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What's Next: Beyond Manufacturing 4.0

Posted By Sue Pelletier, June 03, 2015 at 8:39 PM, in Category: Sustainability
Ted Duclos, President of Freudenberg-NOK, delivered an interesting vision of what is, and what may be to come, at the Manufacturing Leadership Summit. And an ambitous, yet potentially attainable vision it is, one he has honed through his company's experience with Lean manufacturing and filtered through biologically inspired sustainability net, leaving a gleaming idea that might, just might, actually result in a cleaner, leaner, more profitable, and earth-friendly maker community.
Based on the idea that all manufacturers have to meet their financial and commercial goals, while also being good citizens of the world, Duclos walked the audience through how his company obtained huge gains in productivity and quality by doing "hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands" of Kaizens--but, he said, eventually you reach a plateau. 
"We wanted to put creativity before capital" to break through those plateaus, he said. "We didn't want to improve by buying new machines and technology--we want to make things we have work really well first, so we looked at how we could change our technology to get closer to our ideals." Using a "People, Preparation, Process," or 3P system, his company came up with a breakthrough: single-cavity, net-shaped molding tools that turn conventional thinking on its head. The result: Production that was faster, zero-waste, and as cost effectively as multi-cavity molding machines--with improved quality and flexibility. While adoption is happening a bit slower than Duclos initially expected, customers are starting to understand that the quality they can achieve with the single-cavity tools is actually better, and provides better precision.
But Duclos is the kind of person who keeps asking, "Is that it? Are we finished?" That's where the manufacturing 5.0 vision comes in. He started looking around to see where else Lean manufacturing could be used. "Plants, animals, they're all making complex molecules all the time. What could that mean for manufacturing?" he asked. "Trees use sunlight and air to make hydrocarbons. Can we use biomimickry for manufacturing?" He looked around to see what companies are doing, and it's not beyond the realm to think that, in the near future, it will be possible to use ingredients in the air itself to create a material stream out of what is currently a pollutant and use it, ultimately being able to create microreactors that make it possible to put the whole supply chain in one plant. 
And he's still looking to nature for more solutions to both manufacturing and sustainability challenges. "Can we make factories that build themselves, the way trees grow fruit that we can pick," he mused. "Maybe biological manufacturing will be industry 5.0."

Category: Sustainability
Written by Sue Pelletier

I am a contributing editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Journal.


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