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The Future Of Manufacturing, Part II

Dramatic breakthroughs in digital technology

Customized Products And Services–From Customer Preference To Business Necessity

Dramatic breakthroughs in digital technology have triggered growing consumer demand for rapid product and service delivery and customization. Why wait a month or more for delivery of a generic product when you can get a version customized to your exact needs and preferences within a day or two?

Expect this growing customer preference to become a demand by the early 2020s. In the early 19th century, most everything was customized. Those still able to afford tailored clothing 150 years later are happy to pay for that kind of personalized quality and fit. With rapid advances in AI-supported cheaper production, customization will soon again become the norm.On the immediate horizon–the perfecting and distribution of affordable scanners that will allow customers to upload their body measurements to clothing retail websites. Associated reductions in costs should also help reduce future economic inflation, though that remains to be seen.

Much more critical to our future well-being and quality of life is will be the customizing of medicines to individual DNA (e.g., antidepressants that are an exact complement to a person’s brain chemistry; cancer treatments that ‘fix’ a person’s genetic vulnerabilities)–and much more.

Manufacturing

Customized Manufacturing Is Decentralized

In Part I of this Insights article, I described how product customization is leading to decentralized manufacturing, leaving mass producers like China at a disadvantage for a growing range of products. Smaller manufacturing facilities will become the norm, especially for higher-end products with varied local customer preferences. Underscoring the broad implications of this change, Moody’s Analytics, in a recent Wall Street Journal analysis predicts, “The U.S. trade deficit with China will diminish and turn positive by 2042, in good measure because of this and related changes.”

The Coming, Ultimate Decentralization–3-D Manufacturing

It’s as difficult now to imagine every home having a 3-D printer as it was to imagine every home having a personal computer in the 1970s. Yet this is the direction we’re headed in, one distinctly parallel with the pre-industrial model of hand-made, artisanal products. –By mid-century, people will again take pride in ‘home made’ clothing, food, even electronics.

In my next Insights article, I’ll provide an overview of how a Fourth Industrial Revolution characterized by a fusion of physical, digital and biological domains will once again revolutionize our world and individual lives.

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