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Six Driving Forces in Manufacturing


A.T. Kearney
Operations & Production Manufacturing

Manufacturing is once again a hot topic in public debate and on boardroom agendas. Companies that can accurately anticipate how these important changes will affect their manufacturing strategy can turn challenges into profitable opportunities.

As the latest waves of change gather momentum, manufacturers face decisions that could create opportunities or competitive challenges as significant as Eli Whitney’s idea of interchangeable parts or Toyota’s improvements on Henry Ford’s assembly line. As a result, the future of manufacturing is again a hot topic in public debate and on boardroom agendas. Companies are looking for a unique competitive edge or ways to respond to the unexpected.
Manufacturers that can accurately anticipate how these trends will affect the various elements of their manufacturing strategy, such as the future need, location, and size of factories; the potential role of big data in improving productivity; workforce implications; and the level of automation, can turn challenges into profitable opportunities.

Driving Forces in Familiar Areas A first driving force is rooted in new manufacturing technologies, which are emerging faster than ever. Some of them, such as collaborative robots and 3-D printing, are already disrupting the long-established environment on the factory floor and have the potential to fundamentally transform or even replace conventional manufacturing operations.

Future human-robot collaborations will combine human agility and intelligence to solve problems with the durability and precision of robots, at a much lower cost than today. Supported by easy and quick programming, such as motion or voice control, this new collaboration is likely to lead to a marked change in productivity and profoundly affect the traditional factory model overall. Also making inroads is 3-D printing: The global market for this technology is rapidly growing at 20 percent year-on-year and is estimated to reach between $25 billion and $50 billion by 2025. No wonder, because the potential benefits, whether from reduced manufacturing costs, improved lead times, or better quality, can be tremendous. And the ability to manufacture additive, individually customized products at a previously unachievable small scale, low cost, and short lead time could open up whole new markets.

by Patrick Van den Bossche
Supply Chain Management Review, January/February 2014


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