- Stratasys - A leader in this field. Look at the range of different applications for this emerging technology.
- Makerbot - Developing equipment and practical training to help those who wish to experiment and develop knowledge and understanding of 3D printing.
- America Makes - The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in the USA.
These three organisations are mentioned in the BBC Click programme and contribute to innovation and development in various ways:
The cult of the dabbawala
The Economist, 10 July 2008
Business-school gurus take lessons from an unexpected source
As the warrior king who defeated the Mughals and founded the Maratha empire of Western India in the 17th century, Shivaji Bhosle is remembered as a tactical genius as well as a benevolent ruler. The direct descendants of his Malva-caste soldiers are also developing a reputation for organisational excellence. Using an elaborate system of colour-coded boxes to convey over 170,000 meals to their destinations each day, the 5,000-strong dabbawala collective has built up an extraordinary reputation for the speed and accuracy of its deliveries. Word of their legendary efficiency and almost flawless logistics is now spreading through the rarefied world of management consulting. Impressed by the dabbawalas’ “six-sigma” certified error rate—reportedly on the order of one mistake per 6m deliveries—management gurus and bosses are queuing up to find out how they do it.
The system the dabbawalas have developed over the years revolves around strong teamwork and strict time-management. At 9am every morning, home-made meals are picked up in special boxes, which are loaded onto trolleys and pushed to a railway station. They then make their way by train to an unloading station. The boxes are rearranged so that those going to similar destinations, indicated by a system of coloured lettering, end up on the same trolley. The meals are then delivered—99.9999% of the time, to the right address.
Harvard Business School has produced a case study of the dabbawalas, urging its students to learn from the organisation, which relies entirely on human endeavour and employs no technology. For Paul Goodman, a professor of organisational psychology at Carnegie Mellon University who has made a documentary on the dabbawalas, this is one of the critical aspects of their appeal to Western management thinkers. “Most of our modern business education is about analytic models, technology and efficient business practices,” he says. The dabbawalas, by contrast, focus more on “human and social ingenuity”, he says.
Firms, both Indian and foreign, are similarly curious. Tata, Coca-Cola and Daimler have all invited dabbawalas to explain their model to managers. Last month it was the turn of delegates at an accountancy conference in Dubai. There are even plans within the organisation to create a consulting business. The dabbawalas, who all receive the same pay, are also seen as paragons of “bottom up” social entrepreneurship. C.K. Prahalad, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, says they show how a home-grown business can help lift workers at the “bottom of the pyramid” out of poverty. They also contradict the stereotype of developing-world labourers as low-wage economic victims.
In Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses”, one of the main characters, Gibreel Farishta, worked as a dabbawala before going on to become a film star. The deliverymen no longer need a career change to get noticed.
Forbes, an American business magazine, identifies a series of individuals in various areas of activity whom they see as sources of disruptive innovation.
This book by Tim Clark, inspired by Business Model Generation, provides an innovative perspective on career planning and management.
It follows broadly the same approach as Osterwalder and Pinguer.
This is the book by Atul Gawande that I mentioned during the time that we were together in Dublin.
From the blurb:
Today we find ourselves in possession of stupendous know-how, which we willingly place in the hands of the most highly skilled people. But avoidable failures are common, and the reason is simple: the volume and complexity of our knowledge has exceeded our ability to consistently deliver it - correctly, safely or efficiently.
In this groundbreaking book, Atul Gawande makes a compelling argument for the checklist, which he believes to be the most promising method available in surmounting failure. Whether you're following a recipe, investing millions of dollars in a company or building a skyscraper, the checklist is an essential tool in virtually every area of our lives, and Gawande explains how breaking down complex, high pressure tasks into small steps can radically improve everything from airline safety to heart surgery survival rates. Fascinating and enlightening, The Checklist Manifesto shows how the simplest of ideas could transform how we operate in almost any field.
David McWilliams has had a career as a banker, economist and journalist.
You may be interested in the blog that he contributes on a regular basis about various events that he observes in the national and international economies.
