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Book: Faster, Better, Cheaper in the history of manufacturing

  • In early history, specialization arose out of the increasing complexity of society

  • Attempts to shape the energy and force of the natural world can be seen from early history

  • Early attempts were made at standardization and compatibility

    • Ex: Indus valley bricks were of consistent ratio across a large region
  • Middle age guilds had become quasi-monopolies using laws to increase their sales

    • Guilds put down journeymen and were trying to control market supply and demand (i.e. ancient Industry associations/Unions1)
  • Middle age Ventian ship building used such manufacturing tricks as keeping all manufacturing requirements nearby (i.e. ancient Gigafactory?)1

  • Crowley Ironworks operated a business from 400 KM away as he wanted to be closer to the customer2.

  • A lot of examples where people travelled to other countries to learn about their processes.

    • Example: John Lombe travelled to Italy to learn their processes (Silk machines)
    • Similar to Jeremy Howard learning Mandarin?
  • Trade secrets were powerful and closely guarded

    • Export of tech used to be punishable by death (In early Italy, England)
    • There used to be laws to ban emigration of skilled experts
    • Slater the Traitor (Who left from England to USA) is known as the father of the American industrial revolution.
  • James Watt, an instrument maker, had a chance to fix a steam engine, worked on it tirelessly, and came up with 4X efficiency.

  • Railroads are efficient and have been used in some form since antiquity.

    • Faster and cheaper than canals
  • Demand for coal created a feedback loop creating a host of cross-serving, interconnected technologies.

  • Labour relations have historically been an inescapable part of manufacturing business

    • Interchangeable parts were opposed by skilled workers (In Europe)
    • America embraced it thus leading to it being called the american way of manufacturing.
    • Regulation catches up with improving worker’s conditions
  • Trial and error drove the rise of the early chemical industry.

    • Previously used to consist of animal and plant products which were time consuming and of inconsistent quality
    • Scientific processes were used in manufacturing to improve existing processes
    • Science was first applied to manufacturing management to increase efficiency
  • Thought: A lot of opportunities in the history of manufacturing comes from meeting the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

  • Different kinds of assembly lines go far into the past including the earlier mentioned Venetian ship building.

  • Mass production requires mass selling

    • This required extensive marketing and country wide distribution channels leading to concentration.
  • Bartha Benz drove herself and her 2 children 200 kms without her husband’s permission thus popularizing the use of cars.

  • One reason Ford lost out to GM was that GM could iterate faster.

    • They invested in more general purpose machines that could be re-used across cars though they were less efficient individually.
  • World war 2 saw introduction of worker training to get skilled workers, an early example of scaled education.

  • Some of the skills learnt in US wartime production went to Japan as they had no demand in US thus kickstarting Japan’s industrial rise.

  1. Might be flintstonizing ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. Early example of a customer-focused company. ↩︎