Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by visionary Chris Anderson is a book about the maker movement and compares it to previous industrial revolutions. It suggests the maker movement and the associated shift in manufacturing could offer a way for the USA and Europe to counteract the predominance of China and other low-wage countries in the production of physical products, especially in mass production.
Anderson explains how digital and open source manufacturing through 3D printing is following the same steps as the Web in the digital revolution. The internet changed, redistributed, and accelerated the diffusion and availability of information. It created and destroyed businesses and still provides opportunities for new business models. Anderson argues that computer/web based desktop production and design will change manufacturing from integrated mass production, which is based on capital, to a flexible process based on creativity and customization.
Anderson’s revolution isn’t just about 3D printers either (although they are the shock troops of this new movement). It’s about open-source value creation and innovation. The Web with its social media platforms allows an inventor to find investors by crowd sourcing and engineers on social media sites, and to exploit their invention or designs on global online manufacturing marketplaces.
Also, most people with new ideas for a product or design don’t have the facilities or equipment to create prototypes. Thus, a makerspace or hackerspace provides a workshop where anyone can convert an idea in a real product by using the equipment and the help of other members.
Therefore, it is not always about Do-It-Yourself instead it is more about collaboration along disciplines and different informations channels which a maker can use for value creation.
Digital manufacturing through 3D printing and other technologies will likely have a ground-breaking impact on the business environment. Especially, the huge incumbent firms in manufacturing will feel the effects of these disruptive technologies. Firms have to tweak their business model to a more open orientated approach.
The Open Innovation approach launched by Henry Chesbrough (2003) encourages companies to explore internal and external sources of innovation and integrate them with the abilities and resources of the company as well as use the new opportunities through several internal and external channels.
The open innovation paradigm assumes that organizations can and should use external and internal knowledge as well as technologies by developing their absorptive capacity for external knowledge capturing and exploitation. In times of short technology life cycles, increasing customer requirements and scarce resources with a high efficiency pressure, the boundaries between companies and their environment have to get more permeable.
In order to create more channels for innovation based on collaboration, an open innovation process enables more flexibilities and opportunities to succeed in the technology competition. This approach is superior to enhance a company’s product/technology in a customer centric way and to serve the long-tail of a market.
This New Industrial Revolution is a big opportunity for some firms, and the beginning of the end for others.
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