Will Megatrends become the Norm Post Pandemic?
Almost three years ago, I wrote about Megatrends and what we expected the outcomes to be. Now, we see the reality of some of these. I am highlighting a few that stand out to me after experiencing it first-hand.
For example, remote workers – who knew that the recent pandemic would forever change how people want to work. People have seen how work/life balance can be obtainable. In the article, I referenced a study done saying “people wanted fewer devices, more portability and more time at home – even if it means working from there”. We are starting to see companies bringing folks back to work and some don’t want to go into the office full-time. It’ll be quite interesting to see how all of this shakes out over the next year.
Another example that hits very close to home for me is the localization of supply chain. We saw our supply chains break down during the pandemic especially when shipping overseas or from many miles away. This is where 3D Printing became a critical value to the supply chain for medical supplies as well as many other products. Can 3D Printing stay as a critical part of the supply chain whether it is for redundant manufacturing, localization or pure costs of tooling for spare parts?
Our platform at 3D Control Systems is able to manage all of this decentralized manufacturing in order to have local supplies and was critical during the pandemic. We witnessed customers making medical supplies, students continuing to innovate from home by remotely 3D printing, and companies augmenting their existing supply chain production.
Do you think the pandemic has changed the future for manufacturing or just overall supply chain?
Below is the article I wrote in 2018 about Megatrends. Peruse at your leisure but would love to hear your thoughts…
When I read John Naisbitt's 1982 landmark bestseller, Megatrends, which examined radical shifts in how American life was evolving, I was fascinated. Since then, we've seen the emergence in manufacturing of what's being called "Industry 4.0" by some, and the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" by others. And once again, I’m intrigued.
The influx of automation and data science in manufacturing is creating a "smart factory" that incorporates the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cloud and cognitive computing, and production-grade 3D printing. I’ve seen first-hand at HP how this revolution is changing the way manufacturers design, make, and deliver products. 3D printing can unlock new product capabilities, material price and production, and accelerate additive design, new supply chains, and policy and standards. If I have anything to say about it, 3D printing will be the next megatrend. But what are the implications?
The "Butterfly Effect" of Self-Driving Cars
As an electric vehicle owner myself, I’m intrigued by how the automotive industry is innovating to improve our environment and make driving safer and more efficient. Self-driving cars are on the cusp of becoming a mainstream reality, like my electric car is now. While autonomous machines, like self-driving cars, are a first-order effect, they bring with them perhaps unforeseen secondary, or "butterfly" effects. Most of the developed world today and the landscape of roads, cities, shopping malls, and convenience stores are all "butterfly effects" of the automobile age.
But what happens when the $2 trillion of the U.S. GDP derived from the U.S. auto industry and its ecosystem disappears? What happens when the nearly 4 million U.S. jobs autonomous driving will replace disappear within the next two decades?
On the flip side, U.S. drivers spend 75 billion hours a year behind the wheel. Productivity gains in the U.S. from autonomous vehicles within two decades are estimated at $507 billion. And within 20 years, self-driving cars will save upwards of 1.1 million lives otherwise lost to accidents in the U.S. alone.
Cyber Trust and Security
The increasingly globalized and connected world makes a fertile ground for cyberattacks, the escalating nature of their damage, and the importance of security. Having led operations for an industrial cybersecurity company, I’ve been at the frontlines of what it takes to secure a large organization’s data and processes. What's going to happen when we have more than 20 billion connected devices by 2020?
But the consequences of this focus on end-point security go far beyond having your personal information, financial records, or even your business hacked. Think about someone hacking into your smart TV or refrigerator. But what happens when your pacemaker is hacked, or an airline's fly-by-wire systems are hacked?
The Office and Workforce of the Future
As someone who works occasionally from home, on planes, in cabs, and while I hate to admit it, on vacation, I appreciate the ability to work remotely. I’m not alone. A recent study examined workers in five countries to evaluate how people are currently working and how they would like their work to be in the future. The research revealed that employees want fewer devices for work, more portability, and want more time at home — even if it means working there.
So, what does this all mean? New business models will intersect with and be fueled by what's known as "City Evolution." Much as Uber and Lyft were built on and grew from digital platforms, we'll begin to see the constraints and pressures of "City Evolution" resulting in new opportunities around more efficient ways to deliver goods and services.
Denser and larger city environments put greater levels of stress on supply chains, which increases the importance of resources being available at the "edge." This may be familiar to urbanites today as "locally sourced" for sustainability. But in the future, it may mean that many manufactured items, like car parts, go from being manufactured and shipped thousands of miles away to being made on demand and locally via 3D printing.
We've seen this evolution before. I remember taking pictures with film, which I then took to a store to develop into prints. In many cases, that film was sent from the store to a centralized photofinishing factory, often hundreds of miles away. Then "mini-labs" began to offer overnight service, and eventually 1-hour service. Now imagine this same type of shift in manufacturing and the 3D printing equivalent of mini-labs.
An Autonomous Workforce
In concept at least, we're going to go from the age of human workers to "no workers." McKinsey estimates that 1 in 3 white collar jobs will disappear by 2025, and nearly half of all U.S. jobs will be at risk from automation in the next two decades.
But there are at least two sides to this — and the economic gains could be as large as one-third of the U.S. annual GDP. We are likely to see major transformations in offices of the future, as well as in manufacturing, that could unlock tremendous opportunities around 3D printing as traditional manufacturing transforms to digital manufacturing. It could also mean that within two decades productivity will be dramatically greater and the cost of operations will be lower, with far fewer human workers.
The Rise of Digital Manufacturing
AI and robotics will transform the workplace and how we live and work, and part of this will include a radical change in how things are designed, manufactured, and delivered. It’s called digital manufacturing and I’ve seen it in action on the plant floor while at GE Digital. It’s much more than 3D printing. – It’s everything from designing physical things and parts to producing them in our factories…. or even in our homes.
With the advent of these megatrends comes tremendous opportunity and change. Rapid innovation, shorter time to market, less inventory, more efficient supply chains, and higher capital efficiency are the promises of 3D printing and what the Fourth Industrial Revolution can bring. Hold on tight — it's coming. And I can’t wait!
How do you think the pandemic has forever changed manufacturing or just the overall supply chain?