The challenges facing the US manufacturing industry are varied and well-known: foreign competition, regulatory and environmental concerns, and a decline in STEM education, to name a few.
Most of what we hear in the news is a continual stream of reminders of these challenges from politicians, pundits, etc. Everyone seems to acknowledge this is a problem, but what are we going to do about it?
Mark Halpern of Gartner recently spoke about what he believes are the 5 Technologies To Fix Manufacturing.
However, do note that he did not write that these technologies are the ones to fix US manufacturing in particular. If US manufacturing intends to remain competitive, then it may be wise to embrace these technologies, as its competition most likely already has or intends to:
Software: The use of software in manufactured products is changing what consumers expect. Cars have 10 million lines of code, physical devices are becoming human-machine interfaces and virtual products abound. Software changes manufacturing tactics and enables physical goods to become services. Think e-readers and e-book sales.
Crowdsourcing and co-creation: These two social media developments help engage customers and can offer design breakthroughs. Usage of these social tools is nascent.
Analytics: Product lifecycle management can be greatly improved through the use of analytics. By monitoring products, quality and profit margin, manufacturers will know what processes and technologies can be captured and reused.
Design communities: Halpern noted the example of Local Motors, which focuses on automotive product development in communities. Design communities create products for rewards and Local Motors bets on microfactories to create limited quantities of prototypes.
Manufacturing 2.0: This term encompasses multiple technologies—service oriented architecture, supply network collaboration, interfaces to recruit talent, social tools and sensors throughout the manufacturing process. Collectively, these technologies allow a manufacturer to get to market faster with better results.
The “crowdsourcing and co-creation” addition is what interested me the most. Crowdsourcing is to use a large, undefined group — often public — to come up with a solution to a problem or task. It is an advanced form of social networking and collaboration (think Wikipedia). The manufacturing industry has been slow to adopt mainstream social media in general, even when compared to other B2B industries. So is it ready for this?
I really like the idea – but I am a bit curious about the expected timeline. While he acknowledges that crowdsourcing and co-creation are “nacent,” compared to the other technologies he describes it seems very far down the road. Therefore, when I think of what technologies can be used to help fix US manufacturing, I wonder if this will truly be one of them. In either case, kudos to Mr. Halpern for his forward-thinking.
Do you think he is correct? What would you add or subtract from his list?