Digital manufacturing: The revolution will be virtualized (

Article by Brian Hartmann, William P. King, and Subu Narayan

Quoted synopsis

“Explosion in data and new computing capabilities—along with advances in other areas such as artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, additive technology, and human-machine interaction—are unleashing innovations that will change the nature of manufacturing itself. Industry and academic leaders agree that digital-manufacturing technologies will transform every link in the manufacturing value chain, from research and development, supply chain, and factory operations to marketing, sales, and service. Digital connectivity among designers, managers, workers, consumers, and physical industrial assets will unlock enormous value and change the manufacturing landscape forever.

Yet while manufacturing generates more data than any other sector of the economy, few companies are harnessing it.

How leading companies are responding

  • Many large manufacturers are starting to use data analytics to optimize factory operations, boosting equipment utilization and product quality while reducing energy consumption.
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers are using their deeper understanding of end-to-end processes to develop continuous manufacturing suites with footprints less than half the size of conventional factories.
  • Leading consumer-packaged-goods companies are using digital tools to improve distribution and build bonds with consumers. Global fashion retailer Zara is already renowned for developing and shipping new products within two weeks.
  • The aerospace-and-defense industry is using digital tools to integrate an enormously complex supply network. A modern jet turbine engine has hundreds of individual parts, for example, some of which the engine manufacturer makes in-house and others it sources from a network of dozens of vendors.

Questions the C-suite should ask

The digital revolution is only beginning to take shape. But we do know that leaders in digital manufacturing, including some smaller players, are already gaining significant competitive advantage. We believe that every player should be asking five questions:

  • How will digital disrupt my industry in the next five to ten years, and what new ecosystems will emerge?
  • Where is the value for my company, and how can we maximize it?
  • How close is the revolution to our factory doors, and where should I make investments in infrastructure, cybersecurity, and partnerships?
  • What new capabilities, skills, and mind-sets will we need in our organization? How will we identify, recruit, and retain the right new talent?
  • What should we pilot now to start capturing this value?”

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