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New Technologies Transforming Manufacturing, Changing Competition
According to a recent paper from the Deloitte University Press entitled “The Transformation of Manufacturing,” advanced materials, new production technologies, and digital techniques are allowing manufacturers to remain competitive despite numerous challenges.
Area Development Online Research Desk (Directory 2014)
 
Additive Manufacturing
Among the new production processes is additive manufacturing, e.g., 3D printing. In fact, additive manufacturing has become a national technology focus. A year ago, the Obama administration launched the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) to maintain a competitive advantage in 3D printing and accelerate the position of the U.S. in the development and use of this technology. And this past October, NAMII was rebranded as America Makes.

According to Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates, a member of America Makes and an AM industry researcher, “In 10 years, 3D printing of end-use products has gone from almost nothing to 28.3 percent of the total product and service revenues from additive manufacturing worldwide.”

Advanced Materials/Nanotech
When it comes to advanced materials, carbon fiber composites, ceramics, and nanomaterials are increasingly being used in automobiles, aircraft, building materials, and other products. And more and more research is taking place. For example, six technology companies recently announced they would invest $1.5 billion to create ‘Nano Utica,’ New York State’s second major hub of nanotechnology research and development.

Digital Tools
Finally, through new digital design and collaboration tools, manufacturers are now able to digitally simulate the appearance, performance, interoperability, and manufacturability of their products, thereby saving time and money. According to Helmuth Ludwig, CEO, Siemens Industry Sector, North America, as quoted in Industry Week, there has been “a paradigm shift in industry: the real manufacturing world is converging with the digital manufacturing world to enable organizations to digitally plan and project the entire lifecycle of products and production facilities.”

Questions To Be Addressed
The transformation of manufacturing is raising many questions for their clients, says the Deloitte report. Among them:
  • How can manufacturers use advanced materials to differentiate themselves and improve product performance?
  • How can clients use new production processes such as additive manufacturing to boost efficiency?
  • How can clients implement new manufacturing IT solutions to reduce the cost of product development?
  • Where should manufacturing clients locate production facilities in light of shifting demand patterns and increasingly complex determinants of cost and risk?
  • How will clients need to redesign supply chains to take advantage of new materials and production processes?
  • How can clients gain access to workers with the skills required for increasingly sophisticated production facilities?
With regard to this last question, some manufacturers — like automaker BMW — are taking training into their own hands. The company is working with five local high schools and a career center in Aiken County, S.C. to set up an apprenticeship program like the ones utilized in Germany. In this way, they can ensure a steady pipeline of skilled workers.

In sum, the Deloitte report notes that these advances in materials and processes are changing the basis of competition and value creation in manufacturing and establishing a new path to a successful future for any company that embraces this transformation.

 
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