Three dimensions of maturity required to achieve future state, technology-enabled manufacturing supply chains

Ward, Michael and Halliday, Steven and Uflewska, Olga and Wong, TC (2017) Three dimensions of maturity required to achieve future state, technology-enabled manufacturing supply chains. Proceedings for Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part B: Journal of Engineering Manufacture. ISSN 2041-2975

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    Abstract

    The particular challenges associated with supply chain application of emerging manufacturing technologies are increasingly recognised in industry, academia and government. The problem is often described in terms of Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), with the particular challenge relating to the stages between proof of concept and initial adoption in the factory environment. In the UK the government has established the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a network of manufacturing innovation centres brought together with the objective of addressing the so called ‘valley of death’ between traditional academic research and industrial needs across a broad spectrum of manufacturing process technology. This is achieved through demonstrating manufacturing technology at full scale, in factory representative environments in terms of equipment, process control and operation. This provision helps to address the key gap of full scale pre-production capability demonstration and can be seen to de-risk investment in new manufacturing technology. This paper argues that addressing this particular gap is entirely necessary but not sufficient to drive exploitation of the full potential that is available from the latest manufacturing technologies. A three dimensional maturity based framework is proposed which, in addition to considerations of technology demonstration, also allows the position of the target product application in its product lifecycle, and the readiness of the supply chain to receive the technology to be taken into account as success factors in the potential for industrialisation. Case study examples, both current and historical, are used to illustrate the need for such an approach in achieving future technology enabled supply chains. In combination this analysis introduces the basis of a more complete ‘long valley of death’ description which articulates the needs of research networks to establish a level of foundational capability ahead of specific client readiness projects in order to maximise overall pace and achieve a level of agility of delivery which is consistent with future views on digitalisation of manufacture.