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The Next Era of Manufacturing

How technology is paving the way to a new industrial revolution
  • Karl M. Kapp
March/April 2013

APICS magazine

The New Industrial 
Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production
By Peter Marsh

Published in 2012
Yale University Press 
320 pages

The prizes for developing new ideas, collaborating with partners, and applying the results in new products soon will be greater than ever before. This is the new industrial revolution, as described by Financial Times reporter-turned-author Peter Marsh in The New Industrial Revolution. Marsh paints an exciting and bright future for the field of manufacturing. 

Instead of a step-by-step guide to the future, the book describes how manufacturing has grown and matured as an industry, as well as how an increasingly complex set of circumstances simultaneously drives consumer demand and manufacturing acumen. Marsh weaves together manufacturing trends, tendencies, and recent improvements in technology, forming a picture of a world where manufacturing works flawlessly to provide the right product at the right time to the right consumer. For example, medical device manufacturers are developing products that integrate software, biotechnology, and electrical engineering to devise new diagnostic tools for doctors evaluating illnesses. 

Upcoming trends include mass customization, manufacturing clusters, production processes supported by new technologies, niche production runs, and a focus on the environment. Marsh describes how these disparate elements are shaping manufacturing and interacting with one another to shape the future. In one example, Marsh examines the history of the town of Warsaw, Indiana, which has become a manufacturing cluster with more than 100 orthopedics enterprises accounting for about 6,000 jobs. He also underscores the links between old and new industries by exploring the position of one nanotech company, founded in California in 1998, whose chair is a prominent US financier and steel investor. 

In the book’s conclusion, Marsh explains how manufacturing is part art and part science. He indicates it is time to enter a new era, one of production patterns morphing into niche markets, crowdsourced production, and unprecedented cooperation up and down the supply chain. Especially for those newer to the field, The New Industrial Revolution offers considerable insights into the rapidly changing and increasingly profitable world of manufacturing. 

APICS magazine

Makers: The New 
Industrial Revolution
By Chris Anderson
Published in 2012
Crown Business 
272 pages

 

Imagine an industrial revolution starting not in a distant factory or Fortune 500 boardroom but in your home office—one fueled by open-source software and your own imagination. Perhaps your home office will become more of a home manufacturing room, each with several 3D printers—some for plastic, some for metal, and all connected to the internet, able to download and print any household product or replacement part you might need. 

This may seem far-fetched, but the technology is already here, as Chris Anderson describes in Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. In some industries, manufacturing in this style already occurs. There are 3D printers that can manipulate concrete to make multistory structures. Currently, it means printers are the size of buildings, but someday the technology can be built into the cement truck itself. 

However, to truly succeed, a manufacturing revolution needs financing. Designing, creating, and commissioning products is both time-consuming and expensive. Anderson highlights the online companies that have formed to solve this problem and help people start their own businesses. One notable example is Kickstarter, a company that facilitates raising money online to support new business ventures. 

Kickstarter and its ilk provide the solution for three prominent problems a budding manufacturing entrepreneur might encounter. First, capital is provided up front through hundreds or thousands of presales. This enables the entrepreneur to not have to venture on speculation. Second, Kickstarter turns customers into community. Loyalty to the product idea exists even before the item is released. Finally, the website offers a test market and market research. If a product idea is popular, it will gain enough money to reach its start-up goal. If it is unpopular, it will not. Makers provides a basis for a radical look at the future of manufacturing—one where everyone has the ability to design or download their own products. 

APICS magazine

The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence
By Tom Peters

Published in 2012
HarperBusiness
576 pages

Tom Peters is a perennial management guru, and he continues to push the envelope of developing business behavior and acumen. In The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence, he has created a thought-provoking book that may reshape the way you think about business, your own career, and the state of manufacturing in this country. 

 

Peters’s style is to write short, quick chapters, often in the form of lists, and this book is no exception. Here, he presents 163 different ways organizations and individuals can pursue excellence. The book begins with lists based on the concept of little—the idea that small things matter in a big way. Peters illustrates this with short, pithy sayings and makes use of stories and anecdotes to expand upon the idea, such as an incident that occurred at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Hand-sanitizer dispensers were added in one of its dorms, and despite no signs asking students to use them, the number of sick days and missed classes fell 20 percent per student. 

Later chapters cover subjects such as excellence, crisis, opportunity, attitude, learning, passion, and leadership. Finally, Peters concludes with a chapter on the bigger things, in which he urges readers to consider their legacies. Your legacy is not something that occurs after death, but rather, something that you impart each day. Peters instructs readers to think about their latest experiences, such as a work day or project, and consider what is the legacy of just that one event. 

It is not always easy to live up to all of his ideals, but you can find concepts that are achievable. And Peters’s advice will almost certainly make you a better professional. 

Karl M. Kapp, EdD, CFPIM, CIRM, a professor at Bloomsburg University, is author of Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning and coauthor of Integrated Learning for ERP Success. He may be contacted at kkapp@bloomu.edu.

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