The Switch to Local Manufacturing

Good summary by John Robb:

(of course, I fundamentally disagree with the first premise, that people will by designs, rather, I believe they will share the designs and pay only for the adaptation and for the finished product, as is now the case with open source software and hardware)

John Robb:

“It is likely that by 2025, the majority of the “consumer” goods you purchase/acquire, will be manufactured locally. However, this doesn’t likely mean what you think it means.

The process will look like this:

1. You will purchase/trade for/build a design for the product you desire through online trading/sharing systems. That design will be in a standard file format and the volume of available designs for sale, trade, or shared openly will be counted in the billions.

2. You or someone you trust/hire will modify the design of the product to ensure it meets your specific needs (or customize it so it is uniquely yours). Many products will be smart (in that they include hardware/software that makes them responsive), and programmed to your profile.

3. The refined product design will be downloaded to a small local manufacturing company, co-operative, or equipped home for production. Basic feedstock materials will be used in its construction (from metal to plastic powders derived from generic sources, recycling, etc.). Delivery is local and nearly costless.

The switch to local manufacturing is being abetted by the following factors:

1. Ever more expensive energy and raw materials as far as the eye can see, although every time the economy slows, those costs will drop sharply. This means that the costs of global transport and mass production (overproduction, failed products, etc.) will become too costly to maintain for all but the most valuable and difficult to manufacture products.

2. The collapse of generic demand. The debt-deflation fueled process of economic collapse has just begun in the developed world. It will continue for decades as incomes globally normalize (become equivalent in all “connected countries”). This means that the critical mass in demand necessary to support a global production supply chain won’t exist in most localities. Centrally shipped e-commerce will fill some of the gap, but it will be expensive. As a result, the diversity of consumer products we currently enjoy will fall initially, but will soon be completely eclipsed by a torrential supply of virtual designs for every product conceivable.

3. Local fabrication will get cheap and easy. The cost of machines that can print, lathe, etch, cut materials to produce three dimensional products will drop to affordable levels (including consumer level versions). This sector is about to pass out of its “home brew computer club phase” and rocket to global acceptance.”

1 Comment The Switch to Local Manufacturing

  1. AvatarSepp

    There is an intermediate step we should consider to take on the way to local manufacturing as described here by John Robb.

    Let’s start with local assembly (and innovative combination) of available technical modules. There are many manufacturers today that are producing parts for the auto, aircraft, tools and computer industries. Those parts are not normally available on the open market, at least not in single-piece numbers.

    What about scouting out (and promoting) availability to the public of single modules of technological products that can be combined locally to make useful products.

    A whole industry of manufacturing and distribution for the new market of local assembly could come into existence. Creatively combining things that already exist in module form (and open-sourcing the know-how of locating and combining) could be the logical step before full-fledged local production of most of the things we need and many of the things we’d like to have.

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