The Factory of the Future is Real

Dramatic changes in market dynamics and technology innovation are ratifying the factory of the future.

The convergence of the Internet of Things, and technology innovation in manufacturing strategies is creating significant changes in manufacturing and adding reality to the factory of the future.

In his session at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, Simon F. Jacobson, research vice president at Gartner, explained how these dramatic changes in market dynamics and technology innovation are ratifying the factory of the future.

“The factory of the future puts manufacturing at the heart of the supply chain network, where it’s connected with the customer and influencing versus just pick, pack and ship,” said Mr. Jacobson. “The actual factory itself is the easy part. Looking at the ecosystem around the plant is the bigger opportunity – how the manufacturing processes and the data are democratized and made accessible to customers and suppliers.”

Gartner's Simon F. Jacobson explains the "factory of the future" is upon us during the Gartner Supply Chain Conference.
Gartner’s Simon F. Jacobson explains the “factory of the future” is upon us during the Gartner Supply Chain Conference.

This should include a focus on time (for speed to market and to shorten decision cycles), transparency across all operations (as opposed to individual unit operations), and reliability of people, materials and processes — not just assets.

“The objective for companies is to balance these three focuses to improve manufacturing’s performance to the customer, not just inside the factory,” said Mr. Jacobson.

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Manufacturing must now function in two modes as a bimodal operation. Bimodal is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes, one (Mode 1) focused on stability, through traditional, lean and slow mechanical focuses, and the other (Mode 2) focused on agility, with newer production capabilities built on the time, transparency and reliability needed in the more fluid digital world. Both modes must be comprehensive, coordinated and coherent, and yet remain deeply different so that their differences are both exploited.

“While this is a step change, and for many, a competitive necessity, not all sites, and not all products, need to be applied to it. Everyone doesn’t need to operate in Mode 2,” said Mr. Jacobson. “There is no single area that is the best place to start. However, companies that start with a single project, and focus on a single capability rather than a wide transformation initiative, will achieve the best success at becoming bimodal and moving into the factory of future.”


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