You can find out more about this device at this recent blog from the Smithsonian Institute.
Urbanisation and a growing middle class will spur developing-world demand for everything from washing machines to indoor toilets, driving global retail sales. Regionally, the steepest rise in demand (5.1%) will occur in Asia and Australasia, which already provide 40% of global retail business. In contrast, western Europe will only just struggle back into positive territory (0.4%) after three years of decline. Together with a modest expansion in North America (1.5%), this will pull global growth back to 3%.
Even in sluggish markets, though, retailers will find profitable niches, such as selling luxury products to the very rich. As populations age—one in seven Americans will be over 65 in 2014—the desire for certain items (skin-care products to hide wrinkles, for instance) is rising.
Wealth, undeniably, is moving east but China’s slower rate of growth is causing concern; so too is a campaign to discourage showy displays of affluence. Some firms will indeed suffer; many Chinese luxury malls will remain disconcertingly empty. But the outlook is brighter than these forecasts may suggest. In 2014 five Chinese cities will join the four that already boast 100,000 or more denizens with incomes over $25,000. The newly affluent will travel to ever more foreign places, where they can splurge on luxury goods that are taxed at much lower rates than in China.
To watch: Boots on the ground. Burberry, a clothing retailer, is convinced China is still the place to be, after watching sales rise by 20% in the year ending March 2013. The company’s popularity among the wired Chinese nouveaux riches owes something to its online savvy—it has more than half a million fans on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service—but probably more to its physical presence in 35 Chinese cities.
From The World In 2014 print edition
This article, by the Chief Executive of IBM, is one indication of the importance attached to this subject by many in senior positions in global organisations
This article by Tory Burch is from The Economist; it complements many of the points that can be discussed on this subject in the face to face class.
Nov 18th 2013
From The World In 2014 print edition
GDP growth: 1.1%
GDP per head: $45,550 (PPP: $44,400)
Budget balance (% GDP) -5.3
With the economy still unable to stand on its own, 2014 may begin with a new financial-support package to replace the one that expires at the close of 2013. The Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition government has done its bit on the spending side to balance the budget, but its growth forecasts have proved ambitious and a big funding gap will remain. Policy pledges tied to the lapsing bail-out agreement will direct government action for a couple of years yet, so there will be little deviation from austerity and pro-growth reforms. Domestic demand will be stagnant, but a brightening trade picture offers hope of a return to modest economic growth.
Nov 18th 2013
From The World In 2014 print edition
GDP growth: 1.8%
GDP per head: $39,600 (PPP: $39,220)
Budget balance (% GDP) -6.4
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, headed by David Cameron, has fallen far short of its goal of fixing the public finances, but a broad-based recovery means that probably won’t matter. Although growth has been helped by some reflating of the housing bubble, a better global environment should secure the recovery. Making up ground lost to the credit crunch will, however, take years. Companies will remain wary of investment in energy and transport infrastructure, given weak demand and political indecision.
Sir James Dyson is a British industrial designer. He is best known for inventing a vacuum cleaner that does not lose suction as it picks up dirt. Dyson's company now outsells most of his competition.
The bagless vacuum cleaner was not Dyson's first invention. In 1970, while he was still a student, Dyson co-invented the Sea Truck, a flat-hulled, high-speed watercraft that could land without a harbour or a jetty. Dyson also created the Ballbarrow, a modified wheelbarrow with a ball replacing the wheel, and several similar devices.
Dyson was unable sell his new bagless vacuum cleaner design to an outside manufacturer or find a UK distributer as he originally intended; nobody wanted to rock the huge market for replacement cleaner bags.
Dyson manufactured and distributed his own product and thanks to a brilliant television advertising campaign (Say Goodbye to the Bag) that emphasised the end to replacement bags Dyson sold vacuum cleaners to consumers and sales grew.
However, success often leads to copycats. Other vacuum cleaner manufacturers began to market their own version of a bagless vacuum cleaner. James Dyson had to sue Hoover UK for patent infringement, winning $5 million in damages.
