by Loke Chong LEE
ne can only marvel at the continuous changes in how we work, live, play, communicate, and commute as a result of the tremendous advances in manufacturing technology and systems. We have come a long way from the days of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who sowed the seeds of scientific-manufacturing management and planted the concept of productivity. Henry Ford's offer of "any colour as long as it is black" sounds almost ludicrous in this present age where consumers demand customisation and sophistication in their purchases. The contemporary manufacturing paradigm reflects myriad challenges that new products repeatedly encounter when brought to market at a relentless pace. Competition dictates sharpened competencies in manufacturing processes and techniques, and environmental legislation requires careful attention to resource sustainability.
The articles in this issue give insights into the multifaceted issues and technologies of the manufacturing chain. The traditional manufacturing model in which raw materials enter a factory and finished goods emerge is fast disappearing. With increasing globalisation, a more likely scenario has a finished product as the outcome of operations distributed over a number of sites, often in widely separated locations. This special focus highlights the innovative work being conducted in the various links that join up seamlessly for the smooth production and delivery of the final products.
The stories on logistics address the infrastructure and inventory control that a company needs to deal with in distributed manufacturing. Singapore, as a hub for transportation and distribution, is an ideal site for companies to implement advanced methodologies for optimum operations.
The growing communication of information and data across the web for business-to-business and business-to-consumer dealings faces severe problems unless protocol and platform standardisation receives adequate attention. The coverage on web services describes the consortium project Web Service Reference Architecture, which is carried out under the auspices of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).
Manufacturing-process technologies increasingly need to handle products and components that are miniaturising rapidly. Such demands are often accompanied by stringent quality and tolerance requirements. The update on precision engineering and nanotechnology traces the evolution of the field and projects future demand. Catch a tantalising glimpse of the miniature world through the developments in microelectromechanical systems in Singapore.
The versatile laser, now ubiquitous in industry, entertainment, media, and consumer products, receives another energy boost in its role. It is now being used to induce secondary reactions in a wide range of applications such as changing the properties of chemicals and materials. A report on this new development discusses the exciting possibilities.
Mounting environmental concerns centring on manufacturing processes and manufactured products have placed much pressure on companies to pay greater attention to sustainable manufacturing. The management of the product life cycle presents a broad view of this vital aspect, particularly on design for the environment and product life-cycle engineering.
Distributed control and predictive maintenance are becoming more "intelligent" to prevent process problems and to maximise resource uptime. This issue of INNOVATION reports the research and advances in these areas.
Finally, Singapore is developing the biomedical industry as the fourth pillar of its manufacturing sector. An important aspect of this vision is biologics manufacturing, the large-scale production of therapeutic proteins to treat a variety of diseases. This new area could well be a major contributor to the economy as healthcare demand picks up globally.
Manufacturing continues to be an important sector for the island republic. Value-added services and products, backed strongly by advanced technologies and processes, will ensure that the country stays ahead of the competition.
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