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Driving Innovation from the Factory Floor

Driving Innovation from the Factory Floor

by Karl Sorensen

Manufacturing drives innovation, and in turn, drives manufacturing.

According to a recent article in MIT Technology Review, “manufacturing will make its most essential economic contribution as an incubator of innovation: the place where new ideas become new products,” writes senior editor Nanette Byrnes. Entitled "Making Innovation",  the report examines the cyclical, interconnected dynamics of the manufacturing and innovation environments. 

To illustrate her point, Byrnes asks readers to dislodge longstanding assumptions about the manufacturing process.  First, manufacturing no longer employs multitudes needed to perform  labor-intensive tasks by hand. In reality, “as software drives more of the manufacturing process, and automated machines and robots execute much of it, factories don’t need as many workers.”  Secondly, innovation and manufacturing are not exclusive industries operating in silos distinct to each other.  Byrnes suggests that manufacturing hubs foster a network that attracts innovators, generating a new and parallel hub rooted in technology. 

"The hubs of advanced manufacturing will be the economic drivers of the future because innovation increasingly depends on production expertise," she writes.

Suzanne Berger, MIT professor and author, also tells Byrnes that if the U.S. hopes to lead the world in innovation, our commitment to manufacturing must remain the highest priority.

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