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January 18, 2018

From "Just in Time" to "Just Next Door"

  • Government
  • Agency
  • Industry
  • Science
  • Nanotechnology
  • Robotics/AI

The Synergist – The materials and methods used in manufacturing are changing rapidly and dramatically. So are the business management and product delivery models that have been part of the global manufacturing economy for decades. An informed and proactive industrial hygiene community can act now to embrace and influence the new challenges and opportunities that advanced manufacturing is creating. The current, traditional model of manufacturing includes large-scale production facilities that ship finished goods to strategically placed warehouses and distribution centers, where they are held until orders for these goods are received; the evolving 21st-century manufacturing model focuses on producing smaller, more distributed “batches” of products or individual product components that meet specific customer demands.

One of the most notable changes is that the products are being manufactured closer to where they will be purchased or used. The current push in manufacturing is to have items made “just in time” and “just to order.” This new manufacturing model also includes a high degree of flexibility that promotes mass customization, which allows for several variations in a single product in order to match customer demands. Along with the advent of new technologies that support the growth of a distributed manufacturing model, products might also be made “just next door.” New manufacturing techniques—most notably, additive manufacturing and 3-D printing—are driving much of this change. Advanced robotics, synthetic biology, digital manufacturing interfaces, and rapid process simulation and prototyping are also accelerating the development of new ways to make things. In the United States, these innovations are being referred to as “advanced manufacturing.” These new manufacturing technologies frequently use or produce a new generation of materials now known as “advanced materials,” many of which originated in nanotechnology; this new way of manufacturing goes by many names: 21st-century manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, state-of-the-art manufacturing, next production revolution, next-generation manufacturing, industry 4.0. No matter what you call it, it is a rapid and dramatic change from the traditional manufacturing model that has evolved over the past 100 years.

Many of these new manufacturing and material technologies are simply a natural progression of nanotechnology research. A critical component of nanotechnology research has been developing good health and safety practices.… For over 14 years, NIOSH has been an active contributor to the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, supporting the effort to foster best practices. NIOSH has made major contributions in support of the safe and responsible development of nanotechnology, with a focus on protecting workers who manufacture and use engineered nanomaterials. NIOSH intends to leverage its knowledge and experience in managing engineered nanomaterials to create a framework that supports safe and responsible development of advanced manufacturing in the U.S.

Read more at The Synergist.