Few of my students ever have, or ever will, walk a manufacturing line. Without that experience, it's hard to understand how much innovation goes into building even simple products that lies beyond the surface "design."
The bulk of innovation needed to make a beautiful product goes into figuring out how to make it over and over again without sacrificing quality. It's behind-the-scenes, decidedly unglamorous, usually made out of metal, and will last for decades.
This was the innovation of our country's past, and may be our future again, if we're lucky (Andy Grove talks about this in How America Can Create Jobs). All of this is a preamble to a wonderful short video for Randolph Engineering, maker of high-end sunglasses, that offers a brief glimpse into the art of manufacturing.
The Sound of Sight from Randolph Engineering on Vimeo.
Old school manufacturing is the issue. There is almost nowhere a UCD MBA can see old school manufacturing anymore. Why? It isn’t as economically viable in California. So lets mix and mingle and re-invent products for a new school of manufacturing.
I believe that the 20th century started with mechanical manufacturing (the assembly line etc..) and then transferred to chemical manufacturing (atomic era, plastics) and ended with information manufacturing (patents, tech/biotech/infotech).
Now, let’s talk new school manufacturing.
I believe, it will be two new manufacturing trends. First, I see instant manufacturing (instant prototype, then send data with our new information technology to overseas factory for mass production). Second, I see reuse as a theme. This reuse is the creation of products from old products. This is not just recycling the known large waste streams (aluminum, glass, concrete). What reuse needs to become is finding ways to take different small waste streams and turn them into innovative new usable products. That will come as we get the large waste streams monetized and we turn to look for other sources of raw materials for new products.
That is my new school of manufacturing.
Great comment, Evan. You’re right there are few holdouts lefts where you’ll find old school manufacturing in California, but it’s still there in some places. And even when it’s not, it’s still driving companies like Apple and IDEO (where eventually someone has to make something they’ve designed). To me it’s a bit like knowing where your food comes from.
That said, I appreciate your sense of time. That was a few waves ago. The next wave was electronics (chips and circuit boards), which are still made on mfg lines, just very clean ones. And then we get to bits and bytes, which get written, not made. Whether these produce jobs in the long run is still anyone’s guess.
Your two manufacturing trends are important and we should find ways to engage with them while you’re here. If you want some independent study credit, let’s design a course around these trends.