'Hacker' ethos comes to the factory floor
Mar 01, 2016
This opinion piece titled “’Hacker’ Ethos Comes to the Factory Floor ” by Mark Muro and Kelly Kline was published by the San Francisco Chronicle on February 19, 2016. The piece highlights the workforce implications of the manufacturing sector becoming more digitized, one of several compelling trends discussed at a recent Advanced Industries symposium held in Fremont, CA.
When venture capitalist Marc Andreessen quipped five years ago that "software is eating the world," he was mostly referring to the world of consumer-facing service industries, whether book selling, music or air travel, which he noted were being productively disrupted.
At the time, he had less to say about the manufacturing sector. However, waves of digitization have also been coursing through the production line, with their own disruptive effects. What does all of this mean for U.S. manufacturing and the workers within it?
Increasingly powerful visualization and simulation software is enabling even small-scale manufacturers to ease and speed product design, whether of a car or a wearable fitness device. Computer-assisted design, 3-D printing and other rapid prototyping tools have shortened the time from virtual to real for thousands of products. And for that matter, automation and robotics are altering the production process even as the cloud permits the cheap delivery of applications over the Internet along with the creation of smarter, connected products.
As a result, software has now fully eaten manufacturing, too. That quintessential Bay Area manufacturing icon, the Tesla Model S — with its Linux-based computer system that controls nearly every function of the car and is updated frequently, doing away with the concept of a model year, is the classic example.
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