Factory of the future is a misnomer

There is a real hype around the “of the future” nowadays (we write November 2017) in France. Everything seems to be “of the future” and it started with the factories supposed to soon buzz with the sound of toiling robots and frantic printing 3D printers.

“of the future” sounds great, full of promises of extraordinary technologies and unbelievable possibilities. A kind of science fiction world, full of flying cars by the year 2000, as we were told in my childhood…

>Lisez-moi en français

What bothers me is that the described factories of the future and their promises are based on  already available technologies. So what is left “of the future” then?

The “factory of the future” was probably an answer to the German “Industry 4.0”. As usual the national pride did not allow to rally a foreign initiative and prefers to reinvent the whole thing and rebranding it.

By naming the concept “factory of the future”, I fear that many decision makers understand that the technologies are not fully ready yet, that it’s still a concept for research and it will take a while until everything is mature and affordable for the medium-sized companies to pay closer attention.

What leaves the new manufacturing ways and the factory in the future is the postponed decision to go for it. I repeat: the necessary technologies are already available.

This false feeling of having time to consider and decide could have dire consequences, the risk of being disrupted by a more daring competitor is more likely for tomorrow morning than later in time.

As nice and promising as it sounds,  “factory of the future” seems to me an ambiguous misnomer.
Comments welcome.

Author Chris HOHMANN

Author Chris HOHMANN

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

One thought on “Factory of the future is a misnomer

  1. Hi Chris,

    What you’re focusing on… terminology/phraseology… has been around (in my neck of the woods) for decades now. I make this statement on the basis of the fact that back in the mid-80’s the hyperbole that was being employed to describe the new/desired/targeted future-state capabilities within the manufacturing arena certainly seem very similar to one’s being hyped today. Yes, maybe 3D printing capabilities have advanced beyond the level of “stereolithography” that was just coming into being back then, but as far as a future-state vision of manufacturing being highly-automated, lights-out, capable of mass-production in quantities of ONE (i.e., mass customization), and high-flexibility/adaptable, what is being touted in today’s media does little more than conjure up a feeling of deja vu.

    In essence, the real/true implication underlying the words “of-the-future” is that the past and present approaches to addressing the challenges inherent in manufacturing operations have yet to realize the desired/needed/targeted levels of capability that have been on the radar screen for decades now. In fact, one can even travel further back in time/history to the turn of the prior century and catch glimpses of an imagined utopian world where automatons are being leveraged to serve all the needs of mankind.

    More realistically, the challenges (along with concomitant issues of the social, economic, environmental, and political types) that face mankind today are NOT being addressed to the extent possible; and more importantly… NOT to the extent necessary. Why might that be the case? Well, in all likelihood the root cause can be traced back to a prevailing quest for generating more and more revenue. And the standard way of attempting to do that has NOT been to effectively tackle and resolve today’s problems/challenges, but instead to create a mythological solution that will work at some point in the future… typically based on the latest and greatest fads/trends that hit the radar screen.


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