The Megadrivers


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Henry Ford did not invent the gasoline-driven automobile or the assembly line. But it was his innovation that helped reduce the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to just two hours and 30 minutes. The moving assembly line, which Ford’s team built in October 1913 at their Highland Park Assembly plant, was a revolutionary advancement in production. Mass production had myriad benefits: Ford could now build more cars faster than any competitor, and sell them for a lower sticker price, thus enabling almost everyone to own an automobile.

This innovation—the assembly line—through continuous improvements over decades, has become the highly efficient primary mode of manufacturing in a wide range of industries, including our own, and it has changed the way we live and work forever.

The assembly line’s impact on auto manufacturing can’t be overstated; it undoubtedly furthered the development and improvement of automobiles. In fact, right now, the automotive industry is still the major growth driver for the electronics manufacturing industry worldwide, especially with continued growth of electronics in cars, partially due to the increasing development in autonomous/driverless cars.

Now, as more machines become even more intelligent, the more efficient these assembly lines become. Enter robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics—and we have a highly-automated, smart factories—a whole new level of manufacturing.

These are some of the global megatrends happening right now that are making a big impact in the world of electronics manufacturing. The continuing automation in factories, IoT, increasing use of data, robotics, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence are just a few that will define the next generation of industrial revolution—also happening now.

Meanwhile, over the past year, we have seen another growing trend in the financial industry—cryptocurrencies—the most famous of which is bitcoin. But Satoshi Nakamoto’s innovation is not simply the bitcoin, but the technology behind it—the blockchain. Nakamoto’s research paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” [2], posted in a cryptography forum on November 1, 2008 [3], described how blockchain worked and how it tackles the double-spending problem in digital currency. It says this makes bitcoin one of the most secured digital currency right now because the blockchain technology includes records of every bitcoin in existence, and every bitcoin transaction ever made. No one can alter the transactions in the blockchain because all the computer nodes in the peer-to-peer network, upon which the blockchain technology is based, retain a copy of all the public history of transactions, making it impractical for an attacker to change, as honest nodes control a majority of CPU power.

How does this apply in manufacturing? According to industry experts, blockchain can be a game changer for supply chain management. According to Neil Sharp of EMS firm JJS Manufacturing, blockchain presents an exciting opportunity to create smarter, more secure supply chains. He wrote that blockchain opens a completely new way of tracking product journeys, providing a solid audit trail and real-time visibility for verified supply chain partners. For instance, it can track and record what materials have arrived where, who handled them, how they were transported, and where they came from as “blocks” on the blockchain.

In a whitepaper, the Technical Associates Group noted that blockchain could underpin new distributed manufacturing models brought about through the development of 3D printing, while playing a vital role in IoT by allowing more effective monitoring of manufacturing facilities. This ensures that equipment operates within its defined scope of action and that machine-to-machine payments are received accordingly. They added that blockchain could greatly ease the deployment of distributed 3D manufacturing, as it could enable low-cost, distributed and assured integrity for contracts, product histories, and production processes.

To read the full version of this article, which appeared in the September 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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