As new models of product provision surface, new processes will complement the manufacturing process, stealing some of its relative importance from it.
Consider how the as-a-service economic model works, and how it differs from the provision model that prevailed until recently. In the old model (to simplify somewhat), producers made products, which were sold to customers, and there the producer-customer relationship essentially ended. Producers had one chance to make their products work: during manufacture. After that, their products were out of their hands.
The as-a-service economic model that’s been emerging with the 4IR offers another way. When an enterprise purchases software or IoT-enabled smart lighting “as a service,” according to a subscription model, product lifetime has to be a crucial concern for the producer. After all, the producer still owns the product that it’s licensing out to the customer. Renewals depend on that product’s continued viability.
But that’s understating the matter. In fact, renewals can depend on that product’s becoming even better—in the way that, for example, a “smart” product’s machine-learning capabilities get keener with use, or should. The manufacturer is on the hook for the entire product lifetime, to the benefit not only of the customer, but of innovation itself.