The manufacturing regime is coming to an end. Its main value is its disruptive cost of production per piece. This signifies that you make a million parts and part cost becomes negligibly small. Further, the methods were improved to get most of productivity to increase the margins. Quality systems came up to avoid rejections for all possible reasons. The ultimate was the Six Sigma Drives to produce goods with consistency.
As the technologies grew alongside, they augmented manufacturing further. The inventions gave monopoly rights to enjoy the markets, which included computing bolstered manufacturing through automation and optimisation. However, this manufacturing glory is poised to vanish soon. Are we then heading to a dooms day? How can consumption of humans whose wants are said to be unlimited, dry up? That is not what I am claiming. On the contrary, human wants have been surging to an all-time high since the dawn of civilisations.
Focus on customer
What we need to understand is the emergence of the new customer. These are the young customers born during the millennium. Today, they are into their late teens waiting to enjoy the best of technology that the market can provide. They would like to have unique solutions and take a great pride in promoting themselves and their unique things on social media. They want to consume things and are always in a constant search.
Our manufacturing industry has to get ready to serve such customers. Lean and agile systems may become “LeAgile”, but will they be able to make a small batch production or provide a quantity of one? That is really agile at its best. Thanks to the developments in IT & 3D Printing, today we can not only dream of such agility but live it. Yes, we can take an order from an individual customer somewhere on the globe and make his unique solution and ship it.
Bill of Materials used to drive the supply chain. This new manufacturing, which I wish to call Digital Fabrication, starts with the Whole Digital to produce the Physical Whole. That is the part count of one! Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing can never compete with conventional manufacturing to produce a million parts, but we will have less such needs in future as the demand is for unique solutions created by customers themselves!
New way of manufacturing
The customer as a designer is never new. But with the technological and safety regulations, the design intents could get very complex for them to handle or they may not have all the skills to make it. However, what he knows is what he wishes to consume. This is also getting solved by a new co-creation window between industry and customers. The industry knows the complexity and puts up a Parametric Design over the cloud. The customer plays with it and creates what is best for him to consume. We call this the Gammification of buying. After the creation, the customer pays and awaits its arrival. This is known as Democratising Design.
In this way, the era of Demand Chain is, thus, born. Consumer demand pulls, manufacturing takes a back seat and the design leads to production. This new way of manufacturing is not far away; infact, it is already happening in your neighbourhood!