By late last century, the industrial revolution had been over by at least 100 years. Manufacturing looked like it was nothing more than an old dinosaur just waiting to die off. We all thought we had lost manufacturing to China or India or other rising economies.
At the same time, everything was starting to be all about the Internet. Everyone wanted digital music and digital movies. Communications between people increasingly went digital. If it wasn’t on the web, it didn’t exist.
But it turned out people still wanted things. They wanted new cars, new televisions, new appliances in their houses, new clothes and food. And they wanted new computers and lots of new smartphones. Real, tangible things—requiring lots and lots of manufacturing.
But not last century’s manufacturing. Today, people want safe products from socially and environmentally responsible manufacturers. They want low cost with high value. They want their product their way—and when and where they specify.
This is a far cry from last century’s manufacturing, with its never-ending assembly line, products available in any color as long as it’s black.
Manufacturing is coming back and it’s coming back stronger than ever. It’s coming back by making people more valuable and by making manufacturing more exciting. It’s all about finally giving manufacturing workers the kinds of tools and technologies they need, and using these tools to transform manufacturing into Smart Manufacturing.
Instead of killing manufacturing, the Internet is actually helping to save manufacturing. Along with the ideas behind Smart Manufacturing, the IT technology behind the Internet is enabling manufacturing to do more with less and is transforming manufacturing back into an economic powerhouse.
The Millennials, meanwhile, grew up with the Internet, and were born with smartphones in their hands. And while a few of us silver surfers will likely hang around, the Millennials will soon be running everything. And they’re doing everything through the Internet—even manufacturing.
Manufacturing companies are quickly diverging into two types: those that view people as costs and those that view people as assets. Those that view people as costs are trying their best to cut costs, reduce their payrolls, lay people off, and move their manufacturing overseas. The result is that they’re becoming low-cost, low-value, low-quality, commodity manufacturing companies, and will ultimately be out of business.
Those that view people as assets are investing in their people and giving them the tools they need to be highly successful. They’re letting the computers do what they do best, and letting people think, innovate and change. People are flexible, responsive and smart, and they’re making their organizations premier manufacturing companies.
Here are some other important points about Smart Manufacturing:
- Smart Manufacturing is flat. There are no barriers to the Internet, and there are no barriers to manufacturing. Manufacturing is agile and flexible.
- Smart Manufacturing is sustainable. That’s the new triple bottom line—economic sustainability, social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
- Smart Manufacturing is Big Data. It’s getting the right data to the right person at the right time. It’s actionable. It’s data coupled with analysis.
- Smart Manufacturing is agile and responsive. It’s both global and local. At its core, it’s about customer proximity and intimacy—even if the customer is halfway around the world.
- Smart Manufacturing is people. It’s about the social interaction, the locations, and being mobile. People are indispensable.
- Smart Manufacturing is profitable. It’s still important for manufacturing to profit, doing more with less.
- Smart Manufacturing is innovation. It’s second nature for Millennials to innovate. They don’t even think about innovation; they just innovate.
With the industrial revolution 150 years ago, manufacturing was changing the world. But 50 years ago manufacturing was barely holding its own and 25 years ago it was all washed up.
Now, though, we’re seeing a resurgence of manufacturing as an economic powerhouse. Smart Manufacturing is transforming the way every single part of manufacturing works.