One of my favorite quotes by science fiction writer William Gibson is, “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” When looking across new developments in manufacturing technologies, this sentiment seems to hold truth, particularly when we consider the industry’s rate of adoption or the scope of a technology’s relevance to manufacturing companies. In spite of these elements, I predict that one thing is certain: these five areas will continue to grow, driving the evolution of the manufacturing industry:
• Advanced Analytics/Big Data
• Merging manufacturing technologies
• Robotics and automation
• Continuous bioprocessing
Advanced Analytics/Big Data
Over the past decade, multiple industries have increasingly incorporated Big Data into their business practices, leveraging the concept to improve decision-making and transform their business. When thinking about the applicability of Big Data in manufacturing, three areas start to converge: customer data, Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) and manufacturing visibility, which I’ll address in turn.
On the customer side, Big Data allows us to better discern and anticipate customer order patterns, allowing sales teams to tailor recommendations and production teams to predict supply and demand. This in turn, can lead to greater customer delight. These large data sets also let companies mine S&OP data and subsequently leverage ERP systems to optimize production runs in an era where manufacturing facilities are becoming more sophisticated and automated. Big Data can also be used as a strategic tool to validate and align a company’s production and commercial business plans.
Finally, Big Data provides a continuous stream of data which can lead to optimized uptime, increased product yield and accurate, real-time feedback on product manufacturability and design. For example, at Alcon, we are leveraging advanced analytics to assemble a Quality Intelligence database, with sources ranging from customer feedback to manufacturing line performance. The database is used to find predictive trends which allow for the resolution of potential issues ahead of customer complaints.
From a supply chain perspective, e-commerce finally closes the historical applications gap by moving beyond the simple process of connecting customers with products, to delivering on the benefits of new supply chain technologies.