Manufacturing worker on laptop, with notebook and hardhat also on wood table. Updating MES, digital shop floor solution

Manufacturing Vision 2020

Worker on laptop, with notebook and hardhat also on wood table

Do you remember the hesitation and concern that occurred leading up to New Year’s Day 2000?  Many were second-guessing anything that relied on a computer or a program, as well as how society would fair in the “pending” aftermath of Y2K.  A couple years before that inevitable day, in 1998, there were some who were already looking ahead to 2020.  In particular, they were hoping to predict the direction of manufacturing in decades to come.

The Committee - Vision of 2020

The Committee on Visionary Manufacturing Challenges was established by the National Research Council's Board on Manufacturing and Engineering Design.  Specifically, their goal was to pinpoint the major challenges that will face manufacturing enterprises in 2020.  Additionally, they had hoped to identify the enabling technologies to address these challenges.  Their approach included reviewing forward looking manufacturing studies and other assessments.  This was combined with a workshop, primarily made of participants from the United States, with a broad range of manufacturing expertise.  Additionally, input from outside the US was gained via an international Delphi survey of manufacturing experts (more than 40 percent located outside the United States).

Grand Challenges

The following is the first paragraph from the 2nd chapter “Grand Challenges for Manufacturing1,” which outlines their conclusions…

The vision for 2020 and beyond described in Chapter 1 suggests considerable changes in the manufacturing enterprise. The social and political environment, the needs of the marketplace, and opportunities created by technological breakthroughs will drive these changes. Moving from the current status of manufacturing to manufacturing in 2020 will present major challenges, which the committee defines as "grand challenges" or fundamental goals, that would make realization of the vision possible. The six grand challenges are listed below:

  • achieve concurrency in all operations
  • integrate human and technical resources to enhance workforce performance and satisfaction
  • instantaneously transform information gathered from a vast array of sources into useful knowledge for making effective decisions
  • reduce production waste and product environmental impact to "near zero"
  • reconfigure manufacturing enterprises rapidly in response to changing needs and opportunities
  • develop innovative manufacturing processes and products with a focus on decreasing dimensional scale

Today's Manufacturers

Modern Clean Multi-colored Manufacturing Shop floor

Many of these features can be seen in today’s manufacturers, including efforts related to digital transformation, and aspects such as MES integration.  To stay ahead in today’s industry, one must continually embrace modernization to harness operational data for greater visibility, efficiency, control… and customer satisfaction.  Technology has become a must for any manufacturer. Technology can be separated into three different areas:

  1. General company functions such as product design, product requirements, product costing, due dates, payroll, schedules etc.
  2. Manufacturing execution functions such as communicating demand, job instructions, quality instructions, material requirements etc. This also includes communicating job status, quantities completed, quantities consumed, on target, downtime etc.
  3. Machine related functions, including communicating and collecting information from manufacturing machines.

As manufacturers continue to compete for market share and strive to be a leader in their niche, they must continue to embrace technology and look for new ways to integrate it.


For other similar topics, follow this link to BMED reports and resources page.


1“The 2020 Vision.” National Research Council. 1998. Visionary Manufacturing Challenges for 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6314.


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