Family Ties

More people than ever before are single – and that’s a good thing

One social scientist spent 20 years studying single people – and found that they’re a boon to communities across the US.

The 21st century is the age of living single.

Today, the number of single adults in the US – and many other nations around the world – is unprecedented. And the numbers don’t just say people are staying single longer before settling down. More are staying single for life. A 2014 Pew Report estimates that by the time today’s young adults reach the age of 50, about one in four of them will have never married.

The ascendancy of single living has left some in a panic. US News & World Report, for example, cautioned that Americans think the country’s moral values are bad and getting worse, and one of the top reasons for their concern is the large number of people remaining single.

But instead of fretting, maybe we should celebrate.

I’m a social scientist, and I’ve spent the past two decades researching and writing about single people. I’ve found that the rise of single living is a boon to our cities and towns and communities, our relatives and friends and neighbors. This trend has the chance to redefine the traditional meaning – and confines – of home, family and community.

Ties that bind

For years, communities across the country have been organised by clusters of nuclear families living in suburban homes. But there are some signs that this arrangement isn’t working out so well.

These houses are often too isolating – too far from work and from one another. According to a national survey ongoing since 1974, Americans have never been less likely to be friends with their neighbors than they are now, with neighborliness lowest in the suburbs.

But studies have also shown that single people are bucking those trends. For example, they are more likely than married people to encourage, help and socialise with their friends and neighbors. They are also more likely to visit, support, advise and stay in touch with their siblings and parents.

In fact, people who live alone are often the life of their cities and towns. They tend to participate in more civic groups and public events, enroll in more art and music classes, and go out to dinner more often than people who live with others. Single people, regardless of whether they live alone or with others, also volunteer more for social service organisations, educational groups, hospitals and organizations devoted to the arts than people who are married.

In contrast, when couples move in together or get married, they tend to become more insular, even if they don’t have children.

Building strength and resilience

Unfortunately, single life continues to be stigmatised, with single people routinely stereotyped as less secure and more self-centered than married people. They’re said to die sooner, alone and sad.

Yet studies of people who live alone typically find that most are doing just fine; they don’t feel isolated, nor are they sad and lonely.

Reports of the early death of single people have also been greatly exaggerated, as have claims that marriage transforms miserable, sickly single people into happy and healthy spouses.

In some significant ways, it’s the single people who are doing particularly well.

For example, people with more diversified relationship portfolios tend to be more satisfied with their lives. In contrast, the insularity of couples who move in together or get married can leave them vulnerable to poorer mental health.

Studies have shown that people who stay single develop more confidence in their own opinions and undergo more personal growth and development than people who marry. For example, they value meaningful work more than married people do. They may also have more opportunities to enjoy the solitude that many of them savor.

Redefining the family and home

Married people often put their spouse (and, for some, kids) at the center of their lives. That’s what they’re expected to do, and often it’s also what they want to do.

But single people are expanding the traditional boundaries of family. The people they care about the most might include family in the traditional sense. But they’ll also loop in friends, ex-partners and mentors. It’s a bigger, more inclusive family of people who matter.

For many single people, single-family suburban homes aren’t going to offer them the balance between sociability and solitude that they crave. They are instead finding or creating a variety of different lifespaces.

Sometimes you’ll see 21st-century variations of traditional arrangements, like multi-generational households that allow for privacy and independence as well as social interaction. Others – and not just the very young – are living with their friends or other families of choice.

Those who cherish their alone time will often choose to live alone. Some have committed romantic relationships but choose to live in places of their own, a lifestyle of “living apart together”.

Some of the most fascinating innovations are pursued by people who seek both solitude and easy sociability. These individuals might move into their own apartment, but it’s in a building or neighborhood where friends and family are already living. They might buy a duplex with a close friend, or explore cohousing communities or pocket neighborhoods, which are communities of small homes clustered around shared spaces such as courtyards or gardens.

Single parents are also innovating. Single mothers, for example, can go to CoAbode to try to find other single mothers with whom they can share a home and a life. Other single people might want to raise children with the full support of another parent. Now they can look for a partner in parenting – with no expectations for romance or marriage – at websites such as Family by Design and Modamily.

As the potential for living a full and meaningful single life becomes more widely known, living single will become more of a genuine choice. And when living single is a real choice, then getting married will be, too. Fewer people will marry as a way of fleeing single life or simply doing what they are expected to do, and more will choose it because it’s what they really want.

If current trends continue, successive generations will have unprecedented opportunities to pursue the life that suits them best, rather than the one that is prescribed.

Bella DePaulo, Project Scientist, University of California, Santa Barbara.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.