In the United States and elsewhere, D’Aveni predicts, manufacturing will accelerate over the next decade and come to dominate the economy. His book notes two broad trends behind this takeoff. The first is the increasing substitution of 3-D printing (an example of what is known as “additive manufacturing”) for traditional assembly lines. This technology greatly reduces manufacturers’ economies of scale but makes production faster and allows firms to cater to ever-changing consumer tastes and business requirements. The second trend is the growth of individual manufacturing firms, which he argues will come to span many industrial sectors. In part, that’s also the result of additive manufacturing, which will allow companies to make products physically near their customers while controlling the process from distant headquarters. In most countries, these giant companies will employ fewer people than their predecessors, as machines will replace assembly-line workers. They may create some extra jobs in the United States, but these will require much higher skill levels than does the typical manufacturing job today. The new behemoths will pose serious challenges to competition regulators and consumer watchdogs, which may need to act to block monopolies and protect customers’ privacy.
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