I wrote this for an assignment in a class and I liked it so I am posting it here.
I chose manufacturing because it is an industry that I was, and still am in a very peripheral basis, involved in.
is an industry based on consistency. Consistency is a synonym for
stagnation. When something stays the same too long, it stagnates and
becomes rotten. The most useful skill in manufacturing is knowing when
to change and adopt new technology.
The last question, "which
businesses did you focus on in your industry choice that have used the
collection of information in a strategic manner--how did it contribute
to their success?" is a little more complicated and requires an
understanding of the path the development and implementation of
manufacturing technology typically takes.
In the 1950s the Air
Force funded the development of a new technology called Numerical
Control that they used to create consistent profiles for the wing struts
of super-sonic aircraft. This technology advanced into what is now
called Computer Numerical Control. The mainstream manufacturing
industry was slow to adopt CNC machines. When I started in
manufacturing in the mid 1970s we used what was called "Hard Tooling",
giant machines that were specially built to manufacture a particular
type of component or perform a specific operation.
In the mid
1980s, between 25 and 30 years after NC technology was developed, the
expense of the machines, the expansion of their capabilities and the
ease of changing machine set-ups and programming made it possible for
main stream manufacturers to invest in CNC technology and remain
While the adoption of new technology will reduce
operational costs the expense of purchasing the technology and the
expense of implementing the technology must be less than the reduction
of costs. Typically the reduction in costs must pay for the
implementation within a maximum of 5 years and preferably sooner.
as a favor, I worked out a very conservative, one page, return on investment for
the implementation of an EOS direct manufacturing system to be used in
the manufacturing of firearms components. I was able to prove that IF
the company was willing to produce titanium components for popular
firearms and they maintained labor and infrastructure costs within a
specific, typical range for the region they were in, that they could
return their investment within 2 years and probably less.
suggested that they indemnify themselves using typical industry methods
since direct manufacturing of firearms components for the retail market
would probably be subject to liability challenges, some real and more
that were politically based frivolous lawsuits.
very important since the firearms industry is a highly profitable
section of the manufacturing industry and the more profitable a business
is the more easily it can absorb the hidden costs of the implementation
of new technologies.
However, since the firearms industry is also
very political the implementation of new technology can be retarded
based on potential political liabilities. In other words, because some
people hate guns they will grab at any straw to destroy the industry.
is extremely dangerous to manufacturing in general and the United
States in specific. Weapons have driven development of manufacturing
technology for centuries. Usually high end retail consumers or special
government orders pay for the implementation of new technology in very
limited lots. CNC technology and super-sonic aircraft or corporate and
private jets for example. Once these high end retail and special
purpose government contracts have established the viability of the
technology, the technology is implemented on a trend which usually
follows the industry profitability and ROI. Business which can expect
the lowest return on investment, usually the least profitable, being the
last to implement new technology.
The added expense of
politically based liability reduces the ROI of the implementation of new
manufacturing technologies in weapons production, limiting that
technology to major weapons manufacturers like Raytheon or General
Electric and slowing the implementation of new technologies in
Fused Deposition Modeling, FDM, was
developed in the 1990s, and now, 20 years later politicians in the
United States are trying to legislate the implementation of the
technology, especially as it pertains to weapons manufacturing.
creates the potential for other nations which are not concerned with
the issues surrounding political liabilities, and so do not require
capital investment to deal with political liabilities, advancing into
new manufacturing technologies faster than the United States and other
Fortunately, India and China, the two
nations poised to take advantage of this weakness, do not have high end
retail consumers in weapons that can drive investment in the development
of these technologies. It remains to be seen if these nations will
take advantage of the political issues to develop government investment
in direct manufacturing technologies that would replace the high end
Prior to reductions in funding by the Obama
administration, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
developed plans to stimulate investment in direct manufacturing
technology. My understanding is that this directive is under funded and
with the current political climate concerning direct manufacturing of
weapons it is probably unlikely to be funded. DARPA, the organization
that developed CNC technology and the Internet, is politically out of
The next ten years will be interesting years in
manufacturing. There is some hope that the medical industry will take
the place of the weapons industry in driving investment in manufacturing
technology. Currently military spending runs around 5% of GDP,
consumer firearms manufacturing runs about 1% of the GDP, about 25% or
1.5% total (estimated) of that being devoted to manufacturing. Health
Care spending runs around 16% total, with a relatively small percentage
(maybe 2-5% or about half of weapons) of that devoted to manufacturing.
all the collection of historical information on the Internet related to
the implementation of manufacturing technologies has made understanding
the implementation of new manufacturing technologies and the typical
historical path this implementation takes much easier than at any other
time in the history of the world. Yet, people ignore or inhibit this
path. Very interesting.
In my opinion the current controversy
over the implementation of new weapons manufacturing technology
specifically, and new manufacturing technology in general, proves two
very old axioms, that "History repeats" and "People are their own worst
enemies" are both true and are probably not going to change soon.