These days it seems like every day I meet someone starting a business with a revolutionary new business model to reshape the product lifecycle by (in one way or another) marrying it to the web, and they are doing this because they want to create better products or somehow squeeze some new efficiency out of the deal.
What i mean is not the simple ecommerce marriage (although look how much that has changed the landscape of things) but beyond. For example, today I met with a great young CEO that's in the early startup phase of her concept BundShop. The general idea is that it helps designers in China reach markets abroad by using an umbrella company that organizes marketing, promotion, sales and distrobution. Its something for the low volume or independent designer who feels restricted (by either time, knowhow, money, or enthusiasm) to get the greatest potential out of their concept.
What i think is remarkable is that this conversation was the second of its kind TODAY and the fifth this week. I'm no VC but I can feel it when the wind is blowing in a certain direction. Luckily I've been moving in this direction for some years. In a recent job interview I gushed about how excited I was to be considered an expert in this feild. And really, I am. I've been thinking about this for 5 or so years, built two business models on the premise, and given speeches, presentations, and so on on the subject of what the internet can bring to the product lifecycle.
One of the most important insights I think I've had on the subject is that manufacturers (I know a few) are REALLY slow to adopt efficiencies that can be found on the web. Just as a rule of thumb manufacturers and the product development minded are a little old school in their methods. To be fair, many of the standard practices of the manufacturing industry have roots that can be traced back MILLENNIUM. Their not exactly big on reinventing the wheel.
Of course globalization has had major implications for almost every sector of the manufacturing industry. The rules of economy of scale have been redefined in scope and kind. All the elements from supply-chain-management to logistics have had thier books rewritten.
That said, you still have productive manufacturers capable of competing with limited technology or machinery in many sectors like furniture design. And many of the others that adopt modern manufacturing techniques focus on internal efficiencies.
What i mean to point out is that these aren't the people you see checking their iphone4s midshift downloading the newest app and thinking about how "cool" it would be if you you bring the web into manufacturing. Manufacturing marrying the web has taken longer than other industries but my read is that I will continue to have conversations about this and as it starts to penetrate deeper into the culture it may prove to be as big a game changer as globalization.