How being open can give manufacturers the innovative edge

How being open can give manufacturers the innovative edge

Tesla Motors’ decision last year to make all of its patents open to outside use has turned the industry on its head.

By Stefano Picozzi, PaaS business development manager, Red Hat A/NZ

Most industries are affected by disruption from technology so, to remain competitive, organisations need to keep up. Technology advances affect manufacturing, in particular. The industry is changing quickly, and the manufacturers that continue to prosper are those that keep pace with technology.

Industrial solutions such as automation, resource management systems, and high-speed industrial design processes have helped manufacturers become far more agile and productive than they used to be. A manufacturer can only be as innovative and agile as the software on which these industrial solutions rely.

However, not all software is created equal. The bulk of software solutions used in this industry is proprietary; owned, managed, and developed by a single company. This means new developments can be slower when it comes to innovation and best practice.

Open source software, by comparison, is not owned by any single organisation; it is the result of a global community of millions of programmers. Because of the open and collaborative nature of this sort of software, with many minds contributing to its development, it can keep up with the agility and innovation that industry now demands.

Organisations in many areas of business are increasingly seeing the value in the open source approach. The automotive sector is a good example. Digital design and automated manufacturing means developing a new car now takes a fraction of the time it used to. Tesla Motors’ decision last year to make all of its patents open to outside use has turned the industry on its head.

Tesla made this unprecedented move in the hope that it would help drive the adoption of electric car platforms. Likewise, open source software has the potential to expedite global innovation in a way that the traditional, proprietary software development model does not.

As such, businesses looking for ways to make their processes easier, faster, more agile, and more productive, now have the option of turning to open source technology to ensure that the industrial equipment and processes they use are at the cutting edge of innovation and development.

One of the most innovative manufacturing developments of the past 30 years, 3D printing, has come a long way thanks to open source projects, such as the long-running RepRap self-replicating desktop additive manufacturing machine. The open approach has aided swift innovation in 3D printing technology through community collaboration and open sharing.

This is just one example of how new manufacturing processes and techniques can be driven by the open source philosophy and raise the standards of an entire industry. Software is taking an increasingly central role in the way manufacturing machinery, and manufacturers themselves, operate. As such, the open source approach is becoming the driving force of innovation in the manufacturing industry.

To continually improve organisational productivity and go-to-market speed, manufacturers need to innovate at a lightning pace. An open collaboration approach, combined with open source based technology and tools can help achieve this.

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