IMTS Insider

Embrace a Broader Definition of Manufacturing

Category: Business May 1, 2020


By Dave Burns, Senior Advisor to AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, the owner and operator of IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show

0.0 isn’t just a snarky bumper sticker. In the last column, we looked back at the journey to reach the Optimal State in manufacturing, where maximum output is created with minimal resources and zero waste. While the zero goal is unattainable, the desire to reach it drives manufacturing innovations forward. Each step toward that goal implies increases in productivity, which in turn elevates the standard of living of everyone on this planet.

So, how do emerging manufacturing technologies propel us towards the Optimal State?

Before answering, we need to define a common set of terms for manufacturing. A simple definition—"manufacturing is the process of making an object”—does not allow us to grasp the full potential and dynamism of emerging digital manufacturing technologies.

To fully unleash the power of digital technology, we need a broader definition of manufacturing.  Extending it includes at least these three elements:

  • Conceptualization: because the manufacturing process begins at the moment a designer conceives of a product (and who would deny that CAD is a core manufacturing tool?).
  • Materialization: because the manufacturing process extends through the various steps of object creation (material selection, material formation, and object completion — and if you think we’re hinting at CAM, 3D printing, and more, you’d be right).
  • Utilization: because the manufacturing process includes object use and performance (IIoT) and disposal or re-use.

For a very long time, manufacturing consisted of asynchronous silos that worked together only by brute force.  Now, we have a chance to introduce an integrated set of manufacturing tools. In the coming months, we will examine the digital tools we hinted at and their readiness to move into production.

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