Analysis: Manufacturers beginning to operate like software companies

February 24, 2016 - 06:00pm
San Francisco Chronicle analysis of software and manufacturing industry

An online San Francisco Chronicle report posted Feb. 18—"Hacker ethos comes to the factory floor"—suggests that large and small manufacturers alike "are beginning to think and operate like software companies." And, just for the record, that's a good thing, say the authors: Mark Muro, a senior fellow and the policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, and Kelly Kline, the economic development director and chief innovation officer of the city of Fremont, Calif.

"Now that manufacturing concerns are increasingly coming to resemble software startups, they are evolving more toward the ethos of the nation's vibrant [3D printing] 'maker movement,'" which the authors describe as a grass roots cadre of people who are using the technology and leading the charge toward "manufacturing skills development, entrepreneurship and home-grown innovation."

While CAD/CAM software and 3D printing technology continually expedite the rapid prototyping process, the authors note that automation and robotics have had a similar impact on the production floor—particularly since the emergence of cloud-based applications and the connectivity made possible via the Internet of Things.

"This means radical changes for the manufacturing work environment, including its work streams and job descriptions,"  the authors conclude. "Digitization is transforming manufacturing organizations into software-powered interdisciplinary work centers, some of which look and feel more like urban tech startups than the old steel-town factories."

An interesting read.

Related Glossary Terms

  • centers


    Cone-shaped pins that support a workpiece by one or two ends during machining. The centers fit into holes drilled in the workpiece ends. Centers that turn with the workpiece are called “live” centers; those that do not are called “dead” centers.

  • robotics


    Discipline involving self-actuating and self-operating devices. Robots frequently imitate human capabilities, including the ability to manipulate physical objects while evaluating and reacting appropriately to various stimuli. See industrial robot; robot.



Dennis, who served as electronic media editor at Cutting Tool Engineering from January 2007 through May 2018, is now the owner and publisher of the magazine and CTE Publications Inc. Dennis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University, and has more than 40 years of media experience.




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