Dream boldly and big. When we think casually about the future it usually starts with impulses such as, “If only I could,” or “I would like to,” with our minds quickly picturing a power being granted, the want being fulfilled, or wish be granted. This same urge may be applied in a more rigorous way to how the future of manufacturing is envisioned. We should be thinking about what constraints are holding us back currently and imagine what the situation would be like of these constraints were entirely removed or eased.
It is definitely the direction that technology moves in. We can expect that machinery and machine shops will continue to become more flexible, more reliable, and more capable. They will become smaller or larger, as the size advantage becomes more apparent. Similarly, our measurement devices, computer systems, cutting tools, and so forth, will continue to improve. At first, these changes might seem incremental, but magnifying the implications can lead to insights. How can these advances be exploited? What opportunities will be opened up?
Expect the Unexpected with Manufacturing
Whenever wishful thinking turns into imaginative thinking, frequently it will lead to thinking that is profoundly inventive. Inventiveness is a very powerful force that helps to shape manufacturing. Just like high-powered light forms are used by cutting processes, highly controlled electrical energy sparks and high-pressure water streams were not thought of at one time, and there are developments that are equally amazing that lie ahead in the future. Processes that build up instead of removing material are currently making significant changes to manufacturing landscape. Who knows what forces have not been harnessed yet? Maybe we will learn how to manipulate gravity or magnetism in order to arrange particles into various objects that have astonishing properties.
Always Consider Consequences
All of us know that no matter how compelling our daydreams and wishes are, that there could be some negative consequences if they actually did come true. The same is true when it comes to our visions of the future factory. It would be wise of us to watch for any negative reactions or unintended results from apparent benefits. Conflicts will undoubtedly arise, as we are seeing currently in the crises over our personal privacy and data security.
Employ Contrarian Thinking
Consumer preferences may change overnight. For example, our materialistic impulse for acquiring lots of things seems to be being replaced by an interest in having fewer, more handcrafted or more personalized good. Being rooted within a community might outweigh upward mobility with many turning down high-paying jobs. The expansive industrial park and suburban sprawl may be defied by walkable neighbourhoods that contain a group of micro-factories. Society might start pulling back from any digital connections that appear to be divisive and intrusive. In industry, I don’t think those concerns will diminish the movement towards data-driven manufacturing. However, it could be a bumpy ride as a result.
Maybe the most useful way to think about the future begins with “I hope.” Those words inspire being committed to a positive direction and renewal. Hope doesn’t ever sneer at change, even change that appears to be very disruptive. Hope just smiles back.