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Microbricks™ – From Modular Microsystems Prototyping to Flexible Automated Manufacturing

Written By: Adolfo on May 29, 2010 No Comment

Is mass market manufacturing dead in developed countries where labor and services cost more, and where costs or regulations are higher?  Accumulating empirical evidence suggests that this is the case, at least if we do not consider the many avenues that innovation provides us.

uBricks Research and others now believe it is possible to successfully compete anywhere in the world, even under burdening  OECD countries cost structures and  even in consumer mass markets, and even in light of massive assembly efficiencies enabled by low cost workers.

Although mass manufacturing based on low margins, massive volume  and production line assembly efficiencies based on humans may be dead in the OECD countries in light of structural cost differentials;  uBricks Research believes that endless and pervasive innovation along with efficient mass customization may enable higher productivity manufacturing workers that can successfully compete against assembly line efficiencies supported by lower productivity workers.

Imagine product shelves stuffed by endless rows of similar but also endlessly different products, not the Wal*Mart way with two or three different mass produced items for each class; but the eBay way with 1000 of choices delivering different features, colors and shapes; simply said imagine a battle of infinite diversity at affordable yet not too low prices versus narrow choice at ultra low prices. This may work because there is evidence that for the case of manufactured products,  consuming middle classes all over the world seem to prefer affordable originality instead of ultra-low price commonality.  

Northern Italy is perhaps one of the best examples of a region that through specialization and vast diversification of small businesses has been able to maintain high standards of living in the face of growing costs and foreign competition.  Emphasis on unique design, focus on choice,  and infinite diversification amidst close cooperation have successfully driven the business strategy of the Northern Industrial Districts of Italy and its surrounding regions.  Other regions of the world have also developed uniquely distinctive industrial clusters.

Creating this enormous level of diversity at affordable prices may require rethinking not only the way we fabricate but also the way we design and promote our products; it requires a profound rethinking of our business models.

Microbricks™ is the answer that uBricks Research is proposing for reviving a narrow segment of the manufacturing industry dealing with consumer electronics in the US and EU by means of endless diversification and cooperation.  Why? Because Microbricks™ is not only about manufacturing efficiencies at any given level,  instead it is about maximum aggregation of value throughout the value chain.

Microbricks™ requires rethinking how we create components, not based on mass production but on effective mass customization. It also requires to rethink our businesses since we will no longer be supplying components for integration as part of  printed circuit boards, instead we sell integrated heterogeneous microsystems or Microbricks™ for utilization as part of end-products and mechanisms.

Designing Microbricks™ and the businesses that supply them requires acknowledging that, in the future, heterogeneous integration will force us to think on products and packages before we do on its most basic components, that is we must think our products using package-centric℠ and product-centric℠ engineering and design techniques.

Organizations and product development teams that adopt Microbricks™ as a design method and implementation technology will move up the value chain, and free themselves from the “commoditizing” race to the bottom that has traditionally squeezed profits out of component suppliers; and enable product lines that can compete for global markets through differentiation, segmentation and innovation.

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