level megatrends that will lead to these outcomes, the report says, are:

Globalization/Urbanization/Regionalization/Uncertainty: The interplay of global economic forces -- particularly intense urbanization, regionalization, and globalization -- is creating shifts in how manufacturers must think about how they design their production and supply networks. As globalization provokes responses such as the erection of trade barriers and as urbanization and the growth of regional economies lead to a demand for localized products and higher labor costs even in previously low-cost areas, manufacturers must continuously recalibrate where and how they produce, whether they outsource, and how they serve emerging markets.

Smart/Material/Open/Green: New, smart approaches to innovation are on the rise. These approaches focus on waste reduction fueled by innovations in material science, open systems, and new forms of social collaboration. New collaborative relationships with customers and suppliers enable companies to rethink intellectual property protection strategies, and innovate at every level of the workforce.

Business Model Innovations: The same technology forces that have convinced consumers to embrace sharing-economy-based businesses are transforming the industrial world. Smart, connected products and real-time analytics will allow manufacturers to sell outcomes such as jet engine uptime and not just products. This means manufacturers will need to fundamentally rethink their relationships with customers. It also means they will face an entirely new competitive landscape.

Ambient Intelligence: Advances in technologies that are quickly permeating all parts of the manufacturing enterprise such as cloud-based solutions, digital platforms and applications, machine learning, and the Internet of Things are combining to provide all institutions with the unprecedented ability to gain and act on insights. For manufacturers, this will bring the ability not just to recognize and respond to problems and opportunities in near-real time, but even the ability to predict them in advance and to act in an autonomous fashion. But first, manufacturers must fundamentally rethink governance and decision-making processes while also securing all systems and data.

These megatrends, the Factories of the Future Report states, will prompt manufacturers to rethink not just factory design but how production processes and infrastructure can support a wide range of new opportunities made possible by digitization. Increasingly, for example, manufactures will replace large, centralized plants with networks of smaller, more nimble factories that are better able to customize production for specific regions and customers.

But the report also emphasizes that the new vision of manufacturing will not be realized quickly or easily. For many manufacturers, the underlying trends will amount to unprecedented and difficult change.

“The vision of the future is bright indeed, but it is one that has vast implications as well as challenges,” the report says. “As manufacturing becomes increasingly connected and information-intensive, every functional aspect of the enterprise is 

likely to be affected -- from design, to manufacturing through supply chains, and extending to customer service and support. Many manufacturers will have to undertake significant cultural, organizational, and management changes if they are going to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital revolution.” 

The report also predicts that factories of the future will be ground zero for significant changes in relationships between machines and humans as robots transition from being programmed only to execute repetitive tasks to becoming more collaborative and even sentient, able to learn from experience and changing data.

As that transition takes place, manufacturers must prepare the human workforce for higher-level tasks and must undertake what the report calls Human Capital Transformation. To overcome a looming skills gap and transition the current workforce to thrive in a more digitized future, the report says, manufacturers must clearly define the skills that will be required, take an inventory of current capabilities, and provide tools that enable self-training and skills certification.

Manufacturers that successfully navigate that workforce transformation, transition to a more collaborative culture, and establish a digital environment based on security and trust will be first to realize the competitive benefits of the digitized factory of the future, says the report, which was sponsored by General Electric and Intel and based on proprietary industry databases, expert interviews, and a workshop that included Fortune 100 manufacturing companies. 

The complete whitepaper report may be downloaded for free at https://go.frost.com/forms/mlc_fof


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Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit



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