Since the 1950s containers have changed how goods are moved around the world. More than 90% of non-bulk cargo is now moved using containers, thus increasing the development of international trade.
Before the container was developed, goods were moved from land to sea using crates, barrels, sacks, pallets and boxes. The loading and unloading of ships when they arrived at the dock was slow and labour intensive. Large items were hoisted on to the shore using cranes.
In 1953 Malcolm McLean, who ran a transport company in Conneticut, began to develop a shipping container that could be lifted from a lorry or a train and loaded onto a ship. In 1955 McLean sold his transport company and bought two old warships that could be converted to carry the containers he had designed. The maiden voyage was from Port Elizabeth, New Jersey to Houston on 26 April 1956.
At first, there was no standard for container size and construction; different companies used containers of different sizes. Then the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed standards for containers. This has made it easier to move containers between shipping companies in the US and elsewhere in the world. Wherever you travel these days there is always a container close by. Trains, ships and lorries now carry standard size containers that are a vital part of modern supply chains.
By finding a way to freeze foods and deliver them to his customers Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956) made one of the most important innovations in the food industry.
Birdseye studied biology and went to work as a naturalist for the US government. Working in the Arctic, he observed how native Americans combined ice, wind and temperature to freeze fish. He also discovered that texture and taste of frozen fish were almost the same as fresh fish.
Sure that people in New York would pay for the benefits of such fish products, Birdseye returned home and founded Birdseye Seafoods, Inc. in 1924.
Birdseye then turned his attention to the marketing challenge. He began to test refrigerated grocery display cases; manufacturing began in 1934. Later his company began to lease refrigerated railway containers to transport frozen foods; national distribution became a reality - and Birdseye became a legend.
Clarence Birdseye's process is still in use. It keeps the nutritional value and the flavour of food. By providing convenience and quality, this innovator has improved both the health of almost everyone in the developed world.
In the age of austerity that followed World War 2 the British still went on holiday for a couple of weeks, usually to the seaside quite close to where they lived. Whole factories, even whole towns, across the country closed down for a fortnight. Blackpool, Scarborough and one other were popular destinations as families set off for their annual two week break. Only the wealthy, leisured classes had the time and money to go abroad on holiday.
The summer of 1954 was wet and miserable. The weather was colder than it had been for nearly fifty years.
A pioneering young entrepreneur, originally from Russia, had already started a business that was about to change the holiday habits of the British for ever. Vladimir Raitz, 1922-2010, was the father of the modern British package holiday.
Several things helped Vladimir to find his business opportunity. He had been employed as a translator by the Reuters news agency during the war; but now the war was over. One of his friends, another expatriate Russian, had opened a holiday camp in tents on the beach at Calvi on the island of Corsica and wanted Vladimir to help him find some British people who would come as paying guests. Vladimir had spotted an opportunity to use transport aeroplanes from the war for a new purpose.
"They are still in good working condition", thought Vladimir. "But I can get them to transport people instead of military equipment."
And his grandmother, who had just died, bequeathed Vladimir £3,000.
"I need a more interesting job," thought Vladimir. "I can use the money from my inheritance as start-up capital to get the business going."
Vladimir resigned from Reuters, rented a small office in Fleet Street in London and started his business. He called it on Horizon Holidays.
He faced a lot of stiff competition from airlines who wanted to restrict his business. He was only able to take his first eleven paying passengers because they were technically teachers and students. And in the post war years there were strict government limits on the amount of foreign currency that could be taken abroad for a holiday or for business purposes.
But the business gradually took off as Vladimir began mass marketing holidays to the British that guaranteed cheap food, drink and leisure activities in the sunshine. The company soon became very successful, as customer numbers rose dramatically throughout the decades that followed.
By the time Vladimir sold his stake in the company in the early 1970s he had created a business model for the activities of low cost airlines in the last few decades of the 20th century.
