Book Review : Makers – The New Industrial Revolution
Title: Makers – The New Industrial Revolution
Author: Chris Anderson (2012)
Format and Publisher: Paperback – 257 pages. Published by Random House Business Books.
Review: © Wayne Mallinson (30 January 2016) at www.novationnow.co.za
Makers are going to change the shape of the Industrial World according author Chris Anderson. I believe he is right. The Makers Movement is already collapsing barriers to manufacturing and fostering innovation. As founder of a Maker business which in the five years to 2012 was on track to beat $5 million US Dollars in revenues from first year revenues of around $ 250,000, Anderson is well-qualified. The Maker business is expanding, as can be seen by the $ 115 billion of custom manufacturing deals brokered between years 2000 and 2012 on Industry manufacture-to-quotes matching website MFG.com.
Industrial Revolutions 1 & 2
Anderson details an innovation in the first Industrial Revolution where ‘Spinning Jenny’ machines multiplied spinning wheel output by twisting 16 threads simultaneously. A mob burnt 20 of these new machines. Resistance to change these days is still present, but usually more subtle!
With more time available because of machine help, people often turned to inventing things. The second industrial revolution lasted from about 1850, with the rise of the factory, to around the end of World War I. The technologies behind the first two Industrial Revolutions improved productivity, changed quality of life, lengthened life spans, and influenced where people lived. This was achieved by supplying the technology equivalents of muscle power.
The Knowledge Revolution the New ‘Maker’ Revolution
The revolution brought on by the Information Age spans from around 1950 (the computer) to the Internet and Web (1990). This revolution added ‘brain-power’ and raw speed for work on ever-more complex problems, and effectively ‘collapsed’ geographical space. Knowledge workers’ software programs increased manufacturing speed, reliability, control, and business communications. Anderson considers the Maker Revolution to be part of the third Industrial Revolution, the Knowledge Revolution of the Information Age. I would have preferred him to call it the fourth Industrial Revolution, thereby allowing the Information Age and its knowledge workers their own achievements.
Supporters and Drivers of the Maker Revolution
Supporting the Maker Revolution are 3D printers, 3D milling (CNC) machines, and Laser cutting machines. These machines use CAD and other design software as instructions for the manufacture of products. Small, Just-In-Time and modest batches (say ten thousand units) have become popular. Maker-supply-businesses either provide these batches for Makers or, Makers who have the tooling, create their own product batches. The revolution is driven by Makers and the open community’s which support their projects, and by Maker-related websites, publications, and crowd-funding.
The Maker movement differs from the Internet economy by transferring ‘bits to atoms’ instead of ‘bits to bits’. Makers really make things! Atoms are significant because today’s material economy still eclipses the digital economy. The things that are being made will soon include reconstructing DNA at a biological front, and countless other objects are made such as doll house furniture, circuit boards and sophisticated robotics. Funding, including pre-purchasing of to-be Maker products, is often sourced from the communities who help to design and review the products and so the Maker landscape also includes marketing and pre-sales elements.
Lastly, Chris Anderson speculates on how the New Revolution will shape the manufacturing industries around the world, noting that design, electronics, automation and logistics costs significantly dilute the effect of high wage costs, even in countries with strong currencies. He also gives insight into setting up your own 21st Century Maker workshop. That is, if you are not ordering your atoms (goods) from the Maker business down the road.