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FOrecast and Roadmapping for MAnufacturing Technologies

Final Report Summary - FORMAT (FOrecast and Roadmapping for MAnufacturing Technologies)

Knowing the Future? It is possible, at least for what concerns information useful for decision making in manufacturing industries.
The FORMAT project was conceived starting from the specific needs and requirements for Technology Forecasting of one of the partners: Whirlpool. Their main use for technology forecasting is to draw the evolutionary path of technologies. A reliable view on future technology evolution can support decisions on investments, drive research activities and direct the design of new products.
The analysis of emerging technologies and their potential impact on markets, economies and societies requires reliable and repeatable methods and tools, since the related information plays a critical role for strategic decisions of private and public organizations. A multitude of methodologies have been developed in the field of technology forecasting so far, for specific forecasting purposes and therefore with different characteristics. However, all the existing techniques reveal several weaknesses, such as limited accuracy on middle and long-term forecast; poor repeatability; poor adaptability, etc. In turn, no universal methods are known. Besides, complementary instruments must be integrated according to the specific goal and data availability. These considerations highlight the need to introduce structured methods and tools capable of supporting strategic decisions in industrial R&D activities, by managing the multi-disciplinary complexity of current systems and by anticipating the future characteristics of products and processes.
The final result of the project has been the development of an innovative forecasting methodology, backed by an IT tool, supporting decision making in manufacturing industries. The methodology has been evaluated in several industrial test cases, not only within the household appliance sector, which have proved its effectiveness. In addition, the FORMAT methodology has been extensively described in the FORMAT handbook ( suitable also for self-training thanks to the examples and case studies freely accessible on the project web site:

The FORMAT methodology is based on an integration of existing qualitative and quantitative forecasting approaches. To ensure a maximum efficiency and usability in an industrial context, the methodology was conceived as a Stage-Gate Process that guides the management of the forecasting project and guards the quality of the achieved outputs. Stage-Gate processes are well known in industrial environments and allow for a careful monitoring of the invested resources in each stage. By structuring the forecasting methodology in a similar approach, it looked more familiar to the industry users, thus easing the adoption of the process in the company.
The methodology was built in such a way that it allows using different suitable methods, models and tools in each stage, as long as the required gate outputs can be achieved. This way, the existing competences in the company can be exploited rather than investing a lot of effort in getting familiarized with new, complicated modelling techniques.

The Stages of the methodology deal with the following objectives:
• FORmulate: definition of the objectives of the forecast, its application and the resources devoted to the development of the project.
• Model: collection and organization of the available knowledge about the technical system to be forecasted.
• Act: generation of new knowledge by following qualitative and quantitative approaches. The harmonized results of the different approaches shed light on the future by considering the problems preventing the evolution and the expected solutions that can emerge by following already emerged and new trends of evolution.
• Transfer: translation of the results of the forecast into a form that is more manageable by users and also better understandable by decision makers.
The related gates aim at checking if the objectives of each stage have been met or not.