The Advanced Manufacturing Industry
The concept of advanced manufacturing is not new, though in recent years certain advanced technologies have created a tipping point that may lead to radical changes in traditional manufacturing processes. Some of these technologies include big data and cloud, which gradually become more accessible as their cost decreases; sensing systems and powerful processors that make production machines that are much more advanced and significantly less costly than in the past; additive manufacturing technologies that are becoming more widespread and common; industrial robots, with rapidly developing abilities and declining cost; and information technology (IT), enabling new models of collaboration.
We define advanced manufacturing as manufacturing that meets one of the following characteristics1:
1. Advanced products: Technologically complex products, new materials, products with highly sophisticated designs, and other innovative products, such as: Computer processors, Silicon Nano products, new type of batteries using Nanotechnology, and more.
2. Manufacturing using advanced processes and technologies: Products based on advanced processes or advanced manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing.
3. Manufacturing using advanced information technologies: Manufacturing using advanced information systems, characterized by dynamic and flexible processes. Usually, the information systems are rooted within most of the manufacturing stages: data collecting, simulation, inspection, operation, improvement, supply chain management, and reduction of energy usage.
Advanced manufacturing allows enterprises to become more efficient in many ways, such as allowing short-run production; manufacturing products with special features that were not possible before; rapid response to market needs; dramatic savings in manpower; and the ability to gather information and control manufacturing processes virtually, with no human intervention. The efficiency of such processes is so radical compared to traditional manufacturing, that businesses must implement advanced manufacturing processes in their plants if they want to maintain a leading position globally.
Indeed, the impact of advanced manufacturing is not only expressed at the individual plant level, but it may also make a difference globally. The distribution of added value among the various countries in the global value chain is expected to change dramatically thanks to these rapidly developing processes.
Recently, it has become more common to see giant multinational companies bringing manufacturing back to developed countries. These industries – such as footwear and consumer electronics – are characterized by an intense assembly processes that can now be conducted using advanced robots, additive manufacturing processes and IT technologies and sensors. As a result, countries such as China and Vietnam, which are a magnet for labor-intensive processes, might lose their distinct competitive advantage.
In the US, since 1975, average earnings in advanced industries have increased almost five times as fast as those in the overall economy.2 Furthermore, every new advanced industry job supports more than two other jobs, comparable to an average of one in the American economy.3