IMTS Insider

A Revolution or A Journey?

Category: AMT Apr 29, 2020

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

IMTS has entered an era of digital manufacturing transformation. We’re going to chronicle this implementation in a series of articles starting with a reflection on how we arrived at this onslaught of technology launches.

Many experts have deemed our era a new industrial revolution. They compare it to eras ushered in by James Watt and Matthew Boulton’s steam engine of 1778, Henry Ford’s mass production of the Model T in 1908 or the introduction of the first commercial numerically controlled lathe in 1950.

But rather than consider revolutions based around singular events, I suggest we view manufacturing as a journey, specifically the journey articulated by Taiichi Ohno, who established the Toyota Production System and devised The Seven Wastes model.

©Toyota Material Handling Europe

Optimal State
Ohno described an “Optimal State” as the place where maximum output is created by the least possible resources consumed. His thinking has been a guiding star for many of manufacturing technology’s biggest thinkers, leading to our Lean Manufacturing culture. I contend that the journey to achieve an Optimal State has been going on for more than a century.

Against that backdrop, we can look at major innovations, from PLCs to CNCs to factory automation. All were steps that drove us further along the path to the Optimal State. In this context, are digital manufacturing technologies revolutionary? For some, yes, and that most certainly includes additive manufacturing (AM). But a different context views AM as one in series of innovative steps in a journey toward an Optimal State—which is not static destination. “Progress cannot be generated when we are satisfied with existing situations,” said Ohno.

Starting today, we will dedicate space in the IMTS Insider to examine emerging digital technologies and the place they hold in our manufacturing journey.

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