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ASCM Insights

Visionary Manufacturing


Last month, Tesla unveiled its Cybertruck, and the internet was instantly flooded with reactions from fans and critics alike. Some appreciated the electric pickup’s futuristic design, while others called it absurd, brutalist and a stainless steel triangle. The majority of the comments were about CEO Elon Musk’s botched stunt at the presentation: A metal ball was hurled at the Cybertruck’s so-called unbreakable windows, which shattered immediately — both times.

Nevertheless, Musk is widely regarded as a genius, a disruptor and a visionary; likewise, Tesla is undeniably a success story. So, it’s probably wise to listen when Musk asserts that the next big shift in manufacturing will be robotic blacksmithing — a method that blends the traditional blacksmith’s art with modern digital capabilities. In other words: machines build machines.

Glenn S. Daehn, professor of materials science and engineering at The Ohio State University (OSU) explains: “Parts are shaped by repeatedly and incrementally forming a piece of metal, which is precisely positioned into a press. This powered press or hammer system will interchange tools depending on the shape needed. By automating the process of shaping a part, but using the basic approach of a blacksmith, a machine can treat larger parts and be more efficient and reproducible than a human ever could.”

Implements forged by blacksmiths are known to be exceedingly sturdy because of the working and shaping of the metal. During the process, it develops directional strength, much like the grain in a piece of wood. Of course, no human could forge parts the size of, say, aircraft landing gear, submarines or locomotives. But robots could. This was demonstrated in 2017 by a team from OSU. They added hardware and software to a conventional computer-numeric-control milling machine to adapt it for controlled deformation. Daehn believes this can revolutionize the production of structural parts, resulting in a new class of customized and optimized products.

Tesla’s unconventional Cybertruck design — involving the folding and bending of metal sheets — shows what’s possible with robotic blacksmithing. In addition, the methodology may mean less-expensive, more scalable processes that could help Musk’s Space X launch missions on budget and with speeds “unthinkable using NASA’s old-school manufacturing methods.”

Digital and dynamic

As we embark on a new decade, supply chain professionals cannot overlook the value of digital supply chain transformation. With this in mind, ASCM has partnered with Deloitte Consulting LLP to release the Digital Capabilities Model (DCM) for Supply Networks. This model helps industry professionals envision and build the digitally enabled capabilities required to transform their linear supply chains into a set of dynamic networks. It is closely tied to the Supply Chain Operations Reference Digital Standard in order to help organizations immediately apply the model without restructuring their processes, metrics or practices.

Watch this webinar to learn more about the DCM and take the first step toward cultivating your organization’s digital readiness in 2020 and beyond.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through

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