Kevin Kelly, executive editor of Wired and author of “Out of Control,” takes a logical look at automobile design in this blog post New Rules for the New Economy–And what could be more industrial age. We already know about the radical changes that have shaken that industry. Car companies tried to vertically integrate and constructed huge plants making everything from struts, engines and interiors to assembling and painting the final product.

Already a couple of decades ago component design began to be pushed off on the supplier companies, which also began to be spun off from the mother ship. Those changes have been traumatic, but are now largely accomplished. But who would have thought that the major companies would be in trouble, too. Even five years ago the thought of automobile manufacturing as an industry ripe for entrepreneurship would have been laughable.

Kelly notes that most of the power needed to propel a vehicle is for the vehicle itself. As weight is taken out of the car, less power is required. That smaller engine in turn means less weight which requires an even smaller engine. Plus, he points out that already electronics in the typical car cost more than steel already.

The Tesla appears to be gaining some traction as an entrepreneurial start up. Who knows what is now possible?

Then I began wondering about the petrochemical industry. We know that petroleum production is peaking, if indeed it hasn’t already peaked. Are the huge petrochem plants going up in China and the Middle East a last gasp of a dying beast? Is there a new type of process production beginning to appear requiring perhaps smaller plants processing new materials? What will that look like. The change in automotive manufacturing has already had an impact on discrete automation suppliers Rockwell Automation and Siemens. Will a change in process production have as dramatic a change among process automation suuppliers? Already signs are appearing within some as they position themselves for a new reality.

Meanwhile, is the fad of shipping manufacturing overseas running its course? Kevin Meyer writing in the Evolving Excellence blog discusses news that Caterpillar is considering relocating some heavy-equipment production from overseas to a U.S. plant.

There are chages afoot in the manufacturing landscape. Are you prepared?

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