The outsourcing movement, and more recent attention to product design, have eclipsed a quiet transformation of the factory from a vast machine into a more knowledge-intensive, even creative, space. In surprising ways, the factory is now following a path blazed by the design studio and modern office: it’s becoming more knowledge-intensive and flexible, even as it grows more tightly connected to markets and suppliers.
Some other meat-quotes:
- "Georgia Tech dean William Rouse argues that industrial engineers will design supply chains and entire enterprises, not just factories. "
- "Rapid prototyping is now morphing into rapid manufacturing.... Experts predict that machines that fabricate electronics and displays along mechanical structures will be available by decade’s end."
- "Rapid manufacturing will let companies produce new goods more rapidly, and ethnography will bring them fresher and more detailed knowledge of what consumers want; but translating that knowledge into products is still a challenge.... Problem-solving tools such as TRIZ offer ways to balance conflicting needs, by analyzing problems in ways that reveal hidden continuities between them."
- "[D]esigners and scientists across a range of fields are discovering that biomimicry—reverse-engineering natural materials and processes—has a lot to offer. Nature’s designs constantly balance competing demands."
- "The combined effects of cascades of information and pressure for constant innovation will turn the factory floor from a space populated only by machine-tenders, into a space in which production and innovation happen simultaneously. The factory will follow a transformation similar to the recording studio.... As Brian Eno put it, the studio became an instrument, a space for creation and experimentation as well as production."
- "But where will these workers come from? The unexpected but most likely answer is [massively multiplayer] online games.... a generation of kids is becoming intimately familiar with design and manufacturing-skills that can move straight from the living room to the factory floor."
- "Countries that compete on the basis of labor costs and nonexistent regulations may find that the game has changed. In a world in which factories print or grow their products and pollute far less, and need workers who are imaginative enough to redesign products on the fly, cheap wages and lax environmental regulations won’t be attractive. They won’t even be incentives. Countries with more expensive but better-educated workforces, with well-developed consumer and gaming cultures, will be much more attractive."
Sounds like someone's talking about Korea....