Manufacturing is entering its fourth phase or stage, and it’s time to acknowledge that it’s changing for good. The world of manufacturing got its start during the first Industrial Revolution, when machines made everything from producing cotton to weaving textiles easier. The second Industrial Revolution found manufacturers like Henry Ford incorporating mass production techniques into their factories to quickly and inexpensively bring goods to the public.
During the third wave of manufacturing, data became important to how manufacturers automated production. Information technology, computerized systems, and other advances lessened the human touch on the assembly line while simultaneously producing goods and services quickly and cheaply.
Now we are entering the fourth dimension, or phase, of manufacturing existence. Not to get too Twilight-Zone with you, but the fourth phase of manufacturing harnesses the amazing use of cyber-physical systems to bring goods to customers with more precision and accuracy than ever before.
Goods Mass Produced in a Customer-Centric Fashion
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the only way to make goods for sale was to make them by hand. Cobblers got to know the bunions, bumps, and arches of the feet of their customers; shoes were hand tooled. After the Industrial Revolution, shoes were mass-produced. They fit most feet, and that was acceptable.
Today’s cyber-physical systems marry technology back to personalization to enhance the customer experience. With new advances in computer technology such as 3D printing and cloud computing, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that the factories of tomorrow will receive inputs from shoe stores on main street and custom-mill shoes to fit your feet. They’re mass produced forms customized to fit.
Shoes are a good example, because no two feet are the same. But such marriage of technology to customer needs can occur in business-to-business sectors too. Imagine a world in which plastic is formed into bumpers for cars not based on mass orders (“Give us 50 bumpers by Friday”) but custom orders (“We need 6 for sports cars, 13 for SUVs, and 31 for sedans.”)
Predictive Analytics, the Wave of the Future
We’re not quite at the point in which custom orders can be made so precisely. Although manufacturers may soon have the technology to custom-produce shoes, clothes, automobile bumpers, or lenses for microscopes, it’s much more common to produce mass runs of goods than custom runs.
Enter predictive analytics, the wave of the future for manufacturers. With predictive analytics, computer systems learn from the inputs they receive. They can scan orders, for example, and find patterns to predict future ordering trends. Manufacturers can then use data to produce a close match between supply and demand.
Manufacturing Is on the Cusp of Great Changes
Computers changed the face of manufacturing in the 1980’s from mass production into technology-based production. Today’s new systems are slowly turning manufacturers away from technology and into the world of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and custom orders.
Perhaps we’ve gone full circle, or perhaps we’re forging ahead. Either way, it’s an exciting time for manufacturers to consider upgrading their technology. The more data you have, the more you know about your business. The more you know, the further your company can go.
Choose BAASS for Manufacturing Data Needs
BAASS Business Solutions is ready to help you choose the right solutions for your data and information needs. We can help facilitate communications, data sharing, business intelligence, ERP, CRM, HR and more. Let’s talk about your business needs. Contact us today or call 1-888-650-5544 for a consultation and more information about BAASS Business Solutions.