COLUMN: Technology shift will change future factories

Mark Keeling, legal director in DLA Piper's real estate team in Sheffield.
Mark Keeling, legal director in DLA Piper's real estate team in Sheffield.

Column written by Mark Keeling, legal director in DLA Piper’s real estate team in Sheffield

The factories of the future will look very different from today.

We are seeing a rapid shift from traditional factories.

Technology and innovation will play a central role in the ‘factory of the future’ which will be faster, more responsive to changing global markets and closer to customers.

Key factors in the FoF will be:-

*Customisation - Customer focus and personalisation is recognised as increasingly important.

Factories need to effectively address consumer demand for customised products.

For example, VW’s Autostadt complex in Germany allows customers to specify the design of their car, watch it being made and see it come off the production line.

*Flexibility - Factories of the future need to resource flexibly to meet demands and capacity constraints.

Flexible and adaptable equipment with multiple configurations are able respond to a change in the market and customer demand.

Fixed automation in automotive factories is being replaced by more flexible and reconfigurable automation.

*Technology - The importance of technology and innovation in shaping the FoF is a key theme.

The development of 3D vision, additive printing and innovation in processing methods are going to be crucial in the FoF.

*Servitization - Manufacturers offering services alongside their products is a growing trend.

Through servitization, manufacturers can obtain closer relationships with customers and identify a new and predictable income stream.

*Sustainability - A major trend is sustainability; economically, socially and environmentally.

Reuse, remanufacturing, recycling and reduction of energy and water waste are of key importance to FoF.

*People - People will play a crucial role in the FoF despite the automation of manual processes.

The advancement of technology will necessitate highly skilled employees with technology degrees, computer skills and specialised training. Attracting talent into factories is seen as a major challenge.

In conclusion, FoF are focused on the needs of the consumer, embrace changes in technology and innovation in products and processes and will lead a green agenda for sustainable manufacturing.

They will require people with the skills to lead and operate them and the ability to foster an environment of creativity and collaboration.

Achieving these FoF will require a significant cultural shift, both in how manufacturers operate and how they are perceived.