Customer Review

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting on history, good collection of cases, too light on future of manufacturing and human, societal aspects, 15 Dec. 2012
This review is from: The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production (Hardcover)
Review by the Cote d’Azur Men’s Book Group

Today we live in an electronic age that is revolutionary and exciting, and the future for global manufacturing has both enormous opportunities from new technologies, and, for Western nations, huge challenges from existing and newly industrialising countries such as China and India.
Financial Times journalist Peter Marsh covers a lot of ground with this book, starting with a good historical overview of the evolution of developments that have had a critical impact on the economy. There have been three key overlapping eras since the Industrial Revolution. The 'transport revolution', ca.1840-1890, included steam-driven railway locomotives and the iron- or steel-hulled ship. The 'science revolution', ca. 1860 - 1930, gave us the steam turbine, electric motor, and internal combustion engine, while a range of new industries arose based on new chemicals and materials. Later, the huge reduction in production costs of silicon-based electronic circuitry sparked the 'computer revolution' from ca. 1950 until 2000, continuing to drive down product and manufacturing costs, stimulating massive innovation in products, processes and user markets.
In his final chapter we are given an interesting table tracing 'general purpose technologies', from the domestication of plants around 9000 BCE, to present day nanotechnology, with the technologies indicated as being product-related, process-related or organisational in nature.
Peter Marsh is at his best in describing the course of manufacturing and product innovation via short 'caselets', using very diverse examples of businesses from around the world that have adopted novel ways of doing things to create new user benefits, and is very fond of adding charts, numbers and dates to add detail to his examples. We learn about the invention of float glass technology, and its crucial role in the creation of LCD'S for modern flat screen devices; and the remarkable, massive product variety of Essilor, the world leader in spectacle lenses.

The body of the book is taken up with examples of what has been changing in recent decades, for example the linking of value chains to a 'value web' across companies and borders; environmental concerns demanding changes in materials and location; flexible manufacturing leading from mass production to the possibility of mass customisation. The rise of China is treated at length, as opportunity and threat.
'Crowd collusion' is the term Marsh uses to elucidate the success of companies situated in close geographical clusters, such as in Switzerland for watches, Sheffield for steel-related products, and medical products in Memphis.

Looking ahead, robotics and nanotechnology are opening up immense opportunities for lowering production costs, improving quality, and creating new products. One of the most promising areas suggested for manufacturing is in health care, with the possibility of combining genetic engineering techniques with computer science, medical imaging and electrical engineering for diagnosis and treatment of disease.

"For the most talented and technically qualified people,” the author writes, “the new industrial revolution will bring huge opportunities…….no less than those that changed the world in the eighteenth century”. Unfortunately little else is written about the human, labour, employment or social aspects of manufacturing.

The last chapter, entitled 'The New Industrial Revolution' is a little disappointing in that it is hardly more than a repetition of material in the earlier chapters, with few real pointers to what might lie ahead, other than a continuation of current trends.

The book is well written, but one is left with the feeling that it is a collation of many (admittedly interesting) historical stories, but didn't meet its title by expressing much about future specific advances. However it is very readable, containing nuggets of great interest to the general reader.
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Location: Nice, France

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