Becoming manufacturer of the future

L-R: Michael Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state; Pauline Krikke, mayor of the Hague; and Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands during the opening session of the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit at the Hague, the Netherlands last week.

Manufacturing is changing across the world. It is no longer just about making beer, plastics or shoes. Manufacturing across the world is now smart, meaning that industries are increasingly becoming automated and technology-driven. This is the meaning and the basis of Industry 4.0.

South Korea has developed ‘Strategy 3.0’ for the purpose of creating 10,000 smart factories by 2020 to facilitate convergence between software and hardware technologies, according to a report at Swedish Production Symposium in 2018. The country has raised about $972 million already for this purpose.

For South Korea, the smart firm— which is factory of the future— incorporates “a manufacturing system which all business processes of planning, design, production, distribution and sales are automated, connected and integrated by various information and communication technologies. It can produce personalised products by customers with satisfactory time, cost and quality”.

World leading home appliance company Whirlpool recently decided to eliminate wastes its factories sent to landfills by 2020.

To achieve this goal, it used an analytics platform across all of its facilities to reveal the amounts of waste generated.

In the 2018 China Smart Manufacturing Report, Deloitte, a multinational professional services network, said China’s industrial enterprises have enhanced their digital capabilities, laying the foundation for the analysis, prediction and self-adaption of future manufacturing systems.

The report says that in financial terms, smart manufacturing has substantially improved China’s contribution to enterprises’ profits

“In traditional application, China has become the largest buyer of industrial robotics, with strong growth in demand,” the report further says.

It adds that building a digitalised factory is regarded as a top priority for smart manufacturing deployment as enterprises focus on connecting data flows from production to execution, leaving great space to improve product and value chain data flow.

This is obviously why Chinese products are cheap and competitive.

At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in the Hague, the Netherlands, experts said manufacturers in developing countries, especially Nigeria, must brace up for change.

Tequila Harris, an associate professor in Georgia W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, said industries must not be stuck in their old ways of doing things as doing that was too risky and would put them out of business.

“You need to keep learning and innovating to stay afloat. If you are stuck in the old ways, you will be left behind,” she said.

Nigerian manufacturers battle with poor infrastructure, multiple taxation, inadequate skills, bad policies and high energy cost.

In spite of this, Harris recommended a shift in thinking in the Nigerian manufacturing space, advising them to retrain themselves and their staff in the face of unavoidable globalisation.

Rob Gossens, chief executive of Fieldlab Technologies Added, a smart factory, said though cost would always be important, manufacturers must pay more attention to speed and efficiency.

“For me, digitisation is about speed and efficiency. The tools are getting better and it is important to keep learning and educating yourself,” he said.

“Feike Sijbesma, chief executive of the Netherlands-based DSM, which plays in health, nutrition and materials industries, said manufacturers must begin to understand the changing dynamics in the world.

“For instance, there is a lot of improvement to be done in our food,” he said.

“Our food contains too much sugar, salt, fat and not enough nutrition. I do not think this is what we call innovation,” he said.

“Africa must not copy everything from the West but must look for something that works locally and is sustainable,” he further said.



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