Manufacturing Value Chain

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The Human Touch in Smart Manufacturing

By John Santagate

Smart manufacturing, industrie 4.0, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have been the focus of manufacturing initiatives lately. A big part of these ideas is to "connect" the manufacturing process through the use of sensors and connected equipment. With smart manufacturing, it is all about leveraging these connections to deliver a more granular level of understanding about the manufacturing process through data capture and analytics of the manufacturing equipment. But what about the processes that are conducted by human hands? As much as manufacturers continue to automate the manufacturing process through robotics and automation equipment, many environments and processes still require a human physically putting something together or physically doing something. Traditionally, these processes would be "disconnected" and managed largely through paper. To address the challenges associated with managing, analyzing, and optimizing such processes, a start-up out of Somerville Massachusetts has developed a technology that augments the human operator to deliver digital transformation of the human element of manufacturing.


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10 Predictions for Worldwide Supply Chain

By John Santagate

Over the next decade, IDC expects that a majority of manufacturing industry growth will accrue to those companies that engage successfully with their consumers. The number will vary by industry, with those companies that are inherently consumer facing seeing a much larger percentage of growth being tied to consumer engagement and those that are not seeing less growth. But in all cases, the ability to be "relevant" to consumers will be critically important to the majority of manufacturing segments. This does not mean new business models necessarily, though there will be many such examples, but it does mean transforming the business from one focusing on products and customers (retailers, resellers, etc.) to one also focusing on consumers.


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Integrated supply chain execution and fulfillment is a very hot topic among manufacturing and retail supply chain professionals. Supply chain executives understand that the key to achieving world class supply chain execution is delivering an integrated approach that enables a seamless flow of material and data across the supply chain coupled with alignment of business processes.


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SHARP Announces the Intellos A-UGV Security Robot

By John Santagate

The rapidly growing market for robotics continues to attract new entrants as both demand for high quality robots increases and the technology to deliver robotics improves. The latest company to announce entry into the space is Sharp. Sharp has introduced a new division focused on robotics, Sharp Robotics Business Development (SRBD), and has come to market with its first offering focused in the field of security. The Intellos Automated Unmanned Ground Vehicle (A-UGV) is a rugged mobile robot designed to augment security staff with an abundance of sensors, cameras, and the capability to traverse rugged terrain.


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Over 190,000 people from all over the World, including President Barack Obama, converged on Hannover, Germany, April 25th through 29th for the 2016 Hannover Messe industrial conference. This years event consisted of over 5,200 exhibitors spread across 17 conference halls broken down into 5 focus areas: Digital Factory, Energy, Industrial Automation, Industrial Supply, and Research & Technology.


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I recently visited the HQ of Rethink Robotics and came away completely impressed with the company, the robots, and the potential for this company to transform the manufacturing industry, especially the low and mid-market manufacturers that were previously unable to make the investment in robotics. The market for robotics is expected to increase significantly over the coming years (16.8% CAGR forecast through 2020), with many vendors, such as Rethink Robotics, innovating and bringing robotics to areas of the market that have been left under served in regards to robotics.


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iRobot to Sell Off Military Unit

By John Santagate

iRobot, maker of the Roomba, has entered into a deal to sell off its military robot unit for up to $45million in order to focus on its core business of consumer robots. The company has been providing consumer robots since it first introduced the Roomba in 2002, but its roots go back to 1991 with the release of its first robot Genghis which was designed as a space exploration robot. As a well known maker of consumer robotics, perhaps the sale of its military unit has more to do with the future direction of military robotics and the potential for negative perception should those robotics become weaponized.


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Dow Chemical and DuPont recently announced a merger that will result in two of Americas oldest firms becoming a $130 billion behemouth. The deal, a merger of equals, has been agreed as an all stock deal with an even split of board members and share holder value. Dow and DuPont are the 3rd and 4th largest chemical companies in the world, and the merger will make the new company (DowDuPont) the 2nd largest trailing only BASF. Shortly following the merger, the company will then split into three separate publicly traded companies in agriculture, material sciences, and specialty products.


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Infor Announces Acquistion of GT Nexus

By John Santagate

Infor announced today that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the world's largest cloud based global commerce platform, GT Nexus, for $675 million. This acquisition brings together two highly innovative organizations, with a complementary solution set that will deliver for customers "the first global commerce cloud with end-to-end control and visibility for the production of direct goods"


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In my recent post, "Rise of the Machines - 4 Factors Driving an Increase or Robotics in the Manufacturing Supply Chain", I discussed a few elements that are supporting the move towards leveraging robotics in manufacuting. We are certainly seeing a move towards automation in the manufacturing process, and in at least one Chinese Province (Guangdong Province) there is an active effort to replace human labor with robots.


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