Manufacturing has been through a turbulent decade – choked by economic crisis, challenged by global shifts in supply and demand, transformed through automation, redesigned through virtual ecosystems. Whilst automaker heartland of Detroit lies in ruins, and the industrial heartlands of Europe are green again, manufacturing is on the rise but in new places, and new models. It remains a driving force of advanced and developing economies, a pathway from subsistence farming to material wealth.
Whilst the huge industrial complexes surrounding cities like Jakarta and Mumbai, Nairobi and Sao Paulo, signify productive nations, manufacturing has also reinvented itself in small and quiet ways. The factories of Soeul hum with the sound of high tech engineering, whilst 500 3D Hubs scattered across Amsterdam signify a maker city. Gone are the huge factories and workforces, smoking chimneys and hard hats. Manufacturing today is much more about science and technology, design and innovation.
Far from the stereotypes of long production lines, today’s manufacturing takes on a variety of different forms
- Global makers – chemicals, transport, appliances – defining consistent quality and progress to their high volume categories, leveraging economies of scale, distributing them worldwide with global brands.
- Knowledge innovators – electronics, education, pharmaceuticals – driven by ideas and research, data and technology, their value is in intellectual property, with products often assembled under license.
- Regional processers – food and drink, printing, clothing – local companies or subsidiaries adding cultural relevance and speed of delivery to consumables, fast fashion, daily news, and local tastes.
However the blur of categories means that manufacturing is less of a sector, more of a process. Every product offers a wide range of services and support, whilst services typically bring together many components. The best way for a manufacturer to grow, sustainably and profitably, is to enhance their service experience, enabling customers to solve problems, standing out from competitors, and adding new revenue streams.
The future of manufacturing is about focusing less on products and more on customers, adding more value to their experiences. In global markets, where distance is irrelevant but still exists, it is also about efficiency, of borderless supply networks and on-demand delivery speed. It is about innovation, creating and making, of products and business models, finding ways where less is more in a resource-constrained world. Finally it is about personalisation, the ability to make anything to order, on my terms, just for me.
- Read more: GE’s “brilliant” new Canadian factory that is a blueprint for the future of manufacturing.
Meet the Gamechangers in Futuremakers
Corning – Exploring the possibilities of a life made of glass
We live in a world of glass – from tablets to televisions, high rise buildings to Google Glass. But glass breaks. Not if its made for gorillas. Corning has turned itself into an ingredient brand that even adds value to Apple.
GE – Becoming market makers with "brilliant machines"
GE is leading an industrial revolution in applying the “internet of things” to business processes and equipment. The challenge however is to make sense of the new possibilities in ways that capture the imagination of businesses and consumers.
Hoya Yuniku – The world's first 3D-printed, personalised eyeware
Hoya is a global med-tech company and the leading supplier of innovative high-tech and medical products. Hoya is active in the fields of healthcare and information technology providing eyeglasses, medical endoscopes, intraocular lenses, optical lenses as well as key components for semiconductor devices, LCD panels and HDDs.
Janicki Bioenergy – Turning human waste into drinking water
748 million people worldwide lack clean drinking water. Bill Gates drank a glass of water made from human faeces, to showcase technology he said could provide clean water in the developing world. "The water tasted as good as any I've had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It's that safe," he said.
Lumio – Jakarta to Kickstarter, Techshop to MoMA
The Lumio lamp is beautiful, stylish, innovative ... practically, it is an LED lighting fixture that folds out of a portable wood hard-bound book and can be placed or hung anywhere.
Ouarzazate Solar Power Station – The world's largest solar farm, in the Moroccan desert
OSPS, also called Noor Power Station (نور, Arabic for light) is a solar power complex located in the Drâa-Tafilalet region in Morocco, 10 km from the town of Ouarzazate. The entire Solar Project is planned to produce 580 MW at peak when finished and is being built in three phases.
Total project expected to cost $9 billion, and cover an area of 2,500 hectare. The plant will be able to store solar energy in the form of heated molten salt, allowing for production of electricity into the night. Phase 1 comes with a full-load molten salt storage capacity of 3 hours. The planned Phase 2, due to open in 2017 and 2018 will store energy for up to eight hours.
Padang & Co – Asian innovation catalyst for corporates and government
“Padang” in Malay means “open field”. It is also the name of an important historical landmark in the heart of the civic quarter of Singapore, where Padang & Co is headquartered.
Planetary Resources – Asteroid mining for precious metals and water
Explorer James Cameron is one of the entrepreneurs behind the asteroid mining company that plans low cost robotic space exploration to find commercial y viable asteroids near Earth. From these, they hope to extract precious metals and water (which can be converted to rocket fuel and oxygen).
Syngenta – Biochemists of the world’s future food
As populations rise, and farmland diminishes, Syngenta is applying science to every aspect of food production, finding better ways to feed the changing world and also improve health.
Tesla – Faster than a Ferrari, powered by the sun
Tesla is the fastest, sexiest, most-hyped car of its generation. It can drive 1000 km on a solar powered battery, with zero carbon emissions, whilst also becoming the must-have luxury accessory in Hollywood.
WeWork – The workspace that helps you create a better life
In May 2008, Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey established GreenDesk, an "eco-friendly coworking space" in New York City. In 2010, Neumann and McKelvey sold the business and started WeWork with its first location in New York’s SoHo district. WeWork provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and small businesses. WeWork designs and builds physical and virtual communities in which entrepreneurs share space and office services and have the opportunity to work together. The company’s 30,000+ members have access to health insurance, an internal social network, social events and workshops, and an annual summer retreat.