Worldwide Manufacturing Technology Changes

  • March 07, 2016
  • Feature

Bill Lydon’s Automation Perspectives

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Industry worldwide has come to the conclusion that low labor rates is not a winning strategy. To remain competitive and gain more flexibility and efficiency, manufacturers must modernize and completely integrate their manufacturing infrastructures. Many industry experts conclude that there needs to be major changes in the entire manufacturing architecture. The holistic vision is real-time linking of supply chain, design, manufacturing, outbound logistics, and lifecycle service. This integration can only be accomplished by leveraging the latest technologies, and automation is a fundamental component for this transition to be successful.

The adoption of new technology during times of significant innovation is critical for manufacturing success. If your competitors adopt better methodologies and technology they may outpace you in the marketplace.

Many times history repeats itself. Consider the history of the automotive industry and the loss of market share by the Unites States.

On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford perfected the assembly line by installing driven conveyor belts that could produce a Model T in 93 minutes. Ford’s assembly-line had immense influence on the world by dramatically increasing production efficiency. This efficiency allowed Ford to decrease the cost of the Model T so it fell within the budget of the American middle class.  The mass market for automobiles emerged. Ford’s success was dominating and quickly spread worldwide. Competitors had to implement assembly lines, or risk going broke because they could not compete.

In 1960, 48% of all automobiles were produced in the United States. By 1997 the number was down to 23% - that is more than a 50% loss of market share.  By 1997, Japan produced 21% of automobiles. Success of the Japanese automotive manufacturers was attributed to advanced manufacturing methods, aggressive automation, and aggressive use of robotics. During that same timeframe, United States automakers had access to the same technologies and methods, but they did not take advantage of them until compelled by economic factors.

The point was proven again when Hyundai Motor Company started producing automobiles in 1967. By 2014, the company manufactured 10.6% of vehicles on the global market.

 “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.”

Quote by Charles Kettering, American inventor, engineer, businessman, and head of research at General Motors from 1920 to 1947.

World Initiatives

Manufacturing is an important part of the worldwide economies and there are a number of initiatives to improve manufacturing with high levels of integration by applying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

Industry 4.0

The first and most visible initiative is the German Industry 4.0 initiative created in 2006. Industry 4.0 focuses academia, research institutions and industry as part of a 10-point high-tech plan in Germany’s strategy to be the leading supplier of products. The initiative is being driven by serious government and industry investments. It is refreshing to see that this German initiative has adopted worldwide standards including ISA 95 and OPC UA. It was also noted at the 2015 ODVA general assembly meeting that industry 4.0 demonstrations at Hannover Messe 2016 will incorporate products that conform to ODVA standards.

Make in India

Make in India was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 25, 2014 to promote growth of India’s manufacturing industry. Make in India is an initiative of the Government of India to encourage multinational, as well as domestic, companies to manufacture their products in India. India made this announcement globally as the partner country at the 2015 Hannover Messe.  India will leverage Industry 4.0 concepts and new technology in initiatives for manufacturing, smart cities, and overall infrastructure as part of the country’s Digital India initiative.

Made in China 2025

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced their Made in China 2025 initiative while delivering the 2015 annual government work report. “We will implement the 'Made in China 2025' strategy, seek innovation-driven development, apply smart technologies, strengthen foundations, pursue green development and redouble our efforts to upgrade China from a manufacturer of quantity to one of quality,” said Keqiang.  Nine tasks are stated priorities: improving manufacturing innovation, integrating technology and industry, strengthening the industrial base, fostering Chinese brands, enforcing green manufacturing, promoting breakthroughs in 10 key sectors, advancing restructuring of the manufacturing sector, promoting service-oriented manufacturing and manufacturing-related service industries, and internationalizing manufacturing. Ten key sectors for the strategy include new information technology, numerical control tools and robotics, aerospace equipment, ocean engineering equipment and high-tech ships, railway equipment, energy saving and new energy vehicles, power equipment, new materials, medicine and medical devices, and agricultural machinery. Made in China 2025 will span the whole manufacturing industry, applying advanced ideas from Germany, Japan, United States and Britain, among others, said officials.

Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC)

SMLC was founded in the United States to overcome the costs and risks associated with commercialization of Smart Manufacturing (SM) systems. SMLC’s mission is to lead the industrial sector transformation into a networked, information-driven environment in which an open Smart Manufacturing Platform supports real-time, high value applications for manufacturers.  The mission is to optimize production systems and value chains, and radically improve sustainability, productivity, innovation and customer-service. SMLC intends to develop a cloud-based, open architecture manufacturing infrastructure and marketplace through the collaboration of manufacturing thought leaders across industry, academia, consortia and government.  SMLC’s goals include plant level systems and data integration, accelerate the development and deployment of reusable applications, provide an open and secure infrastructure accessible and affordable to all, embrace evolving business needs and new market opportunities agilely.

All of these initiatives have the common thread of the application of new technologies, most prominently IoT, to improve all aspects of industry including design, supply chain, manufacturing automation, and lifecycle management. These initiatives are part of an evolution that will lead to more responsive and efficient production.

Bottom Line

While each part of the world has an initiative addressing a wide range of issues, they have common technology threads and they adopt common worldwide industry standards. Manufacturing and automation professionals should study these initiatives and strongly consider their future automation investment strategies.

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