Exploring the Future of Manufacturing Production

Enterprise Innovation discussed a whitepaper from the World Economic Forum and A.T. Kearney, entitled “Technology and Innovation for the Future of Production: Accelerating Value Creation.” The whitepaper looks into the impact of new technologies on the future of production, and shows how rapid technological change is transforming the production of goods and services across the global economy. For those in manufacturing, it’s time to buckle up; the transformation underway will accelerate exponentially, and we are still in the early stages of the developmental curve.

The research called out three major findings:

  • Five production technologies will predominate in the years ahead: the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics, advanced robotics, wearables and augmented reality, and 3-D printing.
  • The real power of these technologies comes from their convergence. According to the whitepaper,  “understanding and planning for such convergence is the key to unlocking the highest value of future production systems.”
  • The future of production is arriving faster than many leaders in business and government realize, and demands the rapid assessment, support, and adoption of appropriate technologies.

Factories Are the Next Fertile Ground for IoT

This report supports an earlier one in which global consultant McKinsey points to factories as “the next fertile ground” for the Internet of Things. Here’s how an article on Fast Company describes that research:

“According to McKinsey’s research, the evolution of manufacturing in the United States, Germany, and Japan will increasingly rely on a combination of in-factory sensors, increased use of analytics and data science, in-factory use of augmented reality such as Google Glass, and drastic increases in how 3-D printing is used for the mass market. The consulting firm estimates that only 40 to 50 percent of equipment in factories will have to be replaced over the next decade, as large multinationals work toward an ideal techie industrial revolution called Industry 4.0. (Heavily promoted by the German government, Industry 4.0 is a buzz term that refers to the integration of sensors into factories. Industry 3.0 was automated manufacturing, Industry 2.0 was the rise of electricity, and Industry 1.0 was the adoption of steam power.”

Convergence and the Digital Thread

The convergence of the IoT, AI,advanced analytics, advanced robotics, wearables, augmented reality, and 3-D printing is incredibly important to the future of manufacturing production. The Kearney research discusses five key ramifications of this point:

  1. For production sites, converging technologies give rise to a “factory of the future” model in which costs plummet, efficiency increases, and high-quality, quick-turnaround “batches of one” become feasible.
  2. For firms, this convergence will open new avenues for the creation of customized and connected products, as well as novel business models such as pay-per-performance. To realize the full value of such developments, companies will need to establish new forms of collaboration with suppliers and other partners across the production chain.
  3. For entire industries, the five technologies will combine to unlock wide-scale efficiencies and a deepened understanding of key customer segments.
  4. For society, such prospective efficiencies are already generating fierce debate, and will compel governments to make hard choices and tradeoffs. Leaner production systems could well lead to further losses in industrial employment, but could also generate new job opportunities in a range of sectors.
  5. Finally, for individuals, these shifts in the production cycle will have widely varying consequences. Workers in all sectors will need both technical skills and the ability to augment them as new technologies and business models arise.

Infrastructures Must Support Advanced Production Technologies

While these changes will compel executives to focus on what the convergence of advanced production technologies will mean for their companies, it will also require that infrastructures support the connectivity that this technological convergence demands. This means that companies must have “digital thread” capabilities that extend across their value chains. McKinsey noted that digital manufacturing technologies will allow companies to connect physical assets by this digital thread, enabling a seamless flow of data across the value chain that will link every phase of the product life cycle, from design, sourcing, testing, and production to distribution, use, and service after the sale.

The digital thread represents the sum of all data (i.e., model data, product structure data, metadata, effectual data, and process definition data, including supporting equipment and tools) digitally linked to form a single, contiguous definition of all value-added decisions made during the definition of a product, its configuration, manufacturing, and repair processes, logistics, and operational support. It provides a single reference point for design, engineering, manufacturing, and service, ensuring they act in concert.

Enterprises are facing increased pressure to change and adapt to the digitization of manufacturing. In order to establish sustainable change in the digital enterprise, adaptation means even more communication and collaboration among cross-functional teams. Put simply, as manufacturers look to the future of production, the digital thread is what binds them to that future.

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MOM Helps Bridge the Skills Gap in American Manufacturing


Recent articles like the one by Dan Sewell and Christopher S. Rugaber, titled “In US, factory jobs are high-tech, but the workers are not” [1] have pointed out a skills gap in American manufacturing. The gap, they say, is widening, because the industry has evolved and adopted more automation faster than the workforce can adapt.

