The Digital Revolution in Industrial Real Estate: Factories of the Future and the Case for Robots and Humans to co-exist

The threat of robots replacing humans looms large but there is a case for human-machine interactions to simplify the complex part of the manufacturing process so that it’s faster and safer.

16 Nov 2017

The Digital Revolution in Industrial Real Estate pt3
The threat of robots replacing humans looms large but there is a case for human-machine interactions to simplify the complex part of the manufacturing process so that it’s faster and safer.


Cobotics is the concept of employing robotics to complement rather than to replace workers. Such a process typically involves operators and robots working together to make a complex part of the manufacturing process faster, easier and safer. While current use of robots mostly involve ergonomically challenging tasks, improvement in the sophistication of sensors will one day allow robots and operators to interact naturally, allowing them to work seamlessly together in the future.

Cobotics will help increase overall productivity and help free up human capital to focus on higher value-add tasks such as product and process improvement with the increasing use of robotics in the manufacturing process. This will lead to an increase in efficiency as manufacturers will be able to setup their production line quickly as they overcome traditional time-consuming limitations such as lack of talents.

Cobotics-capable factories will feature less columns and more flat open spaces to allow the new generation of mobile robots to maneuverer around the factory floor. Factories will also have to feature reliable power supply as well as multiple charging stations for the robots.

Advances in manufacturing technology have given rise to new forms of factories that are capable of generating custom-made materials and products, free of the risks associated with weather changes.

Living Factories give greater control

The Living Factory is fast emerging as a manufacturing technology for generating custom-made materials and organic products. Instead of robots, these factories are based on synthetic biology run by living organisms such as bacteria and algae.

Such factories allow the creation of substances that are either too difficult or expensive to cultivate naturally or artificially with petrochemicals. The living factories, also known as bio-factories, are sustainable and immune to fickle weather and diseases and are expected to reduce the cultivation of cash crops.

Living factories will give manufacturers greater control over raw materials which are traditionally cultivated to ensure consistent supply and result in better quality control over the final product. Opportunities for new innovation will emerge for new forms of bio products such as biofuels, feed stocks and other related products.

Living factories require appropriate storage or disposal space to handle the bio-materials. This may drive up the cost but unlike traditional factories, living factories do not require industrial robots in its manufacturing process. As such, the cost savings from doing away with industrial robots could outweigh the initial investments on appropriate storage and disposal space.

Home Factories will redefine the traditional factory landscape

New technologies such as 3D Printers make it possible to fabricate anything from phone casings to light bulbs, spare parts, and even edible chocolates conveniently from the comfort of the home. The evolution of home-based manufacturing technology will be the catalyst for small home based micro factories in the future.

Home factories facilitate the production of small, consumer merchandise or modular spare parts, all from the home. The potential is tremendous as it means products can be marketed at a faster rate. Spare parts can be manufactured on a Just-In-Time basis, reducing the need to stock pile inventory and obsolete parts. Product Digitalization allows ‘blueprints’ or ‘plans’ of products to be sold for production in home factories at lower cost, cutting out costly transportation fees. This will increase competitiveness and focus on innovation for commoditized products.

This emergence of home factories will impact the traditional factory facility. The shift in focus from actual production to design development will mean that manufacturers will require more space for office-like premises. Nevertheless, manufacturers will still require premises to manufacture specialised products that are bulky or require complicated assembly processes.

Experiential Factories an enabler for collaboration

Next Generation Factories may be capable of more than just simple production capabilities. These factories may also incorporate experiential features to showcase and encourage potential clients and suppliers to interact and better understand the industrialists' products.

These factories provide an Improved Brand Experience for businesses as experiential factories allows customers to customize their purchases in the production process, creating a uniquely personalized product. Opportunities for new innovation will emerge as experiential factories allow businesses to get feedback and build brand loyalty with clients, blurring the lines between retail and manufacturing.

Experiential factories will require next generation factories to set aside exhibition space to showcase the manufacturing process while actual production is on-going. They also need to be conveniently located so that it is easily accessible by public transport, and have sufficient parking space for visitors.

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