Suggested standfirst: What CIOs will need to have front of mind as the manufacturing floor changes.
Once upon a time, there were two types of manufacturers: high-tech and everybody else. Today, when almost any product can be technology-enabled, the challenge for many manufacturers is to make all sorts of items high-tech—and to make them all with high-tech processes.
This manufacturing transformation is driven by four key factors. The first is shifting consumer expectations. Although consumers may seem demanding today, their appetite for personalization, connectivity, and freshness will continue to grow, and will do so rapidly. Today we see fledgling personalization, with customized sneakers and cell phone cases. By 2020 such products will likely be mainstream, and by 2030 consumers may demand that manufacturers have sufficient flexibility to personalize almost anything.
Consumers will also increasingly insist on the benefits of connectivity, such as location-sensing-based services and auto-replenishment. Furthermore, they will expect releases of new products monthly rather than annually. They will want delivery in hours rather than days. Today, it is retailers that bear the brunt of consumer pressure; soon the pressure on manufacturers will be equally intense.
The second factor is additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. In 2010 there were just 23,000 industrial-sized 3D printers in the world; by 2030 they could number 100 million. Their costs should drop by about half each decade; meanwhile their capabilities will grow, including the number and types of materials they can process and the quality of the finish of their final products.
Such expansion in additive manufacturing will offer the capability to meet consumers’ personalization needs. Manufacturers will need not only 3D printers, of course, but also the processes and information ecosystem to support them.
“On the manufacturing line, an embedded sensor can indicate the product’s internal stress or other characteristics, triggering additional intelligent machining”