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Week 4 summary

Week 4 summary
RAJESH SHANKAR PRIYA: Hello learners. I’m Rajesh, your mentor for week four, factory of the future. This week’s discussion led to five main blocks, which were directly linked to any factory of the future. The goal of this summary is to review the blocks of the week, and in this front, it’s my pleasure to have professor Janet Godsell, lead educator of this module, to round off our week focusing on the factory of the future. Hello Janet.
JAN GODSELL: Hi Rajesh, how are you?
RAJESH SHANKAR PRIYA: Thanks a lot. Fine. I trust you had a great time looking on these thoughtful discussions made by the learners, and as this topic is going back to your original roots, you should have been very excited in joining this discussion.
JAN GODSELL: Absolutely. Absolutely.
RAJESH SHANKAR PRIYA: So, I’ll directly jump into the block two, manufacturing a hidden treasure. In this block we were exploring the idea of whether or not manufacturing was a hidden treasure, perspectives of high value manufacturing, and a career in manufacturing. Jan, what’s your opinion on the discussions in this block?
JAN GODSELL: So I think it was lovely to see, as we kicked off the block, people’s different views on the mesmerising machines. And I think one of the things that always strikes me is that beauty, they always say, is in the eye of the beholder, and I think that’s especially true when it comes to manufacturing, because people saw beauty in different machines. I have to say, there seemed to be a slight bias towards the one I liked best, which is the pretzel machine. Just that folding motion. I know that you liked the toffee apple dipping–
JAN GODSELL: –and people liked aspects to do with bread making and other things. So I think that just really does show us. I think the one thing that also struck me, though, that many, many people spoke about the speed and that in one or two, the processes were so fast they were almost faster than the human eye. Which brought us nicely onto the discussions around what manufacturing is, and I think it was broadly recognised that we perhaps moved beyond that very, very narrow Oxford English Dictionary definition of sort of making things in higher volume.
But I think it then begins to identify, as we moved onto things like discussion around what’s high value manufacturing, that these terms, just like the term supply chain itself, aren’t very well defined. One of the learners actually went away and did a bit of extra research into the topic to try to find alternative definitions, which is great. And I think one of the ways perhaps to think about high value manufacturing is in the past, we took a very technology focus on the way that we looked at manufacturing, and we actually used a word called advanced manufacturing technology.
And the definitions around advanced manufacturing technology were much clearer, and we would have sort of categories of technology as whether or not you were using things like CAD in the design process, specific type of technologies such as robots or sensors– perhaps more in the manufacturing process itself. And it was easier to work out which of those technologies that you were using. I think part of the confusion around high value manufacturing is that it’s a word that’s really led by the UK government as we seek in the UK to try to work out how do we compete when we can’t be a low labour wage economy.
And I think it’s really– at its heart of it is this idea of ‘value add’. But there’s lots of different ways you can add value. I think you can add value by not providing just a pure product anymore, but by providing a service. So we’ve seen models of servitisation, and perhaps one of the most common of these that’s talked about is this sort of idea of Rolls-Royce– not just selling engines anymore, but actually selling aero engines for airplanes, but selling power by the hour.
But equally, it’s this idea that maybe we just don’t do– we just don’t make something any more, but that we actually try to take responsibility for the design process so that we actually have R&D centres and we start much, much earlier in that process with the sometimes blue sky R&D around technologies, which we can then embed in a more applied R&D into products, which we can then take on to actually continue to manufacture the products. And from my own manufacturing experience both in the pharmaceutical industry and then with Dyson, they were very, very much organisations that focused on quite conceptual research around technologies, which then got embedded into products, which then went on to manufacture the products.
And interestingly in both those cases, manufacturing didn’t always remain in the UK. So some great discussion, and I think some of that discussion, actually– we don’t always have an individual answer, and there’s not always a right answer, and I think that’s part of the ethos of this course; is to help see those areas of ambiguity and help people find a way through it.
RAJESH SHANKAR PRIYA: Thanks a lot, Jan. These insights are also actually interesting for me, so it’s not only for the learners. It also gives me a good insight of what are you are talking about now, you know. And now, let’s head to block three, returning to the localised manufacturing. In this block, there’s a lot of focus on the potential shift back to more localised manufacturing. And what is your takeaway from this module, Jan?
