Blurring lines between manufacturing, capability, and imagination.


Manufacturing is  not just an amalgam of industries, far more importantly, it is a capability, a way to capture imagination in a physical form.

In discussions about manufacturing, its slow demise in Australia, the level and type of support it should receive, its importance to long term prosperity, and the links between manufacturing and innovation, we leave one really important factor aside, one I suspect it is just not generally recognised. We define “industry” with the assumptions and words that came with the explosion of manufacturing in the last 100 years, the “food” industry, the “Auto” industry, the “Airline” industry, and so on. We do not seem to recognise that the capabilities are “cross industry” that the definitions we use no longer hold, if they ever did , beyond adding a bit of convenience to the language.

The lines are blurring further, rapidly and irrevocably.

Is Apple an electronics designer and  manufacturer (Mac computers), a service provider (itunes) , or a product marketer (ipad)?   My answer: They are all, and none of the above. Rather, Apple is a marketer that delivers its value proposition via a range of operational and sales channels that have nothing to do with the generally accepted definitions of industries. Certainly Apple has been able to leverage their collective imagination better than any other enterprise I can think of.

The next step is a truly scary one for many, the advent of 3-D printing.

Within a very short time, 3-D printers will be as available and cheap as desktop computers, all you need is a digital design file and a printer.  We will be able to produce everything from simple  household items to highly specified parts for our cars, produced in our kitchen.

The marvelous wind powered devices of designer Theo Jansen have been printed in miniature,  and work just like the full sized ones, and dramatically make the point. If you can imagine it, you can now print it!

Manufacturing is about to go through a change as profound as that brought on by the steam engine.

20th century notions and boundaries to “manufacturing” are as outdated as  a bow and arrow in a gunfight, so we must change the language and intellectual boundaries of the conversation if we are ever to make any sense of the dynamics at play.


About strategyaudit

StrategyAudit is a boutique strategy and marketing consultancy concentrating on the challenges of the medium sized manufacturing businesses that make up the backbone of our economy. The particular focus is on their strategic and marketing development. as well as the business and operational efficiency improvements necessary for day to day commercial survival. We not only give advice, we go down "into the weeds" to ensure and enable implementation.
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2 Responses to Blurring lines between manufacturing, capability, and imagination.

  1. Allen Roberts says:

    Peter, Goran Roos writes a very good report, hopeflly somebody down there is listening.
    A decade ago I spent a bit of time seconded to a working group chaired by Robert Champion De Crepinay whilst contractng with a major food manufacturer down there, and it seems not a lot has changed in the decade.
    The recommendatios make sense, and will take considerable political will to bring them about, but there is a framework there for others to benefit from as well as SA.

  2. Peter Murchland says:

    There are several issues here. You might wish to read what Goran Roos, as Thinker in Residence in SA, wrote in his final report about manufacturing, innovation, etc. See He highlights how important “manufacturing” is to modern society.

    Secondly, we need to look at the timescale of the innovation and manufacturing cycle once 3D printing becomes affordable and widespread. It will radically change our thinking and our practice. If nothing else, it will radically reduce the gap between idea and market realisation, reducing the demands on securing capital. So, some of the thinking about the barrier that is represented by lack of access to capital will be overcome, as we find ways to convey the feasibility of realising our imaginings and share them with others who might invest in or collaborate with us in creating them.

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