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Supply Chain News: Intel Thought Leader on Eight Manufacturing Megatrends


Big Changes Coming, as Manufacturing Gets Truly Smart, 3D Printing Arrives, New Types of Materials are Developed

Feb. 18, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Where is manufacturing headed?

In a recent guest column for Industry Week magazine, Irene Petrick, senior director of the Industrial Innovation/IIoT Group, at Intel, offered some very interesting thoughts on what we might call manufacturing megatrends.

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Humans and digital tools will not only coexist; they will be tightly integrated.

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Before describing eight specific drivers of future manufacturing, Petrick comments on the overall manufacturing environment, which includes a prediction that "Africa will rise as a competitive player; with their natural resources, they could leapfrog the more traditional players."

Petrick's eight megatrends are summarized below:

1. Quality will still be Job 1, but how we achieve it will change: With sensors everywhere, critical operational variables will be exposed, Petrick says.

"Predictive maintenance will be the norm and unplanned downtime will be drastically reduced," Petrick says.

What's more, individual machines will be run closer to their tolerance limits since sensors will be able to identify the machine's ability to meet part needs.

Truly smart manufacturing will be achievable, with sensors also enabling real-time feedback as software algorithms link directly into control systems to continuously assess the best operating parameters. "These feedback loops will be augmented with feedforward loops to improve yield, anticipating how future steps in the operating process might be tweaked to correct or improve quality," Petrick said.

2. Economies of scale will coexist with economies of one production:
3D printing/additive manufacturing technologies will have matured and will be cost competitive, Petrick says.

"3D printing will accommodate the smaller batch sizes driven by personalization, but will require different ways of certifying quality," Petrick predicts, adding that "In this low volume production world, a blockchain or other distributed ledger framework will capture the materials, processing environment, design and layer-by-layer quality and thus will provide a snapshot of the entire part production that will be accepted by the buyer."

3. Production will become more localized:
With 3D printing technologies, the critical inputs will be the raw materials, Petrick says. "Production will be more closely tied to either the location of these raw materials or the location of the customer," she adds. "We are already seeing the large shipping companies investing in 3D printing technologies in anticipation of this."

4. People will still be involved in manufacturing, but their roles will be different:
Automation will continue to replace repetitive tasks, and the costs of robots and their control systems will decline to a point where even smaller manufacturers can take advantage of them, Petrick says. "Manufacturing work will become more strategic, more proactive, and more transparent."

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5. Product design will become more naturalistic: Products will be made through naturalistic design and their materials will be functionally graded to combine materials in new ways," Petrick predicts.

That means that product features will be paired to the specific materials and we will see combinations of materials not possible today.

An example of that: organics and electronics embedded together onto a flexible infrastructure. Algorithms will enhance this through simulation where features can be optimized before any physical work is done.

"The engineers of the future will be trained for both subtractive and additive processes, and will have a deep knowledge of biologically derived structures and digital tools," she adds.

6. Artificial intelligence will be associated with augmented intelligence: Humans and digital tools will not only coexist; they will be tightly integrated. Wearables and exoskeleton supports will increase human performance and improve safety, Petrick expects.

7. The ecosystem of today, driven by transactions, will be based more on relationships:
Strategic partners will collaborate to create end-to-end solutions that manufacturers can deploy with limited tweaking, Petrick says. "The data-sharing conundrum of today will be solved through new business models that expose the value of sharing data, while also protecting the underlying intellectual property," Petrick adds.

8. Manufacturing operations will be guided by a unified architecture that links the edge (asset) to the Cloud: We will consciously deploy digital tools and will understand and manage the tradeoffs between compute location, storage, data rates, and communication bandwidth, Petrick believes. In this architecture, security will be baked in and not an add-on feature.

"The future is not for the faint of heart, but it is coming nonetheless," Petrick concludes.

What is your reaction to Petrick's manufacturing trends? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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