Many manufacturing futurists paint a world of smaller, localized factories using additive manufacturing technologies and custom assembly as the norm (with far less reliance on mass production assembly). Much of the custom assembly will be automated with self-driven machines such as robots. And in 10 years, according to an IBM prediction, the capital required to open a factory will only be 10% of that required today. That’s significant capital downsizing for a major segment of our global economy. How will manufacturing and all its dependent businesses in the supply chain react to these changes?
Perhaps this will ripple into substantial global economic change: the global logistics business will probably transform primarily to moving raw materials rather than finished goods if manufacturing is localized … and raw materials ship a lot more compactly than finished goods turned into packaged goods. So will global companies that currently make their living from logistics evolve to stay competitive in this new global economy?
Perhaps governments that rely on import/export tariffs will need to foster their economies by focusing on what they can afford to BUY … and not what they need to SELL.
Perhaps retail will downsize storefront space because some of what it carries will be manufactured (printed) right there in the store. There is 3D printing technology happening with much more than plastic and metal … there is 3D technology that prints clothes … and 3D technology that prints human tissue for medical testing. In 2015 the US Food & Drug Administration approved the first 3D prescription pill printer that could be printing prescription drugs for more than 3 million people who suffer from certain types of epileptic seizures.
Can we envision local retailers and drug stores with store departments that use 3D printers and stocked materials that license the right to print (rather than “stock “) products? And perhaps global design engineering and pharmaceutical companies focus on their core competency of researching and designing rather than manufacturing products.
Perhaps we will return to certain aspects of the Guild craft economy in Europe during the Middle Ages because technology, business process, and the supply chain will now allow us to custom and locally manufacture products at mass production costs or less.
What will these manufacturing trends mean to computer modeling software for design engineering and manufacturing? Perhaps it will continue to specialize. Using 3D solid models, there are companies that make software that tests how products perform against simulated real-world physical forces … software that compares a high-resolution scan of a manufactured component to its 3D solid model and heat maps variances to identify manufacturing trouble-spots … and, oh yeah … software that use 3D solid models to simulate the manufacturing of components to predict what it will cost.
Perhaps software that analyzes 3D solid models for various reasons (test material strength … ensure quality manufacturing … estimate and manage costs) will itself be pushed to the local level by becoming software applications on the devices themselves. Will aPriori create cost model apps specifically for the EP-2025 3D printer and the HAL25 assembly robot? (These machine models, like the questions themselves, are speculative.)
Perhaps. Who really knows?
To be successful, business software must solve business problems … and prove it solved them through meaningful business metrics.
In My Next Blog Article…
In my November 2016 blog article, I’ll explore how a cost estimate classification system for aPriori could (amongst other benefits) enable useful out-of-the-box business intelligence through Cost Insight reports and dashboards.
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