James Arbib & Tony Seba wrote Rethinking Humanity: Five Foundational Sector Disruptions, the Lifecycle of Civilizations, and the Coming Age of Freedom. They provide examples of ways manufacturing companies can align their work with their values by addressing various societal and environmental issues. They describe this coming era as the Creation Age, so named partly because of a projected move from the extraction of materials to resource creation. With an impressive track record of forecasting future trends, they currently predict that materials costs will drop by 10X, that we will realize a 90% reduction in the use of natural resources, and that there will be 100% less waste.
"An entirely new system of production is emerging that will decrease our dependency dramatically on resources and the environment by an order of magnitude or more, increasing the robustness and stability of those societies that embrace it. As a result, climate change, inequality, and many of the other serious problems society faces today can be solved." - James Arbib & Tony Seba
They further see a Creation Age where the production model involves self-replicating building blocks of nature. These building blocks will include seed stocks of metals, leading to locally abundant resources supporting self-sufficient communities. Digital knowledge will have significant global flows, leading to massive production of local goods and limited global flow of goods. The competition for resources will diminish as seed stocks grow, leading to low costs, high efficiencies, and near-zero waste.
The manufacturing industry is seeing similar technological advances to what Arbib and Seba are forecasting, which will significantly alter the standard production processes of the past. Additive manufacturing provides adaptability and flexibility previously unseen as one-off complex 3-D products are suddenly possible in various material types. Significant reduction in energy consumption and environmental impact is possible as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) optimizes production operations. Employees work in safer conditions, and there is the potential improvement in employee health with the integration of robots that produce the product in concert with them. The total lifetime manufacturing cost decreases as the shift from production lines to making a dedicated product goes away. Ultimately, waste of all types is eliminated due to enhanced manufacturing process development.
Evidence of what Seba and Arbib are predicting for processes is already progressing with significant advances in 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and robotics used to create distributed modular production. As a result, many less desirable manufacturing jobs will disappear as clean rooms replace foundries with 3D printers, artificial intelligence addresses quality concerns, and advanced robotics supports production lines. The authors call this the "fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history" that goes far beyond what others have defined as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The days of dark and dingy plants with smokestacks bellowing pollution that use uneducated employees like disposable assets is already mostly a historical approach to manufacturing. The general perception of the industry has already taken significant steps toward meaningful employment opportunities. However, soon the sector will have scientists developing seed stocks, highly skilled technicians, and engineers working with AI and robotics. These plants will significantly improve social and environmental results to entice the next generation of the workforce to accept jobs of significant purpose. Industry 4.0, including the advanced technologies of additive manufacturing, automation, cobots, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and robots, is a current shift in manufacturing that all plant operations must adapt to remain competitive in the global market.
The method used to produce products is an important consideration that has only grown in significance with increasingly sophisticated emerging technologies. Significant technological advances will continue to alter the manufacturing industry in exciting ways. Additionally, manufacturing companies can align their work to create a positive impact in addressing various societal and environmental issues.
Those interested in learning more about the work of Arbib and Seba can read Rethinking Humanity: Five Foundational Sector Disruptions, the Lifecycle of Civilizations, and the Coming Age of Freedom. They begin with an impressive overview of Seba's past predictions that have come true. I hope the same will result from what they see ahead for us in this report.
I continue to be impressed by those like James Arbib and Tony Seba that bring us stimulating thought leadership. Their work helps instill a sense of wonder about our future potential that may otherwise not happen. In addition, product innovations they inspire in others create positive disruption that leads us to a better world.
Next week's blog will explore the benefits of additive manufacturing, allowing for superior products that align with the humanist manufacturing framework.
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