Technology is remaking society in ways we never thought it could. At the turn of the 20th Century, technology changed the way we work and industrialists created large systems of manufacturing. Huge cities sprung up around the large systems. Commoditized goods were produced.
Because of the advances in technology, the future is going to be about producing for a person. Micromanufacturing. Customized goods the way you want it when you need it.
I have been thinking about this ever since I visited U+I Labs here in Chicago. When I travel across the country, I often do it by car. My diesel has seen a lot of the US. One of the things I always wonder is “what the hell do they do in those small towns to exist”? Most of the time, it revolves around some sort of rural agriculture. Almost all of the time, small towns get a lot of government transfer payments. They have been dying for years as their citizens move to cities, but they don’t die.
Cheap energy, Smartphones, Bitcoin/Blockchain and micromanufacturing can be game changers for rural America.
Here is an article about micromanufacturing. I don’t hear one candidate for President talking about it. Instead, we hear about more transfer payments from government, or protectionism. Neither will work for long term economic growth.
Companies like Digi-Key enable the micromanufacturing revolution. Micromanufacturing surfs a much larger trend, “unbundling”. When I was in sales, I used to call on a similar company, Lawson Products. These nimble companies can fill in market niches that big companies can’t. At the same time, because of technology, those niches can get very large threatening the big companies position in the market.
What’s old is new again. Huge vertical silos are steadily being unbundled in industry after industry. The biggest impediment often isn’t commercial, but government regulation. Rules on who can do what where, workman’s comp, unions, pay, and other things that were a part of the 1800s or early 1900s are being regulated. Many have no place being regulated today.
Anything having to do with money like Banking, Insurance, Finance, and Payments, is already being affected and is rubbing up against government overlords. But, innovation is happening and demand is there. Companies are being built, or are being built that can solve some pernicious problems.
There is demand to change. Product market fit can be easier to find because the need is so apparent. But, will we allow the change to happen? Change means rethinking a lot about how different services get delivered. Education, Agriculture, Finance, and Medicine all will go through upheaval and all at the same time. That upheaval threatens huge companies. It threatens government regulatory power. Big companies, and big government don’t resign their power so easily.