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How new technologies shape the future of production

by Torbjørn H. Netland

How will manufacturing look like in the future? As part of my engagement as Fellow of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Production, I featured in a podcast about the future of production. Here is what I had to say about it.

Manufacturing is affected by four mega-trends:

  1. The accelerating technological development, which opens new opportunities for how to organize and improve manufacturing.
  2. The evolving consumer expectations towards customization, individualization and speedy delivery.
  3. The need to address sustainability in production.
  4. The continued globalization, including the development of the global economy and global production, logistics and trade.

… and suggest that the speed of change depends on two key enablers:

  • Human capital and skills. Manufacturing companies need to find new ways to continually upgrade their workforce. One opportunity is to collaborate more with the outside (as in open process innovation).
  • Regulations and governance. Active and sound political governance is needed in order to reduce the risk of social unrest and secure a fair distribution of wealth among workers and capital owners.

Because technology is so central to the narrative of the fourth industrial revolution,  I go on to discuss the role of five promising technologies in the podcast:

  • Blockchain.
  • Additive Manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) (see also this post).
  • Augmented Reality (see also this post).
  • Robotics and machine learning.
  • Digitization and the Internet of Things.

Two key points:

“In manufacturing, physical processes are more important than digital processes – today and tomorrow”

“In manufacturing, human learning is more important than machine learning – today and tomorrow”

More? Check out the World Economic Forum’s Future of Production Transformation Map, co-curated by my Chair of Production and Operations Management at ETH Zurich.

This article is written and reproduced with the kind permission by Dr. Torbjørn Netland who is a Tenure Track Assistant Professor and the Head of Chair of Production and Operations Management at the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. You can access his latest content through his website or follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.