Frugal ideas are spreading from East to West
Mar 24th 2012, The Economist
The Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car, became a symbol before the first one rolled off the production line in 2009. The Tata group, India's most revered conglomerate, hyped it as the embodiment of a revolution. Frugal innovation would put consumer products, of which a $2,000 car was merely a foretaste, within reach of ordinary Indians and Chinese. Asian engineers would reimagine Western products with all the unnecessary frills stripped out. The cost savings would be so huge that frugal ideas would conquer the world. The Nano would herald India's arrival just as the Toyota once heralded Japan's.
Alas, the miracle car was dogged with problems from the first. Protesting farmers forced Tata Motors to move production out of one Indian state and into another. Early sales failed to catch fire, but some of the cars did, literally. Rural customers showed little desire to shift from trucks to cars. The Nano's failure to live up to the hype raises a bigger question. Is frugal innovation being oversold? Can Western companies relax?
Two new books—“Reverse Innovation” by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, and “Jugaad Innovation” by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja—suggest that the answer to both questions is No. Mr Govindarajan, of the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College, has advised General Electric on frugal innovation and co-written a path-breaking article on the subject with GE's boss, Jeff Immelt. “Jugaad Innovation” is the most comprehensive book yet to appear on the subject (jugaad is a Hindi word meaning a clever improvisation). The books show that frugal innovation is flourishing across the emerging world, despite the gurus' failure to agree on a term to describe it. They also argue convincingly that it will change rich countries, too.
Multinationals are beginning to take ideas developed in (and for) the emerging world and deploy them in the West. Harman, an American company that makes infotainment systems for cars, developed a new system for emerging markets, dubbed “Saras”, the Sanskrit word for “flexible”, using a simpler design and Indian and Chinese engineers. In 2009 Harman enrolled Toyota as a customer. GE's Vscan, a portable ultrasound device that allows doctors to “see” inside patients, was developed in China and is now a hit in rich and poor countries alike. (Mr Immelt believes that these devices will become as indispensable as stethoscopes.) Walmart, which created “small mart stores” to compete in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, is reimporting the idea to the United States.
The standard worry among Western firms is that this strategy will cannibalise the existing market for expensive technology. Why buy a $10,000 device if the same firm makes a slightly simpler one for $1,000? This is too pessimistic. GE opened up a new market among doctors for its cheap electrocardiograms; previously only hospitals could afford the things. Besides, standing still is not an option. Whether or not Western firms sell frugal products in the West, Asian firms will.
India's Mahindra & Mahindra sells lots of small tractors to American hobby farmers, filling John Deere with fear. China's Haier has undercut Western competitors in a wide range of products, from air conditioners and washing machines to wine coolers. Haier sold a wine cooler for half the price of the industry leader. Within two years, it had grabbed 60% of the American market. Some Western companies are turning to emerging markets first to develop their products. Diagnostics for All, a Massachusetts-based start-up that has developed paper-based diagnostic tests the size of a postage stamp, chose to commercialise its idea in the developing world so as to circumvent America's hideously slow approval process for medical devices.
Entrepreneurs everywhere are seizing on the idea of radical cost-cutting. Zack Rosenburg and Liz McCartney are rethinking house-building from the ground up; they hope to reduce the cost by 15% and the construction time by 30%. Vivian Fonseca collaborated in the development of a system for sending SMS messages to poor and elderly diabetics to help them control their disease. Jane Chen, the boss of Embrace, sells low-cost infant warmers for premature babies in India and several emerging markets.
This trend will surely accelerate. The West is doomed to a long period of austerity, as the middle class is squeezed and governments curb spending. Some 50m Americans lack medical insurance; 60m lack regular bank accounts. Such people are crying out for new ways to save money. A growing number of Western universities are taking the frugal message to heart (at least when it comes to thinking about things other than their own tuition fees). Santa Clara University has a Frugal Innovation Lab. Stanford University has an (unfrugally named) Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability programme. Cambridge University has an Inclusive Design programme. Even the Obama administration has an Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to encourage grassroots entrepreneurs in health care and energy.
Innovation in getting a familiar but important message across.