Five technologies to fix manufacturing

Here are five technologies that have the potential to reinvent manufacturing.

Manufacturing is facing upheaval and opportunity courtesy of technology.

A Local Motors' microfactory creating its Rally Fighter vehicle. Credit: Local Motors

At the Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Gartner analyst Mark Halpern rounded up five technologies that are reinventing manufacturing. Halpern's thoughts are worth noting as the future of manufacturing is a hot topic in many countries ranging from the U.S. to the U.K. to Japan as China increasingly becomes the factory for the world.

Among the key technologies reinventing manufacturing:

  1. 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.
  2. Crowdsourcing and co-creation: These two social media developments help engage customers and can offer design breakthroughs. Usage of these social tools is nascent.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Related: We can all be manufacturers

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