Can I start by saying that we should call most manufacturing robofacturing? I work in a continuous production facility. Boston Scientific’s Pacemaker Battery plant has three 8 hour shifts that make sure our robots and other machines almost never go unused. My company has proven to the medical community that our batteries last twice as long as our competitors and we are growing our market share in a manner that made weekend overtime a constant necessity. Moral of the story: expensive robots create a lot of valuable things and we never let them sit idle. This reminds me of how a shark can’t stop swimming or how a hummingbird has to keep flying to the next flower continuously.
As a hobby, I design and 3D print science education toys. The prices in the 3D printing industry boggle my mind. I can’t understand how shapeways or my competitors on 3D hubs are earning anything close to reasonable hourly wage. I conclude that shapeways knows secret business practices that use high volume to keep their custom order fulfillment prices so low. My competitors on 3D hubs have lower prices than me but I think I completely understand that. In game theory, systems can easily become a race to the bottom or a race to the top if circumstances are right. The simplest way to phrase this is supply and demand. There is not a large consumer demand for 3D printed products. There are a surprising number of people with 3D printers offering their services on 3Dhubs.com So the conditions are ripe for a race to the bottom. Each producer wants to be the lowest price so that the small number of consumers choose them over another producer. Some people are doing this as a hobby and willing to provide service without making a decent hourly wage and those producers win the race to the bottom.
Yesterday, I had an epiphany. The above method of manufacturing is Salamander Manufacturing. Tiger Salamanders and Nile Crocodiles are ambush predators lying dormant and inactive for long periods of time. Because they are spending almost zero energy, Salamanders and Crocodiles can go a long time between meals and not starve to death. Salamander Manufacturing or Manderfacturing is as much the opposite of continuous production as salamanders are the opposite of hummingbirds.
Members of the Manderfacturing workforce don’t own their relatively cheap equipment to make money. They own it to save money by not having to pay someone else to make the custom things they want to buy.