JAN GODSELL: Again, some really insightful comments. One of the learners commented, actually, and I think this is perhaps one of the major changes that we’re seeing. One of the learners commented about the concept of total landed cost, and that surely we should always have been using this idea of total landed cost, which is the idea that we take into account the manufacturing cost, the logistics costs, any tax and excise type costs so we know the true cost of getting a product to everyone.
I think theoretically we’ve always known that that’s the way that we should look at cost but what I think began to happen in the ’80s is that labour cost was such a large percentage of the overall total landed cost that people got a little bit lazy and started just looking at manufacturing cost rather than total landed cost, because actually by looking just at your manufacturing cost, you got a good overview. Then, with the labour cost being such a high part of the manufacturing cost, we started to use labour cost as a proxy for manufacturing cost.
And this very much, if you think about the sort of ’80s and ’90s, was fueled by this idea that we would off shore manufacture to low labour cost economies such as China and other places in the Far East And I think there’s a bit of a lemming type of behaviour that goes on, because one organisation does it, and then you see many, many organisations follow, and it becomes a bit of a trend. And I’m not totally convinced that every organisation would have sat down and actually done the calculations to work out whether that was actually the right thing.
I know this myself because in the mid-1990– towards the end of the 1990s, I was actually involved in doing that analysis for Dyson.
And the difference between manufacturing in the UK and manufacturing in the Far East from a cost based perspective wasn’t that different, very surprisingly. And I think the assumption going into the exercise was that Far Eastern manufacture would be much, much cheaper. However, it isn’t just about cost, and sometimes it can be more important from your business’ strategic perspective to actually consider where you like locate. Because actually, if you look at someone like Dyson now, with their major markets in the US, in Japan, and the UK, then actually having manufacturing focused somewhere in the Far East can actually be quite sensible because it’s more central to those three major markets.
I think the other aspect I found very interesting from this week was some of the discussions around 3D printing. One of the learners commented– I think it was using the Robert Welch example of the spoon– that they never thought that such simple things that we use every day actually had to be prototyped.
JAN GODSELL: That even something like a spoon– it’s very important to get the balance right, for it to feel right so that it aids the use. And then there was other comments around 3D printing such as, you know, but has it ever really moved beyond prototyping or sort of small gimmicky things, you know. Where in reality is it being used at volume? And I still think we’re on a cusp of a change here. And actually, if you talked to engineers that are more heavily involved in additive manufacturing, they get a little bit upset when people say things like that. I have a lot sympathy with that view, because I would say that today I haven’t seen a lot beyond that.
But there are a lot of printing now with some quite advanced materials, particularly around things like metal printing. And there are some examples in the aerospace industry where they’ve metal printed components that they couldn’t have made using traditional manufacturing methods. And I think that’s one of the critical things. I don’t think 3D printing is ever going to be successful if you take an existing product and just try to 3D print it. Where it’s going to come into its own is where we actually start to design new products that are not constrained by our current design constraints for traditional manufacturing technologies.
And actually what 3D printing enables us is to make shapes; to make components in a way that we couldn’t make them using conventional items. And that started to happen in the aerospace industry, but is being a little bit hindered at the moment because we don’t actually have the design guidelines to help us do this. So I can see there being a big change over the next 10, 20 years, but I think the learner’s quite right in saying that so far, applications have been more limited. I also think we could see a lot of 3D printing of food going forward. There’s a restaurant in London now where you can have an entire 3D printed meal.
There’s opportunities in the future where you could, particularly for some sort of bakery products or those sorts of things, that you could print a tray of what you want and then just stick it in the oven. So I think some of the applications may not be quite what we think they’re going to be, but– just drawing on another aspect that the learners brought up that’s actually reconsidering the legal frameworks around these sorts of products is going to be very, very important. And we’re going to have to really turn the role of legal on its head and start to include it at the beginning of the process and not at the end. So some really interesting debate.
RAJESH SHANKAR PRIYA: So from your understanding– from the discussions, what I could understand is that 3D printing is actually trying to push more localised manufacturing. Am I right?
JAN GODSELL: Yes. But– and I suppose this is another key learning from this week– that localised manufacturing isn’t just 3D printing. So quite a lot of the work we do here at Warwick is understanding– for instance, I’ll just use this from a UK perspective; it could be any country– is about understanding what should we produce in the UK for the UK where there is a genuine benefit of that localised manufacture. But equally, what could we produce in the UK where we could be a centre of excellence for Europe; or what could we produce in the UK where we’re actually a global centre of excellence?
