The New Industrial Revolution

The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production, by Peter Marsh, Yale University Press, €25.00.

Over the ten years or so it has taken Peter Marsh to write this book, as Financial Times correspondent for manufacturing he was able to conduct hundreds of interviews. In the 2012 national elections in both the US and France, the issue of how to revitalize domestic manufacturing has become more acute following the 2008-09 global financial crisis. Not many people were concerned about seeing developing countries turn themselves (or be turned) into global workshops, lowering costs for the ‘smart’ Western business execs. But things can change. Now they have to change, say many. Marsh does not offer a solution. In his fascinating book, he provides dozens of concrete examples of what does – or doesn’t – work. He takes us over the last 250 years of global manufacturing. From the Hayek restructuring and rescue of Swiss watch manufacturing back in the mid 1980s, to the Stryker success story with orthopedic implants made in Warsaw, or to the 1,500 thriving technology manufacturing businesses around Cambridge, UK, with staff numbers below 50. From customized goods aimed at specific individuals or industry users, to mass-market products. Marsh explains that his initial intention was to understand clearly how global manufacturing operates. Do enough companies ask themselves that question? The obsession with financial results has been partly responsible for the industrial losses suffered in the West. Marsh’s book takes us back to basics, and looks at the challenges raised by re-industrialization. It’s a great read for teenagers who don’t know what to do with their lives, but it is also a must-read for adults. Showing more interest towards genius in manufacturing could be part of the solution.