March 23, 2010

Origins of Pharma of the Future?

In the 1970s, the United States Air Force faced a growing problem. New aerospace designs using advanced materials and technologies caused manufacturing costs to sky rocket. The costs were, in large measure, the result of a manufacturing environment that had not changed since Lucky Lindy flew to Paris.

The USAF Integrated Computer-aided Manufacturing (ICAM) Program was an early effort to improve productivity and reduce costs. ICAM focused on identifying and applying advanced manufacturing technologies. Many ICAM projects were successful, but the islands of automation they created did not lead to overall process improvement. In response, the USAF started the Factory of the Future (FoF) program. The objective of FoF was to create a new aerospace enterprise framework structure that would integrate all major activities, including design, finance, marketing, QA/QC, product support, and manufacturing planning, as well as manufacturing itself. Thus, the total system was to be overhauled, not just the shop floor.

The FoF program led to remarkable improvements in productivity at all levels of aerospace product development and manufacturing. One important result was the recognition that product development is essentially a series of information processing steps. Information, whether processed by humans or by computers, is the common link and critical element in the overall process. The data bases and computer architecture that arose from the FoF program were responsible, in part, for the information technology revolution we are still experiencing today.

The FoF program also led to systems engineering tools and methodologies that better define the requirements of complex engineering problems and that guide the design of efficient processes to produce products that meet those requirements. Systems engineering relies heavily on mathematical models to represent engineering problems and on simulations to explore the effect of various designs on the performance characteristics of the product. In other words, aerospace engineers can now find out if an airplane design works without risking the life of a test pilot.

The confluence of several new ideas contributed to the success of the FoF program. The systematic approach to problem definition, the development of an information technology infrastructure to make necessary information accessible to all stakeholders, the use of modeling and simulation to formalize the relationships between design parameters and performance, and the development of efficient and sustainable solutions to manufacturing processes were all necessary. Each idea alone was not sufficient to overhaul the system.

Be sure to read the next Pharma of the Future? blog entry: Disambiguation. If you need to get caught up, read Intro to Pharma of the Future?.


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Origins of Pharma of the Future?

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