The Future of Modern Manufacturing Explained in 12 Tweets
Posted by Bert Maes on August 12, 2010
1. Technology is pushing in two directions—bigger and smaller. Manufacturers will continue to find fresh fields by meeting the demands for workpieces that are significantly different in scale from mid-sized parts with mid-sized tolerances. (see article: Going to Extremes)
2. The cost of manufacturing overseas is rising, but the cost of manufacturing in lower-cost areas of the U.S. is holding firm. The smart choice is proving to be not outsourcing internationally, but outsourcing from one U.S. region to another. Pennsylvania for example is less expensive than Chicago or Detroit. (also see article: “In tough times, many companies turn to outsourcing, yet that strategy may doom their products“)
3. As material prices increase the cost of stock, and as technologies such as 3D printing improve, manufacturers will increasingly employ additive part-making as an additional option alongside CNC machining. (also read: “In the manufacturing industry of the future, sophisticated 3D automation and robots will play the key roles.”)
4. Even though manufacturing facilities have reduced their staff, demographics still predict an industry-challenging lack of technical and engineering talent. Young people are not entering manufacturing at a rate that is anywhere near fast enough to replace those who will retire. (Check: US Report Skills Shortage and EU Report Skills Shortage)
5. On the other hand, population trends also bode well for U.S. manufacturers. A surge in new consumers is coming: the Millenials. This upcoming generation’s expectation of variety will favor short production runs. This in turn will favor an increased reliance on manufacturing in the United States. (also view: beat offshoring by having a local ready stock and producing faster than firms with foreign factories.)
6. Manufacturing enterprises are much more diverse than what the government and media seem to be able to imagine. Much of our national conversation about manufacturing still focuses almost solely on “factory” production. (see article: The “factory” is one way we organize people and capital to produce real and useful things – but team of mechanically-minded people who come together is just enough)
7. The skills and other attributes needed in modern manufacturing are getting more difficult to define, particularly for small and lean facilities. The people who can best recognize these attributes are likely to be the ones who already have them. A manufacturer’s current employees are probably its best link to new employees. (find out: The 7 skills we should teach in technical education.)
8. Traditionally, the start-up shop was a job shop. Tomorrow, it might just as well be a captive shop. Cheaper, smaller and easier manufacturing equipment will produce a new sector: “basement manufacturing” of niche or custom products. (see articles: (1) machine tools used in non-shop locations and (2) the small batch movement, an example of the current Third Industrial Revolution in manufacturing)
9. Tool steel? Try tool aluminum. As product lives shrink, steel won’t automatically be the moldmaking material of choice. Increasingly, what was once called “soft” tooling will be seen as full production tooling.
10. Similar to what occurred in the aircraft industry some time ago, the medical device industry will be colonized by regulators. Processes will face new validation requirements, and the pace of innovation will slow. The requirements will also create barriers to competition, resulting in small and nimble manufacturers becoming large and established ones.
11. Any manufacturer today should look out across the production floor and ask: What would my process look like if it was more automated? Then ask: What steps can I take today to move in that direction? (also read: Automation protects the future of our economy’s manufacturing base.)
12. The United States is the world leader in terms of global manufacturing market share. U.S. manufacturing also has become significantly leaner, cleaner, more efficient and more responsive in just the last few years. To be sure, there are challenges. However, the idea that the United States is turning away from manufacturing is dramatically overstated. U.S. manufacturing will remain a leading economic force in the world for a long time to come.