Defining Advanced Manufacturing

While America is focusing on measuring advanced manufacturing, it is important to determine what is defined as advanced manufacturing. The term popped up a few years ago, sparking confusion for some. Since it was introduced, many still cannot agree on how to define advanced manufacturing compared to traditional manufacturing.

Everyone in manufacturing has a different answer when asked what advanced manufacturing actually encompasses. It varies by country, region, and even sector and shop. There are a variety of factors to consider when deciding how to identify advanced manufacturing.

Many determine it by separating older and newer manufacturing industries. They think of traditional manufacturers such as auto, steel and industrial as not advanced, while the newer industries such as aerospace, medical devices, and pharmaceutical industries are considered advanced.

Others prefer to define it by focusing on what is made, whether the products feature the latest technology, require high levels of design and are technologically complex. Some extend that idea even further, to include how the product is made. They would argue that advanced manufacturing is defined not only by the technology used to make the product, but also by the technology inherent in the product. With this view, using any production technology such as advanced robotics, CAD, CAE, CAM for design, simulation and analysis, high performance computing, additive manufacturing and other intelligent systems for production with information technologies coordinating it falls into advanced manufacturing.

In addition, there are some who think management and leadership methodologies should be included in the definition. These methodologies being lean management, Six Sigma, supply chain integration, and advanced planning and scheduling. There’s also the basic science component to consider. Some say advanced manufacturing involves the rapid transfer of science and technology into manufacturing processes and products.

With all of these ways to identify advanced manufacturing, it can be difficult to determine the metrics to evaluate it. It has also lead to some sectors of manufacturing being under-valued and others over-valued. Finding a composite definition of advanced manufacturing will determine how it will be evaluated in terms of success. It will also help shaping public policy and business strategy.

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