Peter Marsh is the former manufacturing editor of The Financial Times and is in a unique position to have written this overview of world manufacturing – how it has developed and where it is going.

The New Industrial Revolution is not a book about lean per se, but puts
lean, as a “general purpose technology” into context. Marsh places lean into stage four of five overlapping stages. Every reader of this journal will be familiar with many of the developments described in the book, particularly within their own industry. I have little doubt, however, that few will be familiar with the breathtaking range of case studies presented. These cases are weaved together to give a perspective on the current state of operations throughout the world. For example, in the UK, how manufacturing has evolved and is evolving from world beating innovation to mass production, onto mass customisation, into innovation-based niche and mass personalisation.

If you, like me, work in the lean area there is a danger that large volumes of literature based on Toyota creates the impression of one exemplar, whilst others tend to be ignored even though several are doing great things. Toyota certainly gets high praise in the book, including a concise history and lessons learned from recent experiences. This topic is discussed in the January issue of LMJ, and Marsh’s view is that some Toyota (and Apple and Rolls Royce) problems lie with their “closed system” supply chain as opposed to “open standard” thinking where design and delivery issues are likely to be surfaced earlier.

18th century political theorist and philosopher, Edmund Burke said
that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Here, Marsh does us great service in tracing how we (or at least I) have come to think, sometimes incorrectly it turns out, about concepts such as standardisation, interchangeable parts, suppliers, risk, innovation and cost.

It is the view of the manufacturing emerging world that is most enlightening. This is a world of co-competition, of clusters of expertise, of risk pooling, and of the increasingly blurred, changing and two-way strategies between the industrial and developing world. In the West, it is the developing prominence of the niche manufacturer and the ability to draw on and integrate often non core disciplines such as software, biotech, materials, green technologies, genetics, robotics and 3-D printing, and nanotechnology that will be decisive. (Recall Clayton Christensen’s “disruptive technology” where your future competitors are most likely to be found outside of your own industry).

It is the developing world of two stage manufacturing – the first being the semi-standardised production of materials and components, often outsourced, and the second where personalisation is added either in-house or at the customer’s site. The iPad is an example – drawing partly on competitor technologies and outsourced manufacturing. Design and innovation become the competitive edge.

Probably, like me, not all readers will agree with sections of the book. However, as a balanced overview, looking back and forward, I just do not know of a more concise a resource.