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Makers: The New Industrial Revolution Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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"A thrilling manifesto, a call to arms to quit your day job, pick up your tools, and change the future of manufacturing and business forever.” –BoingBoing
"Chris Anderson has been called many things: a visionary, a pioneer of the Internet economy, a proselytizer of DIY 2.0. But it's probably more apt to think of him as a weather vane: He might not control the winds of change, but he's often the first to see which way they're blowing." -Foreign Policy
"Chris understands that the owners of the means of production get to decide what is produced. And now you're the owner. This book will change your life, whether you read it or not, so I suggest you get in early." –Seth Godin, bestselling author of Tribes and Purple Cow
“A visionary preview of the next technological revolution. If you want to know where the future is headed, start here.” –Tom Rath, author of StrengthsFinder 2.0
“Makers is must read for understanding the transformative changes that are shaping, and will shape, the future of inventing.” –Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality
"Inspiring and engaging. Anderson delivers a compelling blueprint of a future where America can lead in making things again." –Elon Musk, co-fouder of Tesla Motors and CEO of SpaceX
“In Makers, Chris Anderson gives us a fascinating glimpse of a hands-on future, a future where ‘if you can imagine it, you can build it.’” –Dan Heath, co-author of Switch and Made to Stick
“For those who have marveled at the way software has helped disrupt industry after industry - buckle up, that wave is coming soon to an industry near you. Chris Anderson has written a compelling and important book about how technology is about to completely shake up how America makes things. Required reading for entrepreneurs, policy makers, and leaders who want to survive and thrive in this brave new world.” –Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup
"The Maker movement powered by desktop manufacturing will revolutionize the global economy. Chris Anderson once again reinvents the future in "Makers": a big vision driven by down-to-earth and practical ideas. A must read for anyone who wants to see the leading edge of change." –Peter Schwartz, Co-founder of Global Business Network and author of The Art of the Long View
About the Author
CHRIS ANDERSON is the CEO and co-founder of 3D Robotics, a fast-growing manufacturer of aerial robots, and DIY Drones. He was the editor in chief of Wired until 2012, during which, he led the magazine to multiple National Magazine Award nominations, as well as winning the prestigious top prize for General Excellence in 2005, 2007, and 2009. In 2009, the magazine was named Magazine of the Decade by the editors of AdWeek. Anderson is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Long Tail and Free: The Future of a Radical Price. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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I think there are a few things worth adding. First while digital fabrication technology is amazing it is only as useful as the people using it. A cnc router won't make you a good cabinet maker any more that a word processor will make you a good writer or a digital synthesizer will make you a good musician. A synthesizer enables a good musician to become a whole orchestra almost instantly. But a bad musician still sounds like a bad musician and a bad writer is just as annoying as ever to read. What these technologies do is allow the talented craftsman, musician, writer to be more productive than ever, and also lower the barriers to entry for the people with talent who are not part of the established social hierarchy.
In my own shop I don't have my own cnc equipment. When I take on a project like a kitchen, I simply email lists of parts (doors, drawers, carvings) to fabricators not far from my shop and in some cases the parts come back to me the next morning. My suppliers don't stock inventory, they fabricate the parts digitally and so they can produce whatever I want in whatever sizes I want. This is the easy part of my job. The hard part getting the clients to decide on what they want, and figuring out how to fit everything they want into the space they have on their budget. To use a car analogy most clients want something like a "Hummer/Lamborghini/Porsche/Lexus/Rolls" for the price of a Focus. They often send me 3d cad drawings of their dream kitchen. It is nearly always like those famous drawings by Escher. At first glance they seem very geometrically precise, but they can't exist in 3 dimensional reality. Squaring this circle is always a challenge, and demands a combining the skills of an expert cabinet maker with those of a psychotherapist. The second hard part of my job is fitting cabinets which are always made to be regular shapes into old real houses which are never square or level. Accomplishing this task demands the skills of an expert finish carpenter, tricks that I learned from my grandfather.
In short to be a cabinet maker in the digital age you still need all the skills of a traditional cabinet maker. However what digital technology and advances in new technology in general mean is that small shops can now compete with large factories in a way they couldn't 30 years ago. I can now offer my clients anything that large factory kitchen manufacturers could in the past. For example, 30 years ago complex cabinet door styles could only be made custom at great expense using traditional cabinet shop tools or economically in large batches at big factories. Now I can order 1 door if I need it economically. And, I can beat mass production companies hands down in terms of service and speed.
In many cases I can also compete with mass producers on cost. This is because I have lower transaction costs. One of the things that frightens small scale producers is the fact that labour costs of small scale production can't compete with mass production particularly if the goods can be produced in places like China. People say "They make that thing in China for $5, how can I compete". However, if the small scale producer sells locally they don't have to compete with the $5 labour cost in China; they only have to compete with the $50 or $100 retail cost in their local market. The goods that are produced in China have a long list of transaction costs associated with them: transportation, wholesaling, retailing, packaging, inventory, obsolescence, corporate expenses and profit, mass market advertising and promotion. All these costs mean that the widget that is produced for $ 5 needs to sell for $ 50 or $ 100 to make a profit. This leaves lots of room for local artisans to make a living, as long as they keep their transaction costs down.
Anderson points out the digital crowd is rediscovering actual reality. I think he does not go far enough in this. People like actual reality. One of the things little noted in the frenzy of the digital revolution is the success of the Home Depot retail model. 30 years ago building materials was a virtual business. Materials were stored in warehouses to which customers both commercial and retail had no access. Most businesses would simply phone the supplier, say what they wanted and give an account number or use a visa and it would be delivered, much like ordering things online but over the phone. Even if you went to a lumber yard, you would usually go to a desk and order things and they would be brought out to you. Home Depot changed all this by putting everything on open shelves so people could go in a play with it. The builders supply became playground for handy people. At the height of the virtual revolution, Home Depot took over the market for home building supplies by `going actual'.
