50 years on, MM looks into the crystal ball

FIFTY years ago, Manufacturers’ Monthly magazine hailed ‘methods manufacturing’ as the way of the future. Standardising equipment and training staff to work together were the ideas of the hour. Twenty years later, ‘lean manufacturing’ was on the agenda, cutting-back materials and staff costs. Now, in 2011, a new term is being coined, encouraging us to be methodical, lean, and above all, smart. Yes, ‘smart manufacturing’ has been born, and you heard it here first.

Today, carbon pricing, waste management, water shortages, supply chain efficiencies and electricity costs are the biggest stepping stones for industry. Manufacturers that find ways to ‘do more with less’ will shape Australia’s future. In the future, rising material costs will lead to an even more intensified need for productivity and efficiency in the production line and, as a result, businesses will demand more from IT as they expand globally. 

Companies that heed ‘smart manufacturing’ principles will adopt new mobile devices and embrace cloud computing. They will look more closely at their supply chains both here and abroad, and come up with new ways to tap into regional growth. 

Product lifecycle management will be used by most manufacturers, improving cost and quality control, and allowing a global village of engineers to collaborate on new ideas and develop new products. Manufacturers will continue to develop ground-breaking ideas to manufacture ‘smarter’, and in turn will create some of the greatest new technologies known to man.

This is not just a pipedream, according to IDC analyst, Chris Holmes, in his report, IDC Manufacturing Insights. In 2011 alone, productivity and efficiency will be top-of-mind for manufacturers in the Asia Pacific region, and companies will spend the money to make this happen. 

"While cost will definitely be one of the considerations, the focus will shift toward cost efficiency rather than cost reduction. Streamlining workflows, and better visibility of enterprise information will also get increased attention as these will help manufacturers make important decisions as they start building a more responsive and agile organisation, through improvement in productivity and efficiency," Holmes said.

Closer to home, Brian Slingsby, general manager of O-I Australia – a Sydney-based glass bottle manufacturer – says smart manufacturing is already making its way into his plant.

"Energy use, emissions, cullet use and safety are key areas of focus and technology advancements continue in all aspects of glass manufacturing from melting, inspection and packaging. We have a team dedicated to working on developing and implementing emerging technologies and each O-I region is responsible for commercialising new technologies and turning them into reality," Slingsby told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

Manufacturers who embrace ‘smart manufacturing’ will be at the forefront of innovation. Those who take the leap will be responsible for finding new ways to protect the planet, and all of us living on it. They will find ways to tap into new energy sources, and develop new motors that allow cars to run without the need for oil. They will further develop affordable, modular housing, allowing everyone to own their home. They will continue to evolve healthy, low fat natural foods, lessening the global obesity epidemic, allowing our children to live longer, more comfortable lives.  

And Australia will be at the forefront of this new wave. We were 50 years ago, and we will be in 50 years to come.

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