This is a cross-posting from the Business blog (written by Penny Brooks)
"The 20th Century was about dozens of markets of millions of consumers. The 21st Century is about millions of markets of dozens of consumers."
So said Joe Kraus, founder of a search engine called Excite in the middle of the 1990s. Never heard of it? That's not surprising; in 1999 it was a $6.7bn enterprise with hundreds of employees, but a year later the dot-com bubble burst and it disappeared from the market place. But this quote is one of in an article about Peter Day's Radio 4 Archive programme to be broadcast tonight, and already recommended by Michael Owen in his blog below; forgive me for this repetition, but this is such a brilliant article that it really merits a second look, and hopefully between us we will convince you of that!
There is so much useful material in the article, far too much and too wide-ranging to summarise all of it here. But just to highlight a few more of the golden nuggets I found there, here are a few teasers:
On Henry Ford's invention of the mass-production assembly line: "He took the concept of interchangeable parts from the US weapons industry. He took the moving line from the Chicago slaughterhouses." ....but after a while "Ford workers disliked the new assembly line methods so much that by late 1913, labour turnover was very high. In order to expand the workforce by 100 men, the company had to hire 953."
(For the extraordinary way in which the business initiated HR policies to overcome this, you will have to read the article yourself!)
On the changing world order: "...the grip of China on the global economy - a huge rise in the price of vital raw materials such as iron and food, and at the same time, a great fall in the price of manufactured goods the world was rushing to buy from China."
On the birth of marketing - "Mass production made things less scarce and eventually it was not enough to just produce goods with a famous name on"
On his proposition of the new Heartbeat Economy: "To compete on something other than price, companies based in the West would have to escape from their preoccupation with mass markets and fulfil the precisely-defined individual requirements of their individual customers with breathtaking speed and efficiency."
On the changing business hierarchy: "The mass production company gave new powers to the role of managers and foremen. But it debased the craft skills and turned human beings with very personal ideas and emotions into mere machine feeders."
On 3-D printing: "At Loughborough University, I saw how they are learning to print houses in one go, using computer-aided design tools to direct a cement nozzle supported by a huge rig."
"It is conceivable that a company may become merely a bright young designer or entrepreneur with a $1,000-laptop computer whose designs are produced at a 3D printing bureau on your local High Street."
If you prefer to listen to the programme, rather than read the article, it will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 8pm tonight, or you should be able to find it on i-player here The World Turned Upside Down.It would make a brilliant half-term homework.