The End of Manufacturing

A key theme at this year’s MD&M West show has been the idea that manufacturing—at least as we know it—is going away.

Futurist Thomas Frey asserted in his keynote yesterday that more than 2 billion jobs—many of them in manufacturing—will vanish by 2030. Technologies such as 3-D printing, he said, are already putting the power of production in the hands of individuals instead of traditional manufacturers.

In a plenary session keynote today, Marc Madou, chancellor professor and bioMEMS lab director at the University of California, Irvine, said that in 10 years the only manufacturing in the United States will be that which is vital to the defense industry, uniquely high-tech, able to absorb long-term freight costs, and serves instantaneous demand.

"The loss of manufacturing is not linear, it's exponential," he told the audience.

Unlike Frey, however, Madou believes the loss of manufacturing will be a problem. "Assuming we can still design new products without manufacturing excellence is naive," he said.

Do you believe manufacturing is indeed going away? Is that necessarily a bad thing? 


Jamie Hartford is the managing editor of MD+DI.

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