Advances in Technology Have Changed Knowledge Transfer

In the past, the same technician made the same part at the same station for many years. That earned knowledge in that person’s head is why he could produce that part consistently like no one else could, but knowledge transfer – of many years of details and experiences – is extremely difficult. Longtime workers with all of that learned expertise are retiring, and most companies are now making a wider variety of parts.

Manufacturing Operations Management Bridges the Gap

A Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) system helps bridge the widening skills gap by guiding technicians step by step through the job, and allowing a more flexible workforce with basic skills to work anywhere in the plant. The system allows process planners or manufacturing engineers to author work instructions for the technicians like they are using a simple word processor with the additional capability to drag and drop illustrations, data collection controls and the required resources including parts and tools. These tools make it easy to capture expertise in formal work instructions, while linking to engineering systems to capture the latest 3D models, and keep up to date with engineering changes.

Bring the workforce up to speed with high tech and empower them to perform consistently anywhere in the plant with work instructions that step them through the process, reduce the learning curve, and guarantee consistent results with MOM.

Learn how BAE Systems implemented a system that puts its people first.


[1] “In US, factory jobs are high-tech, but the workers are not”, Dan Sewell and Christopher s. Rugaber, abcnews.com, 2017

Aviation MRO – How Service Task Management Software Helps Workforce


Much has been written about the impact of the so-called “skills gap” in the manufacturing arena, but less has appeared about its looming effect on Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO). The issue is proving significant, particularly in the aviation sector.

Workforce Demands in Aviation MRO

A recent article on MRO-Network.com provides an unvarnished view of the situation: “For airlines, it could be argued that their lifeblood is the cadre of technicians that keeps their airplanes flying. Unfortunately, that supply has been chronically anemic in recent years, and could worsen as thousands of new jetliners come on stream.”

According to Boeing’s market outlook for 2016-2035, the demand for qualified technicians will remain severe. Boeing projects a global requirement for 679,000 aircraft maintenance technicians through 2035, with Asia-Pacific and North America being the largest markets.

The problem is complicated by a number of factors. All skill sets are in short supply, and it takes years for personnel to get the experience and certifications necessary to qualify as inspectors and quality control technicians. Moreover, while those years pass, qualified people drop out of the work force. Further, studies have shown that the aviation sector loses about a third of its qualified airframe and powerplant licensed technicians to other industries, chief among them oil and gas, railroads, and amusement parks. As the MRO-Network article notes, “The situation becomes even more urgent given the skillsets needed to work with the huge data streams generated by today’s sophisticated avionics, as well as the latest composite structural materials increasingly replacing sheet metal.”

The Need for Education in Aviation MRO

Over the next decade, qualified technicians in composites and avionics will be most in demand. Particularly in those two areas, airlines are finding they have to do additional training of those hired from airframe and powerplant schools due to their unique processes and equipment configurations.

The situation is worsened by the diminished quality of technician applicants. Mike McDaniel, ExpressJet Airlines’ General Manager of Aircraft Maintenance, is quoted on the subject in the MRO-Network piece:

“The overall quality of [airplane maintenance technician] applicants is not as good as it was 20 to 25 years ago. We test our applicants on repair-work capability, regulatory knowledge, and soft skills [that] relate to how well they will fit into the work environment. About one-third fail, while another third are marginal. If I had a 90 percent pass rate, then the quantity [of available technicians] issue would be a lot more manageable.”

McDaniel points to FAA regulations—specifically, FAA FAR Part 147—as part of the problem. “Under FAR Part 147, the schools have very limited opportunities… to devote to digital aircraft troubleshooting and repair, and very little wiggle room to make that leap,” he says.

The industry has made proposals to revise Part 147, taking some of the hours now dedicated to general overview, airframe, and powerplant and reallocating them to advanced avionics and composites training. This is a step in the right direction, but as the addition of complex avionics adds time (and cost) to the school curriculum, not everyone is participating. Yet that buy-in is essential.

The Importance of Data for MRO

Quoted by MRO-Network, Kevin Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of Pratt & Whitney’s aftermarket operations for Asia, says that today’s MRO technicians “need to be comfortable with data, and they need to change as technology transforms. At the same time, they have to know how to handle the data coming at them, and how to utilize it.”

One way the industry is dealing with the situation is by increasing the number of apprentice programs, internships, and partnerships with schools and universities. As the growing competition for sophisticated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) personnel ramps up further, we can expect to see such programs increase as a means to close the skills gap and address the technician shortfall. These efforts are not only targeted at university and technical school students, but increasingly at the high school level as well.

