Manufacturers are designing factories of the future

People and the flexibility they provide will be central: IDC Manufacturing Insights.

Flexible manufacturing at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. Photo: Ford

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — The manufacturing plant of the future will have a much stronger focus on production, says a report from IDC Manufacturing Insights.

Business Strategy: The Journey Toward the People-Intensive Factory of the Future presents the results of a recent worldwide survey conducted to investigate the “factory of the future.”

The Farmington, Mass. research firm said formidable challenges – from tough economics to rising market complexity – are driving a profound rethinking in the manufacturing industry, making effective factory management “essential.”

It said more than 43% of respondents declared they have a formal process in place to design future production plants.

More than 56% said the factory of the future will be measured according to its production capability and flexibility, not merely efficiency and production capacity.

Over the next five years about 10% of Western enterprises will give up make-to-stock (MTS) and move toward make-to-individual (MTI).

In five years, 47% of manufacturers will produce modular platforms centrally while using local small factories, suppliers, and distributors to tailor final products for local demand.

Manufacturers will have to achieve the global plant floor, harmonizing, supervising, and coordinating execution activities across the company’s and suppliers’ network of manufacturing operations.

Despite growing plant automation, people – and the flexibility and decision-making capabilities they provide – will be at the centre of the factory of the future, but finding skilled workers will prove to be a key issue, says IDC.

Almost two-thirds (63.6%) of respondents expect their production processes to be largely or completely digitized in the next five years. More than 26% of manufacturers will invest over 25% of their total ICT budget for plant-floor IT.

IDC said global manufacturing is passing through one of its most complex market periods. Financial crises and instability of global markets have impacted manufacturers’ profitability and their capacity to expand into new markets.

However, it said governments around the world now better understand that an economy based on services alone can’t survive in the long run. “Manufacturers are going back to basics and putting a renewed premium on production knowledge driven by the need to protect and enhance their technology,” it said in a release.

“We are about to witness a new generation of manufacturing enterprises where operational processes on the plant floor – at the very heart of the enterprise – are considered the centrepiece of this transformation,” said Pierfrancesco Manenti, head of IDC Manufacturing Insights.

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