The World Turned Upside Down (Part 1)
After 25 years of business reporting, Peter Day argues that during that time, the world of manufacture and trade has been turned upside down. We have gone from mass production for mass markets, as started by the Ford assembly line 100 years ago, to a world of customised trading for individuals. This has largely been caused by the internet, which is revolutionising the world of manufacture and commerce in a way that is as profound as that caused by the advent of printing 500 years ago.
As the Silicon Valley executive Joe Kraus once told Global Business, instead of "Dozens of markets of millions", we now have "Millions of markets of dozens". Just think of ebay. Companies have started to listen to mass-customisation guru Joe Pine, who spoke on the programme a few years ago and said that "Consumers don't want choice, they just want exactly what they want".
The internet makes individualised trading possible, and technology is increasingly making individualised manufacturing possible, too. Not just by companies, but ultimately by consumers themselves. In a few years' time, we may be able to buy 'smart sand', that can be digitally programmed to shape itself into one tool, and when you're done with it, you dissolve it before re-assembling the 'sand' into another tool, as per your needs.