Industrial Productivity on a Small Scale

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TED Talk

  • For reference, see the GVCS TED Talk for video examples of the type of industrial productivity we are discussing here.

Can Distributed Production in Microfactories be More Efficient than Centralized Production?

Can a distributed open source business with distributed production provide higher efficiencies than centralized production?

This is important, as at stake is the capacity to educate for entrepreneurship as opposed to creating employees. Why is that good? As long as we can maintain industrial productivity with this method - we have more flexibility in terms of doing things with environmental and social consciousness. By doing this, we decrease bureaucracy. Increase meaning and satisfaction in peoples' lives. Contribute to creation of the world around us as opposed to creation of oversized structures as discussed in Small is Beautiful and The Second Industrial Divide.

Let's look at some data:

  1. Prusa Research sells 8000 printers per month, with 250 employees. That is 1 printer per person per day.
  2. Lulzbot - sells 1000 pritners per month, with 150 employees. That is 1/5 printer per person per day.
  3. Mahindra & Mahindra Tractors - make 1/36 tractor per person per day. Thousands of employees in their tractor division.
  4. Contractors build a house in 5 months

For comparison:

  1. OSE can make 4 quality controlled-printer kits per day, with Distributed Quality Control. See 3D Printer Production Engineering. Combinded with the Extreme Manufacturing workshops (1 day), customer cupport, and marketing (publishing events + standard marketing procedures) - the effort is 4 days per 2 3D printers, or 1/2 printer per day. For the direct sales (Production + customer support) - that is 2 printer per day.
  2. OSE can make 1 tractor in one day with 4 people. So this is 1/4 tractor per person per day - about 9x the productivity of M&M
  3. OSE builds a house in 5 days.


While OSE is not producing a large number of printers in a centralized location, its small volume Extreme Manufacturing can yield good efficiency on a small scale. The question remains - can such production be replicated by people other than the elite squadrons of OSE? Second, can such production scale? Can the combined effect of many producers distribute wealth more, educate more people, empower more people - and do better in innovation and true service of human needs?

Our route to that is training people to run such businesses, to fund growth of OSE development. Our goal is Funding the Revolution. To succeed at this means succeeding at providing livelihoods for the transformation of the economy- to a system based on open source collaboration. This has the potential to unleash much creativity - raising the bar on human life satisfaction as various forms of competitive waste are eliminated. From the OSE big picture perspective, this has the potential to add freeDom to Peter Diamandis's 6 Ds of Tech Disruption.

Efficiencies of centralized production appear to be created by specialization - and are the proclaimed gospel for success, but the numbers don't seem to add up. Considering that OSE has a theoretical efficiency 3x that of Prusa Research - our work indicates otherwise. So we are pursing the fleshing out of this business model to show a landmark case for Distributed Production.

Distributed vs Centralized Production

As such, we are embarking on an experiment to determine whether simple open source design, distributed production, distributed quality control, and education can provide a better economic model of production. This relies on creating tools to empower people, and providing livelihood consistent with Nonviolence. We think that this is worth doing..

Why has industrial productivity not been achieved in the Maker Movement?

See Limits of Distributed Manufacturing

Notes from Diderik + Marcin

On Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 2:19 PM Diderik van Wingerden from wrote:

Hi Marcin,

Thank you very much for your question, this forces me to try to articulate and provide evidence for my emerging feeling/belief. I will try my best:

In the past years I have had contact with people in Fab Lab Amersfoort, Fab Lab Mariahoeve and RDW Makerspace, amongst others. What I saw/see there are very passionate, good and smart people who believe in the power of digital fabrication, of making, of entrepreneurship and all the merits of doing so locally and in an open source way. But until now I have not seen any of them really financially successful. They struggle getting some income from courses/workshops to hobbyists or maybe a company, some small batch production of some doodad used in advertising or as a business gift. Sometimes artist-designers are a bit more financially successful as they make very expensive custom-made stuff for clients, when lucky. I have seen and heard a lot of "big ideas" and prototypes, but nothing that is practical, useful in everyday life and that can make a dent or bring mass to a larger customer pool.

I have seen that Makerspace "Contact" in Amsterdam is a great place for entrepreneurs to ideate, design and prototype their products, when they are bootstrapping. But those that are successful and want to get to production, leave the makerspace and go the "traditional" product design/development route.

I would love to see everyday people buying everyday products that were locally made, using digital fab tech (or not), from a local entrepreneur, based on open source designs. But this can simply not compete with the convenience, speed, quality and price that everyday people get buying their everyday products from IKEA, Home Depot, etc. And I do not see how between now and the short-term future this could change. It does not compute. At least I cannot see how it could.

Does this make any sense?

MJ: Yes, makes sense, but your argument for this not working appears to be essentially 'it hasn't worked before so it cannot be made to work'. Yes, I can completely understand that you come to this conclusion. And then my argument would be a fallacy. In fact, while writing this e-mail I did feel this tension. However, I believe this would be short-circuiting my argument, as I think there is a little bit more to it:

One could say that an aspect of entrepreneurship is to see a business opportunity where others may not see it. To see means to be able to imagine it, to believe that it could work. At this moment I do not see a viable business opportunity in The Netherlands for open source-based local production in the short term. Of course this belief of mine is based on my experience, knowledge, thoughts, feelings, etc. etc., including everything related to what I sketched above. But with new knowledge, new imaginations, new facts this belief can change.

You can see some notes of my notes on this here -

DvW: Yes, a very thoughtful piece, all things that I believe are very true.

But, the business model is education for the STEAM Camps - not production. You say the 'business model' would not work. It has worked for us. Are you saying that the education business model would not work? I'm wondering if I'm missing something. I am not that familiair with the details of the business model of the STEAM Camps, but offering one-day or multi-day courses where people learn to build their own machine and take it home may very well work in The Netherlands. I know two people who have tried to create a business out of 2-day Prusa builds and failed, but they were not the most brilliant salespeople. And I know for a fact that some hobbyists do find the idea of building an open source-based 3D printer exciting, as I am one of them (and built that Prusa in that 2-day workshop) and also got together with 2 friends to build each our own 3D printer from a kit. On the other hand, I have been telling many people about this and have been around Fab Lab community people and did not find that many people who feel/do the same.

I guess it would depend a bit on the total available market in The Netherlands and how many of them would be reached with marketing and how many could be sold to for which price against which marketing, sales and operational costs. My guess would be that it will not be a "get rich quick" model, but I am also not thinking it is not viable. I do think that people who have the skills to pull something like this off, would in The Netherlands be able to earn more money more easily on other ways.

One final thing that is like a splinter in my mind: say that this would be successful in NL and assuming that many people will learn to build their own 3D printer and take one home. What are they going to do with it? I hardly ever use my 3D printer an my friends neither, because there are so little useful things to create with them. Again, when compared to the convenience, ease, quality of just buying something in the shop. This relates to the reasons you mention on the Wiki and should absolutely be overcome, but for the short term and in The Netherlands these remain valid.