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What’s the Future of Manufacturing? Exclusive Interviews

Manufacturing represents a key driver in the economies of most countries. 

Not too long ago, there was talk about all the manufacturing in first world economies being moved overseas and just recently, that conversation once again shifted and now there is lots of talk about manufacturing returning.

So, what’s going on exactly? Where is the industry today and where is it headed?

To get a deeper knowledge of the future of manufacturing, we spoke with industry thought leaders and asked the question:

What’s the future of manufacturing?

Take a look at what they said…

Tracy Baker, COO of DIRTT

“Technology has to be a major part of the conversation for the manufacturing industry moving forward. It is a huge catalyst for re-entering the market, especially since most in the field don’t directly deal with integrating tech into the manufacturing process. By introducing technology, businesses can take a holistic approach to the manufacturing process and truly change the experience for end users. Through integrating technology, DIRTT developed software that enables us to take this holistic approach and better connect the entire manufacturing process from design, to materials, to manufacturing and finally installation. With the help of technology, manufacturers will be able to better communicate to end users and customers to create a better, more streamlined and cost effective experience.”


Brent Robertson, Co-founder of Fathom

“The future of manufacturing is in rethinking the relationship between manufacturers and their customers. Instead of transactional members of a supply chain, manufacturers who will thrive in 10-15 years will have a co-creative, collaborative relationship with their customers. In addition to producing higher precision products in lower quantity, they will be able to adapt and respond quickly. A big part of building collaborative relationships is a willingness to share IP. Increasingly, customers will find a way around manufacturers who hold their IP too close. The solution is a co-creative mentality that aligns your goals, incentives, and values.”


Jeff Conner, Dallas Service Manager at Control Concepts, Inc

“The future of manufacturing lies with industrial automation. This trend has already begun to take place, especially with the industry’s emphasis on improving productivity, but in the future we will see a shift towards fully-automated factories that will require flexibility and customization to account for changes or updates in processes. Reconfiguration will require direct access to the production line’s control elements. This configurable factory represents a shift from centralized factory control systems to decentralized components that will network with one another. However, even with the rise of industrial automation, automated machines will still need people to design, program and service them.”


Robert de Neve, President & CEO, BriteLab

“2017 will see a massive increase in US-based high-tech companies bringing products back from Asia. A new pro “Made in the USA” administration in Washington, D.C. combined with growing concerns about intellectual property diffusion abroad, continued problems with quality drift in foreign factories, and increased overseas labor costs will bring production back to the US where advanced manufacturing technology and methods are readily available. This new manufacturing renaissance has already begun and is centered in Silicon Valley. Often cited as the region that ushered in the death of US high-tech manufacturing by adopting wholesale outsourcing in the early 2000’s, it is now using its unique innovative power to develop the technologies needed to bring IP and jobs back to the US.”


Bryan Sapot, President of SensrTrx

“If we are talking about US manufacturing anything that can be highly automated will move back on shore as will anything highly customized or that require one off parts. We will see completely automated, meaning no people on the plant floor in 15 years.”


Gelston Howell, VP of 42Q

“Today, everyone is talking about advances in automation and robotics, process control, 3D printing and mass customization. At 42Q, we’ve seen factories that clearly represent the future of manufacturing, with advanced automation, closed-loop systems where smart machines make decisions and components being replenished automatically by autonomous guided vehicles.

More recently, we’ve glimpsed a trend that is going to have incredible impact in the coming years: complete supply chain visibility and awareness for top level manufacturers, down to the lowest level of detail among their suppliers. In Sanmina factories, and other factories equipped with 42Q, factory managers have visibility through their supply chain, and can see into the production lines at key suppliers, looking at their supplier’s WIP levels in real time.

Large manufacturers with complex products depend on dozens – or even hundreds – of suppliers for each of their products. A shortage in a single product can crash their entire production schedule – and put significant revenue at risk. Tier 1 manufacturers who have achieved this type of real time visibility can avoid work stoppages or schedule interruptions, leading to higher on time delivery – and more predictable outcomes.

This type of supply chain visibility is very attractive to large companies with complex supply chains, especially as these companies deploy this approach with suppliers who have not yet automated their inventory management and reporting systems.”


Craig Wolfe, President of CelebriDucks

“I can tell you that the future of manufacturing is that a lot less is going to come out of China in the next 10 – 15 years. I know a bit about this with a factory overseas and two in the USA. I brought our whole industry back to America where it began to be the only one making rubber ducks back here in America. I could already see the writing on the wall with the Chinese labor problems, rising prices and now with Trump and his tax tariffs and such, more and more will come back here.

For a company that is positioned both overseas and in the US, you will have the best of both worlds. But to think you can continue to have all your eggs in one basket overseas…That day is going to come to an end in the coming years, especially as more and more people get trained and back into the factory jobs here. It will take time as so many skill sets have been lost and factories closed which is why it will not happen overnight. But in 10 to 15 years, the manufacturing landscape will be totally different with an anticipated renaissance here.”