The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization, and the End of Mass Production

Marsh, a journalist at the Financial Times, knows a great deal about the evolution of manufacturing. He foresees a fifth industrial revolution, following the earlier ones, which were based, respectively, on steam power and textiles, railroads and steamships, electricity and chemicals, and computers. The main characteristics of the next revolution -- which Marsh believes has already begun and will unfold over the next three decades or so -- will be a greater dispersion of manufacturing around the world, with numerous cross-border connections, smaller-scale production lines, more customization of products to suit the tastes of particular consumers, more niche firms, and a greater emphasis on providing consulting and follow-on services to customers along with products. Marsh illustrates his more general points with interesting details about particular firms: a leading German pencil firm, for instance, gets its graphite from Sri Lanka, its high-quality wood from Oregon, and its special clay from Germany, and it produces pencils in 14 plants around the world, including in Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia.

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