Using Service Task Management Software as a Workforce Tool

One tool avionics organizations need in their arsenal is a Service Task Management (STM) application, like Solumina, as part of their MRO software suite. The STM can be leveraged to alleviate some of the pressure in the workforce by providing guidance through the intricate processes of servicing complex assemblies regardless of technical capability. By using Service Task Management to expedite, streamline, and simplify complex, error-prone MRO processes, companies can drive down maintenance costs while driving up workforce productivity.

Through MRO software tools, users can do more with less. It shortens the learning curve for complex processes, and workers use their time more effectively and efficiently. This leads to a more satisfied productive workforce, a critical advantage in times when personnel issues are challenging everyone in the industry.

To learn more about how modern MRO software can help you cope with the challenges of today’s MRO market.

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Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) Market Forecast Roundup


Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) is a concept applied to software used to bring a corporation’s manufacturing-related data together. EMI helps to join information from many sources for the purposes of reporting, analysis, visual summaries, and passing data between enterprise-level and plant-floor systems. As data is combined from multiple sources, it can be given a new structure or context that will help users find what they need, regardless of where it came from. The primary goal is to turn large amounts of manufacturing data into real knowledge and drive business results based on that information.

The Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence Market

The growth of the Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) market is driven by a manufacturing sector engulfed in tough competition, rising supplier complexity and stringent regulatory frameworks. The growing need for enhanced operational efficiency and productivity drives demand for integrated solutions on a unified platform with the ability to handle big data analytics.

A slew of forecasts have been recently published for the EMI market. Here is what some major analysts are saying.


Technavio published a new report on the global enterprise manufacturing intelligence market from 2017 to 2021. Says the report:

“The EMI market is primarily influenced by its end-users, which include discrete industries and process industries. The growth or decline of these segments directly impacts the EMI market. The shift toward lean manufacturing practices, increased complexity in the supply chain process, the need to enhance operational efficiency, and the intense competition among manufacturing companies are the crucial factors responsible for the growth of the global EMI market.”

Among the findings of Technavio’s report:

  • Key drivers for the EMI market include the need for enhanced decision-making systems to ensure the accuracy of data, and to reduce performance variability across internal functions in organizations
  • The market is expected to have a CAGR of more than 10 percent for the forecast period.

Markets and Markets

Markets and Markets published a global forecast to 2022 for the EMI market. Among the key findings:

“EMI is witnessing a rapid adoption rate across various industries such as oil and gas, automotive, medical devices, [and] chemicals [that] is expected to support the market growth in North America. Further, the presence of leading market players in this region and increasing government’s investments is anticipated to fuel the North American market.”

The global forecast from Markets and Markets suggests:

  • The Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence market is estimated to be valued at USD 1.53 billion in 2016 and is expected to register a CAGR of 17.1 percent, to reach USD 3.95 billion by 2022.
  • Embedded deployment is expected to hold the largest share of EMI during the forecast period.
  • North America is expected to dominate the market during the forecast period; the automotive sector will hold the largest share and grow at the highest rate over the period.

Infoholic Research

Infoholic Research published a study of Global EMI and MES from 2015 to 2020. The report finds:

“Both MES and EMI solutions are widely used and have become an industry norm and a key differentiator across most industries. Now vendors are trying to offer both these solutions on the cloud.”

The EMI and MES study found:

  • The EMI market will grow at a CAGR of 16.4 percent during the forecast period 2015 to 2020. The MES market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 15.6 percent during that period.
  • Growth in the Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence market is being driven by: the need for greater visibility in the manufacturing cycle; the desire to standardize manufacturing processes across the enterprise; and increasing regulatory demands.

Infiniti Research

Infiniti Research published a study of the global EMI market from 2016 to 2020. Among its findings, the study concluded:

“The integration of big data analytics with the EMI software helps an enterprise to identify, analyze, and mitigate various issues and faults in the manufacturing unit. It boosts productivity in real time and enables effective and efficient data sharing between business units within an enterprise or a production plant to facilitate product development or service management.”

Infiniti’s EMI study states:

  • The global EMI market is expected to grow steadily at a CAGR of around 11 percent during the forecast period.
  • The Americas dominated the global market during 2015, accounting for a market share of around 42 percent. The early adoption of cloud-based EMI software that eliminates the need for high initial investment has been driving the growth of the market in this region. However, analysts predict this region will witness a decline in market share during the forecast period due to market saturation.

iBase-t has recently introduced a new Manufacturing Intelligence for Solumina. With this, all data collected in Solumina can be easily organized and synthesized into reports and dashboards. With the increasing trend of EMI, it is evident that businesses are realizing how important it is to process big data into actual knowledge which leads to better business decisions.

View more information on our Manufacturing Intelligence, here.