Archive for January, 2006

‘Current models of globalisation not working’ says Bob Brown

January 17, 2006

Bob Brown (no relation) is a former CSIRO division chief, now tracking S&T and development issues for the MuNet network. His recent editorial is worthy of serious reflection… 

Notwithstanding all the technological developments, human skills and human frailties remain at the heart of all industry. Human ingenuity conceives and refines products and processes.

 Human needs, desires and persuasion skills establish the market for the goods produced. Political, social and economic constructs determine if the manufacturing enterprise (or parts of it) will be profitable and sustainable. In the 1970’s there was considerable emphasis on robotics, automation and flexible manufacturing systems, leading to a proposed utopia of the “lights out factory”.

Since then attention has concentrated on just-in-time manufacture and, in the last decade, attention has focused on LEAN manufacture – the minimalist approach to all elements of production and management. These and other management methodologies are all fine, but the bottom line is to pay attention to what we are manufacturing and why. We are in danger of going into the ridiculous situation of making products obsolete almost as soon as they are marketed and releasing products that are obscene in their size, performance and cost – recognising that a large part of the world’s population lives in subsistence conditions. 

I have a vision that globalisation will lead to closer cooperation between industrialists, researchers, decision makers and the community for the benefit of the world’s population. Current models of globalisation and the instruments of global control – World Bank, IMF etc. – seem incapable of reshaping “Market Forces” to achieve this vision. In fact, internationally and within most nations there is a growing disparity between rich and poor.  

I don’t have any simple solutions, apart from a need for people to go back to basics and consider human values and aspirations. People often seem to expend huge amounts of energy (their own and non-renewable resources of the planet) on trivial and pointless activities.

It is here that manufacturers and researchers can surely provide some rational advice and guidance for a more sensible resolution of the problems facing the world. Weapon manufacture is unlikely to bring rational development; armies are not going to bring peace; irrational or fundamental religious beliefs will divide people into bitter enemies. You might silence opposition by punching an opponent in the face, but this is unlikely to convince him/her of the correctness of your case.