Disruption and Democratization: Coming Soon to a Factory Near You?
Keywords: 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Brilliant Factory, Collaboration, Democratization, Product Design, Digital Thread, Disruption, Supply Chains.
At a session ostensibly about additive manufacturing at MIT's EmTech 2013 conference, leaders from Google, PARC, and GE Global Research all expressed a critical need for manufacturers to open up their design and procurement processes to a fully digitized and much more rapid level of innovation and (as ARC would call this) collaboration. They see huge benefits from better products. They also see a massive disruption looming for many of today's supply chains and value networks, which are too slow and inflexible to remain competitive in the long term.
Google's "Artist-Engineer" Articulates the Problem
Mary Lou Jepson of Google has a unique perspective on manufacturing and describes herself as an "artist engineer." She has degrees in studio art, electrical engineering, holography, and optical sciences. She was the leader and first employee of the One Laptop per Child project. Today she works in Google's top secret Google[X] R&D facility where her title is "Head of the Display Division."
Jepson explained a hardware/software dilemma from Google's standpoint. Part of Google's value proposition is its ability to develop, distribute, maintain, and repair software systems at Internet scale. Google applications and infrastructure serve millions of simultaneous users and can be updated and maintained while in service. This contrasts starkly with the world of hardware. Innovation during production of even high-volume hardware (mobile handsets being the canonical case) is painfully slow. Yet the ability to manufacture high-tech items at large scale is the key enabler of today's connectivity revolution. Hardware design, development, and manufacture need to catch up with software.
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