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Future Factories: What Will They Look Like?

Posted By Chris Chiappinelli, October 31, 2012 at 6:44 AM, in Category: Factories of the Future

During the most recent meeting of the Manufacturing Leadership Council, manufacturing executives across a range of industries weighed in on the future of their factories, and considered whether revolutionary change is in store for their manufacturing sites.

The answer, most agreed, is yes. In the realm of technology, one executive at a prominent defense manufacturer said she was intrigued by the trend of additive manufacturing, popularly known as 3D printing. Today, her company uses 3D printing technology to quickly produce prototypes, but she expects the printers to handle sturdier materials in the near future, allowing the manufacturer to create lights-out production runs.

For some Council members, modularity is the look of the future—particularly manufacturers with factories spread across emerging markets. The vice president of one well-known electronics manufacturer said his company is working to create interchangeable component parts to reduce SKUs, allow more flexibility in final assembly, and simplify the production of multiple product lines.

For others, the guiding principles of the past are the stuff of the future. Some of the manufacturing leaders are pursuing Lean manufacturing and enforcing best practices across global plants.

Members of the Council are also steering their factories toward:

  • More collaboration with suppliers that have proprietary manufacturing processes and knowledge
  • The introduction of cloud computing, real-time quality data processing, smart robots, and 3D printing
  • Zero; i.e., zero defects, zero net energy use, and zero waste 

Manufacturing executives interested in attending the next conference call of the Manufacturing Leadership Council, which will address the challenge of creating an innovation culture, can request information here.

Written by Chris Chiappinelli

Chris Chiappinelli is the online research manager for Manufacturing Leadership. He covers enterprise software, sustainability, economic trends, workforce issues, and emerging technologies.


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