Mass Customization 4.0

Posted by Chuck Harrell on Jul 13, 2015 10:30:00 AM

IndustryThere's a legend which says that you can order a BMW car with the same shell design as any of their previous models.  So, if you like the style of the 1970's series but want all the modern convenience of a 2015 model, you just have to ask.

I like to think that this is true but in reality, it's probably an urban legend, at least for the moment. With Industry 4.0 mass customization, it may become more than just a story according to a new report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), "Industry 4.0: The Future of Productivity and Growth in Manufacturing Industries".

"Although the full shift toward Industry 4.0 might take 20 years to reach fruition, in the next 5 to 10 years key advances will be established and winners and losers will emerge," says Michael Ruessmann, a BCG partner and co-author of the report.

At the vanguard of this exciting new development are the Germans.  German efficiency in manufacturing is legendary and it's no surprise that they will lead the way in developing new manufacturing methods.  At present, it is German companies who are building fully customizable flat pack housing which can be assembled on site and with all the necessary holes in place.

Through the combination of smart software, improved prototyping and better control of equipment, manufactures will be able to change their production on a whim.  If a wheel manufacturer needs an extra spoke added because that's what consumers say they want, then a bit of adjustment to the design and the materials is all it will take and within hours these models can be on the shelves.  For a special order toy to coincide with a movie coming out, a 3D model can be prototyped within hours and manufactured within days and on the shelves before the film is released.  At present, these models take months of planning, design, and manufacturing and huge numbers have to be produced even if the film is a flop.

The Japanese pioneered Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing in the 60's and 70's primarily in the car industry and the rest of the world caught up in the 80's.  This eventually reduced wastage and speed up production in all manner of the industry.

The plan is that Industry 4.0 becomes another game changer and takes manufacturing to a new level.

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