And so I think the example we used of the cashmere sweaters made in Hawick in Scotland, is that the global centre of production for Chanel’s jumpers is in Scotland, which is great. And actually, that’s required quite an investment in terms of technology; it’s created a decent number of jobs. It’s not 3D printed. It’s quite a traditional technology, and we are actually a global leader in that. But for me it’s about getting that balance right. And you know, if you are Australia, it would be what you’re making in Australia for Australia, or for Asia, of for the world, or Germany, and so on and so forth. So I think it’s a really interesting dilemma that we’re going to have here.
And you know, there are some views that says going forward– I think one of the learners commented on the cost of logistics– which is, logistics legs are non value added time. And ultimately you could argue that in the future– and it gets quite sci-fi-y if you think about it– we should be able to produce everything either in our bodies– so can we start to embed machines in ourselves that make things. So perhaps we don’t eat food in the future because we can implant something in us that makes our food for us.
And if we can’t make it in our bodies, then how do we make it as close to our homes or in our communities as possible, just to help remove all that non value added time. So in a way you then argue maybe we’re going to see a reversal of I suppose in some respects, aspects of the Industrial Revolution. Or I sometimes think you need to read sci-fi books because sometimes they have a better view of the future than any of us.
RAJESH SHANKAR PRIYA: Thanks a lot, Jan. So moving to the final block for this week. You know, we started to look at the future of manufacturing through the cyberphysical age and the concept of industry 4.0. So what struck you the most, and especially when you speak about a next generation of manufacturing?
JAN GODSELL: So for me, this also links into some of the comments that we had in the first block about what is manufacturing. We are on– whether or not you call it industry 4, or internet of things, or cyberphysical systems– we are on the cusp of a new way of looking over our Industrial Revolution. So I think as the videos say, we were powered by water, then we were powered by electricity, then we had computers, and now we potentially have this opportunity to have a slightly different technology base in that we have these cyberphysical systems, which essentially take many of the traditional technologies that we have that enable them to be connected together in different ways.
But this is where I think things are changing, because really what those industrial revolutions did was to drive the economic development of the world. And why I think this fourth period may be slightly different is I think, particularly in developed countries, we’re beginning to recognise that the way that we developed economically through industry has been trying to encourage people to buy more and more and more. So it’s been quite a consumption driven view of how we evolve. And I think we are just beginning to come to this realisation– that actually the economic benefit of this industrial development is beginning to be offset by some of the social and environmental implications.
So you know, just last week we saw Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord. And maybe that– and the US has also taken a very protectionist view in terms of its manufacturing strategy. And maybe the two things are linked, because in a way they are saying we are going to continue as is, maybe slightly locked in the third Industrial Revolution and trying to sustain economic growth in that way. I’d say other countries perhaps being a bit more open minded and recognising, you know what? Connectivity is enabling us to look at things in a different way. We don’t have to own things anymore. We don’t have to consume things at the same rate.
And you’ll see this a little bit more in week six, but you know, we’re beginning to see new models of consumption. So we don’t have to own a car anymore. There are car sharing services, right the way down to actually just renting a car, for you to be able to drive it, if you want, or being able to use services like Uber. And we have seen much more considerations of things like the circular economy or the sharing economy. So I think this is a very important age, but for us to not just think of it from a technology perspective.
I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen, but there’s no doubt about it that the connectivity that the cyber element of the cyberphysical systems have given us is going to help us redefine not just business models– so the way that companies operate– but potentially also the way that we choose to live within society, and the way that the society is formed, and the way that we economically grow from this point forward. So, fairly major stuff and with no real answers.
RAJESH SHANKAR PRIYA: But still, fantastic, Jan. Thank you very much for the valuable discussion, and I should also thank to all our learners this week for your contributions. So please tune in for more courses on future learn.
JAN GODSELL: OK, thanks ever so much, Rajesh.
JAN GODSELL: And I hope you look forward to next week, which is taking a more view of the future of logistics. So thanks a lot.

Week 4 focused on the topic of ‘factory of the future’. Before immersing yourself in the world of logistics and physical aspects of the supply chain, take some time to consolidate your learning from last week by watching the summary video.

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