Intelligent Manufacturing…The Drive towards the Future.

It’s often said that to understand the future, you need to look to the past. I’m generally someone who prefers to be present in the moment. But when it comes to technology, the ability to look into a crystal ball and visualize the future is a huge advantage when most people are only looking to the now.

In Manufacturing, many of the individual technologies that have emerged over the past decade will pave the way for intelligent manufacturing of the future. These technologies will be embedded into components, materials and machines so they can communicate with one another in real time and exchange information across the production line.

At the Russian Economic Forum, Paul Brody, IBM’s Global Electronics Industry Leader, discussed how 3D Printing, Intelligent Robotics, and Open Source Electronics will dramatically change the manufacturing industry in the future. (View the presentation at This is a perfect example of how technologies that have been available in the past are converging to enable innovation and create new industries in the future.

Now is the time to look ahead and understand how technologies such as the Internet of Things can produce new opportunities and disruptive business models, which will enable manufacturers to begin their journey towards the future:

  1. Move towards embedded intelligence

By interlinking tools and assets with high performance computing, it is possible to build significantly higher levels of manufacturing intelligence throughout the factory. This means that every tool, component and material used to build a product will have detailed information embedded into it. This ultimately allows components to intelligently know where they go next until the final product reaches the customer.

       2.  Make a significant move towards Supply Chain integration

Interconnecting individual stages of the manufacturing ecosystem links the global supply chain, enables data sharing, and allows manufacturers to interact with all players in the value chain. All the assets required to manufacture a product can be accessed by a centralized cloud, and customers will be able to create products or purchase virtual capacity wherever it makes commercial sense.

       3.  Pursue deeper collaboration with suppliers and customers

By building a deeper understanding of customer requirements, manufacturers are able to create flexible factories and demand-driven supply chains, allowing them to customize products to individual needs. Customers will tell a factory what car to manufacture, what features to build into a mobile phone or how to create a pair of sunglasses based on specific requirements.

This all means that manufacturing of the future will no longer be the traditional closed system of the past.  Every segment in the value chain will need to be a closely linked ecosystem which reacts seamlessly to customer and supplier requirements, regulations, and policies.  Facilities will need to be optimized and intelligent in order to react quickly and efficiently to all these changes.

Supply Chain Smarter Manufacturing                Source: Time Magazine, What is Smart Manufacturing

To prepare for the future, companies need to focus on building smarter facilities, which deliver quality products and services through innovative and intelligent production processes and globally integrated supply chains. This is not an approach that competes on price, but instead focuses on new ways of operating facilities through the convergence of innovation and integrated technology.

Change is coming; it’s how you prepare for it that will define who the winners will be.

Electronics Industry Leader - Global Electronics Industry at IBM

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