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Because manufacturing is inherently multidisciplinary and involves a complicated mix of people, systems, processes, and equipment, the most effective research will also be multidisciplinary and grounded in knowledge of manufacturing strategies, planning, and operations.
The committee's findings and recommendations are described in more detail below.
Table 3-2, which relates the priority technologies to the grand challenges, shows that the development of the priority technologies will affect several of the grand challenges. Many of the research areas described briefly in Chapter 3 can potentially contribute to the development of more than one priority technology. This has both advantages, in that research resources can be used more efficiently, and disadvantages, in that results may not necessarily apply to all of the priority technologies.
The following examples illustrate how research could be applicable to more than one technology. First, the development of adaptive, reconfigurable equipment, processes, and systems will enable the rapid reconfiguration of enterprises to meet competitive pressures but will also improve the integration of human and technology resources, enterprise-wide concurrency, and the development of revolutionary processes. Second, research on modeling and simulation will help meet the challenges for enterprise-wide concurrency, the utilization of human and technological resources, the conversion of information to knowledge, and the rapid reconfiguration of manufacturing enterprises. Finally, research on information technology will help to meet all of the grand challenges. Information technology is the primary technology for converting information to knowledge and will be a key technology for concurrency, the integration of human and technical resources, and the rapid reconfiguration of enterprises.
Recommendation. Establish priorities for long-term research with an emphasis on crosscutting technologies, i.e., technologies that address more than one grand challenge. Adaptable and reconfigurable manufacturing systems, information and communication technologies, and modeling and simulation are three research areas that address several grand challenges.
The committee believes that technological breakthroughs in two areas—innovative submicron manufacturing processes and enterprise modeling and simulation—would have a profound impact on manufacturing of the future.