3 responses to “What the World Needs Now”

  1. Cherish

    That’s been my personal feeling: ideas are not just airy-fairy things that come out of nowhere. Innovation comes from thinking about different ways to use something or make something or fix something. If you don’t work with it, it’ll be hard enough to grasp the fundamentals of how it operates let alone trying to come up with a great new idea.

  2. Charles J Gervasi

    If it turns out that having large-scale production geographically close to R&D is important, the next question is how to make this happen. Should companies see the benefits and take action or should governments discourage trade?

    I am skeptical of the idea the geographical location is that important. It’s very easy ship things long distances, and it’s even easier to ship data.

    When we invent a machine that does a manufacturing task, it’s not all the different from finding a human being in another location who wants to do that task for money.

    Even for those who want all manufacturing to be local, I’m not sure how to get there from here. The very concept of a nation state as we know it may be going obsolete (over the course of a century or more) because of communication/transportation technology. The only thing that might stop it is and end to cheap energy, but I think we’ll find ways to keep cheap energy coming.

  3. Karthik

    Charles,

    The problem with your argument is that people aren’t machines. By outsourcing core competencies, the engineers overseeing the foreign plant can easily take the lessons learned on someone else’s dime and use them to start competing companies. If you take your CAD file and program the toolpaths, a CNC mill doesn’t have the ability to “learn” from the design and innovate on its own.

    Seeing data that’s been processed and formatted by someone else doesn’t replace seeing a process first hand. And more importantly, being able to see the process first hand is a lot faster than waiting for parts to get shipped (even with next day air), or flying 18 hours to see the process first hand. You might save money in the short run via cheap labor, but if you’re working in an industry where there is room for innovation and invention, you’re shooting yourself in the long run. There’s also an effective “activation energy.” When the plant is a 2 day trip (including jet lag, time zones, etc) away, you’re less likely to *want* to go there and innovate than when it’s on the way to your car. And even if you want to go, you’ve got to convince the manager that the trip is worth the expense…and you’re not going to get to go again unless you make some progress as a result of your first trip.

    Making t-shirts overseas makes sense, because the design is not outsourced and there’s nothing really revolutionary in the manufacturing. Setting up factories in China to make aircraft? All you need now are Chinese aerospace engineers who learn from their experiences and you’ve made yourself a competitor.