I find this in my own business. While the web is a good way to get my name out, showing people real physical samples is the best way to close a sale. After a visit I always make sure I leave a potential customer with a few samples to play with. This way my brand sits on the kitchen table while they are trying to come to a decision.
All this points to the possibility of a business model that Anderson hints at, but does not really explore; the return of the traditional neighborhood artisan. A few hundred years ago if you wanted a pair of shoes, or a coat or a piece of furniture you went to a shoemaker, or a tailor or a cabinet maker and told them what you wanted and they made it for you. There was personal contact between the producer and the consumer, you could touch and feel the materials and say what you liked. People could take pride in their work and see the smiles on the faces of happy customers.
This was a world wiped out by mass production. Huge production runs meant the artisan could not compete with mass produced goods. But mass production brought its own costs. The producer and the consumer became separated by a huge faceless corporate distribution system, which pretended to care, but most suspected really didn't. This was partially documented by Marx as worker alienation. The flipside, consumer alienation, is perhaps best documented by Monty Python. Mass production also brings with it a whole host of transaction costs, noted above, which make it not as cheap as it might at first appear.
New production technology offers the possibility of changing all this. When I go to a shoe store it is always a frustrating experience. I always want some combination of style and size that they never seem to have in the back. Imagine however if a shoe store had say 50 or 100 basic shoes that you could try on for size and fit, as well as some other samples that you could use to pick the styles. With the help of an expert shoemaker you could try on the fitting samples until you found something comfortable. Then you could use the style samples to mix and match all the colour and style details that fit your taste. This shoe store would not have a big warehouse of boxes in the back but some rolls of material as well as some cnc cutting and printing machines and specialized assembly tools. Depending on the complexity of the order you could go and have a coffee and then come back and pick up your order, or maybe come back the next day. This shoe store would give you exactly what you want as well as have some real cost benefits. There would be no packaging cost, low inventory costs, and much lower transportation costs. (Compressed rolls of material are much cheaper to transport and store than packaged finished good). Many of these cost reductions would also be environmental benefits, such as less packaging and transport. And worker and consumer alienation would be a thing of the past.
This is how I run my cabinet shop and I think it has great potential. Sign shops already work on this model. Perhaps the mall of the future could look like the high street of old, with shoemakers, tailors and furniture makers crafting what you want when you want them. The digital world provides the infrastructure and the tools, but the purchasing process would be actual and face to face. The best of both worlds maybe?
(I also wrote a doctoral dissertation at Oxford which was in large part about the relationship of the world of things to the world of symbols, so I have also been interested in these problems from a philosophical perspective. My examiners, postmodernists who don't believe in outdated concepts like `reality', didn't take kindly to it.)
I am a huge fan of Chris Anderson. Both "The long tail" and "Free" are great reads and
Truly thought provoking. Both, but particularly "Free" is a book we use regularly with clients. The question asked is "what happens if your service will become available for free (which it will)?
Talk about throwing a fox into a chicken den.
A few weeks ago we used "Digital disruption" as a way to explain to a client the speed of innovation. We are now talking overnight, Big Bang disruption, by Coder dojo trained entrepreneurs using free tools, utilising global platforms, using shared IP, open source and community principles as a key features to compete with the big boys (and winning). In "digital disruptions" there are a few references to the "making community" and how that will be the next wave of disruptions. "Making" as the new black.
And presto, a few weeks later there is Chris Anderson with "Makers, the new industrial revolution". Another cracking book about how the same principals that transformed the ICT world is going to transform the manufacturing world.
A book that should be read by any policy maker in the area of entrepreneurship, SME policy and economic development. Will be sending Richard Bruton a copy.
Digitised DIY, where the need for economy of scale no longer applies, bottom up, highly networked, open source, with access to all the production tools you need with a single click of a mouse. Where the long tail of things creates millions of opportunities for small local businesses. The one-size fits all approach of the large manufactures no longer need to apply. You can make small batches at compettive prices. Scale is no longer an issue.
Jump on the bandwagon
From an entrepreneurial perspective, the maker movement is where ICT was in 1985. You can already predict where this is going, apply the lessons and get on the bandwagon. But it also behest on the education system to jump on the same train and teach making. We need a 3D printer in every school.
Which brings us to printers. Remember the dot-matrix printer? That is where 3D printing is now. Now you have a small printer on your desk, printing HD colour pictures. That is where 3D printing is going. In materials, biology and DNA. For 99 Euro per printer.
Open source hardware, with no patent protection, shared by a community of passionate, people. For the large manufacturers it is going to be very hard to beat that. Open source innovation is cheaper, faster, better researched and already has a head start in market research, marketing and support. With social capital and your eco system the new marketing tools. With word of mouth automatically build in. With a lot of emphasis on branding and trademarking.
Loosing the talent war
And because it is driven by passion, it will attract the best talent from all over the world, working together. Try to beat that as a company. The long tail of talent and the need for a drastic relook on the way your organise your business. Which brings us to books such as "Loose" or "The connected company".
No barriers to entry
So as a company you are now loosing on economy of scale, IP, marketing, talent and passion. Maybe finance as the last barrier to entry? Alas that is why they invented crowd funding. Which even reinforces all the above. The market research, the selling, the word of mouth, the social media, the story telling, the community, the speed to market, the channel, the distribution and the beginning of what Brian Solis calls the dynamic customer journey and constant feedback loop (from "What is the future of business" #WTF).
Chris Anderson has been spot on with his earlier books and I think he is spot on with "Makers". From a policy perspective, from an educational perspective and from a personal perspective. This movement can transform economies, people and allow you to finally follow your passion.