Factories Of The Future -- Building The World's Next Plants

IndustryWeek examines manufacturing facilities of the future in a three-part series.

Increasingly as technology emerges, the reputation of manufacturing companies is built, maximized or diminished by the statements made by their manufacturing facilities. Mention Ford, and its historical significance is as much its refinement of mass production as it is the Model T, which was the embodiment of its early success. Mention the name Toyota, and a growing perception among all the company's constituencies is the commitment the company continues to make in terms of its famous production system, its processes that ensure quality, its employees and its demonstrated concern for the environment. And oh, yes, Toyota makes fine automobiles. Mention Dell, and it is no secret that this is a company that builds corporate success out of its manufacturing processes and supply-chain savvy. And it will very quickly build a very fine computer as soon as you place the order. Dell's manufacturing process is so refined that it often is able to get a customer's money before it starts building the order! Even manufacturing wannabes such as Jaguar are waxing eloquently in press kits about the improvements they've made in their production facilities since Ford took them over. Yet there is a problem -- linking management with available technology and the new manufacturing concepts is the growing challenge. The major issue in our industrial society is the perplexing fact that the rapid growth of technology is outstripping its creative application. To help manufacturing managements, IndustryWeek is launching a three-part series called Factories of the Future. The intent is to provide context to shorten the lag between technological innovation and the profits to be made by its application. The first installment is an analysis of the new dependencies of the manufacturing facility with the manufacturing process inside and the environment outside. In the next two editions, the series continues with a focus on product development followed by an analysis of manufacturing process issues. Part One -- Strategic Design Part Two -- Product Development Part Three -- Manufacturing Processes

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