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The 21st Century Paradigm Shifts in Manufacturing

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The trends that have impacted and shaped / will continue to shape the destiny of manufacturing are outlined under five dimensions.

Dimension 1: Shifts in Sources of Energy

One of the first shifts in source of energy that revolutionised manufacturing was the popularisation of steam engines over wood and coal. The second significant shift occurred when the factories moved to electric power. Even though the first electric power plant which could supply electricity over a distance was established by 1880 in the US, it took over half a century for electrification to become a way of life for factories, with one of the first plants in US being electrified in 1920. 

In times to come the third shift will occur, when we move to alternate forms of non-fossil fuels. This shift towards renewable energy will have a significant ‘greening’ effect on earth making it a more sustainable planet to significant reduction in carbon emissions 2050. The availability for solar energy is abundant. Even though today other renewable forms have shown potential for commercial usage, such as wind energy, in times to come we shouldn’t be surprised if solar power becomes the dominant energy source and scales up the current pilot of solar powered calculators and the solar power microlite plane.

Dimension 2 - Shifts in Materials 

The age of ‘made of wood and steel’ might be coming to an end. The future lies in more pronounced usage and applications of materials like aluminium, magnesium or newer and more reinforced polymers and plastics, as we see the transformation occur in cars, white goods, or Kevlar based bullet-proof vests, etc. 

Based on the principles of ideal final result the focus clearly has shifted to high performing, stronger materials, minimising the harmful effects, and hence light-weight materials and non-toxic nature for both humans and the environment. 

These shifts in materials would cause radical shifts in manufacturing processes. New adhesive technologies in automotive industry and other sectors for painting, plastics and other surfaces, and likewise processes to manufacture lighter structures of carbon fibre and other magnesium / other alloys compared to steel manufacturing are only indicators of what the future holds. 

Will share more thoughts in the next blog. For complete article visit:

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Guest Thursday, 17 April 2014