Pardon the Disruption

Manufacturers should take a realistic look at how these technologies will impact their businesses. 

Disruptive technologies in manufacturing are on the rise, and manufacturers must embrace and leverage them.

According to Clayton M. Christensen, the foremost authority on disruptive innovation, a disruptive technology is a new emerging technology that unexpectedly displaces an established one. Mr. Christensen used this term for the first time in his 1997 best-selling book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a disruptive technology. This term, coined by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton in 2009, refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an internet-like structure. Equipping objects with identifying devices or machine-readable identifiers is a disruptive technology that is currently transforming machine monitoring.

Because of disruptive technologies, there are a number of advancements that are changing the way manufacturers machine and produce parts. Four of these high-tech advancements are Adaptive Machining, Minimum Quality Lubrication (MQL), Machine to Machine Connectivity (M2M) and Digital Thread.

Adaptive Machining employs in-process inspection to determine the shape of the part that is to be machined, then adapts the CNC programming to machine the actual part with extremely high accuracy. It provides the capability to machine and blend complex, 3D components and features automatically. The main goal of adaptive machining is to eliminate manual operations, stabilize the manufacturing process, maximize accuracy and increase the manufacturing operation’s profitability.

This new technology is having significant impact within the aerospace industry, where expensive, complex parts (such as turbine blades) are manufactured. This technology is best used for products that have extensive machining time in order to achieve the most impact.

MQL is the process of applying minute amounts of high-quality lubricant directly to the cutting tool instead of following the traditional method of using the tool with substantial volumes of coolant. MQL minimizes the environmental impact by reducing the fluid usage and the need for treatment and disposal. If applied correctly, MQL may be a good solution for both low- and high-volume machining operations in a variety of industries, while promoting a clean, safe manufacturing environment.

M2M refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same type and is considered an integral part of the IoT.

Digital Thread is a technology that focuses on the total life cycle of a product. It ensures that the best materials, machine tools and processes are communicated at each step of product development. This process creates an increase in first-pass success, which eliminates the costly trial-and-error process and ultimately allows you to get the product to market faster and more efficiently. Errors and failures are even captured and reported back via feedback loops to prevent the same issues from arising again. Digital Thread better equips manufacturers to track a product from development of the first article, through design and production, to when the product is removed from service.

Manufacturers should take a realistic look at how these technologies will impact their business in an effort to become globally competitive and leaders in their industries. Three things that manufacturers can do to better leverage these technologies include:

  1. Review and evaluate the data and usage rates of their equipment.
  2. Use external resources to help better understand how these technologies will impact their business.
  3. Educate and engage their workforce about these emerging technologies to eliminate fear and ensure successful implementation.

Forty years ago, something called Moore’s Law stated that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers, double every two years. Comparatively, disruptive technologies may offer the opportunity to introduce smarter and faster ways to manufacture products even more quickly.

Manufacturers who seek innovative ways to attain competitive advantage and adapt to emerging technologies and business models will increase their chance of thriving in both the local and global markets.