Technological megatrends are leading to major disruptions in manufacturing. And it’s affecting the way procurement and supply chain professionals plan for the future.
It wasn’t that long ago that manufacturing was a noisy and dirty process that involved huge numbers of staff and required significant factory floor space.
But that’s all changed. A number of megatrends have disrupted the manufacturing sector at a rapid rate, which Paul Markillie, Innovation Editor at The Economist, has documented in a number of articles and papers.
Given their disruptive nature, these technological megatrends are of significant interest to the procurement and supply chain professionals. Paul has been invited to speak on these mega-trends, and other technological advancements, that are disrupting and transforming manufacturing, at the Big Ideas Summit 2016.
“I’m particularly looking forward to the Big Ideas Summit because many of the things I talk about attract interest and curiosity. That can lead to some lively interaction, from which I often learn things from people who are already having to confront profound changes to the way they will do business in the future,” Markillie writes.
During his keynote, Paul will explain how manufacturing is going digital and how that will disrupt the conventional economies of production, and overturn established supply chains. He’ll also explain how companies are responding to these trends.
Changing the Manufacturing Rules
According to Paul Markillie, a handful of industrial revolutions have occurred, depending on who you ask. And, as has happened in other industries, such as publishing, music, films and electronics, the move to a digital world in manufacturing changes the rules comprehensively.
Developments like new materials, robotics, 3D printing, and computer-aided design and simulation, replace the old notions of economies of scale. This changes not just where companies locate factories, but also how they organise themselves, and arrange their procurement and supply chains.
As part of his work, Markillie has documented the dramatic pace of change in manufacturing around the world. This includes the carbon-fibre composites making light work of aeroplanes, and now cars too. BMW’s car factory in Leipzig produces a variety of vehicles, with a group of robots in one area moving in perfect synchrony as they assemble body section, with a precision no human could hope to match.
But there’s no thundering metal-stamping machines or showers of welding sparks here, as he documents. Instead, these car parts are black, and made from a composite material called carbon fibre. And by the mid-2020s, carbon fibre will be widely adopted in car making, he says. And this is just one of the technological megatrends we need to be keeping track of.
Advanced Manufacturing Methods
There’s many other examples of major innovation in the car industry in other parts of the world, too. Researchers in Tennessee have created an automated system endearingly known as Big Areas Additive Manufacturing (also known as a 3D printer), which is used to print cars.
The researchers work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is exploring a number of advanced manufacturing methods. In one experiment, it made most of the body and chassis for an electric replica of a classic 1960s sports car, and took just six weeks to design, print and assemble the car.
The dramatic pace of change proves that first-tier suppliers will need to work much closer with companies in the development process. While this already occurs to some extent, there will be huge opportunities for companies further down the supply chain to innovate.
For example, second-generation robots are more affordable for medium and small companies, while 3D printing processes are less wasteful of raw materials and allow greater production flexibility at lower volumes.
There are plenty of other new approaches to manufacturing, which give procurement professionals plenty of food for thought, likely to be explored by Markillie at the Big Ideas Summit. No matter how you look at it, manufacturing is a world away from yesteryear, he says.
Paul Markillie will discuss these disruptive technological megatrends in greater detail during his keynote at the Big Ideas Summit 2016 on April 21st.
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