A few technologies are reaching a level of maturity that will likely change the way we work, the way we innovate, the way we make, and the way we run the factories and supply chains that we operate.
We find ourselves living in exceptional times where technologies offer endless possibilities for innovation, not just in products but also in how those products are designed, manufactured, and delivered to the consumer.
The thread that runs through all of these technologies is a digital one. Data is not only the fuel of this digitized future, it's also the lubricant that keeps the machines running. The exceptional times mentioned in my opening comments are the result of a few technologies reaching a level of maturity that will likely change the way we work, the way we innovate, the way we make, and the we run the factories and supply chains that we operate.
The last five years have been wonderful for innovators. The availability of capital through traditional funding methods as well as disruptive methods like crowdfunding have made startups more accessible. Technologies like 3D printing and other rapid prototyping tools have reduced time to product and associated costs. Integrated and outsourced design and manufacturing solutions like those provided by Radius Innovation and Jabil have simplified and streamlined development and operational processes allowing innovators to concentrate on product rather than process. Technology enablers, like the ubiquitous smartphone, new materials science, virtual reality (VR), voice recognition, and much more, create the building blocks for many innovations.
But what of the process that starts once the idea is conceived? Where are these halcyon days of innovation taking those processes? The keys to success once again stem from the digital thread, this time set alongside the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). Recently there has been talk about the ‘augmented age’, or the fifth age of man. The first age was hunter/gatherer, which lasted millions of years. The second was the agricultural age that lasted thousands of years. The third was the industrial age, with the development of tools and eventually machines, lasting a few hundred years. The fourth was the information or computer age, lasting a few decades. And now the fifth age is upon us, the augmented age, the age of artificial intelligence where we work with our tools, rather than putting them to work for us. This new level of human machine collaboration brings with it a whole new era of manufacturing, operational, and supply chain excellence and possibilities that are almost too complex to imagine.
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