The New Mechanical Industry


Production of mechanical products such as cars, trucks, construction machines, farming machines etc. are like icebergs where the products are the one-tenth visible above sea level, while the nine-tenth not visible under water is everything that must be there to make the products real. This I reckon most people will be in agreement with me. Then the big question appear. Does this invisible part need to be as unduly large as it is today? From many years in the industry my opinion is a clear no, and I will in the rest of the article explain why I mean this. The benefits in reduced consumption of resources and thus reduced emissions and better supply of mechanical products to a larger part of the world´s population will be quite tremendous.


Mass production of all sorts of mechanical products like for instance cars appears with the second technical revolution between 1865 and 1910. Best known is perhaps Ford´s use of the assembly line of cars and tractors. Assembly line production became eventually the quite dominant solution for mass production of mechanical products. This way of thinking production has given, especially the industrialized part of the world, a high standard of living. Already before The World War II this production method was regarded as relatively inhuman for the factory workers, maybe best described in Charlie Chaplin´s movie Modern Times, released in 1936. Gradually it has become so difficult to get enough qualified people to these jobs that the industry has had to look for new ways to cover the steadily increasing demand for such products in more cost efficient ways. Especially from the 1970-ties and up to now have words like "Just in time production", use robots, outsourcing and "lean (and mean) production" constantly hovered out over seminar participants without the wished result that more people should want to work in the industry with production of mechanical products. On the contrary, I was told by someone I know, that comes from a town with a large car factory, that no one would work on the car factory if they could get a job anywhere else. An owner of a small enterprise I know currently told me that young people will not work in the industry any more.

What is wrong with the mechanical industry and what can be done to make it better?

Why has it become like this? What is the reason "everyone" hate almost like poison, to participate in producing some of the most interesting, necessary and exciting product that exist? That should engage the owners and the leaders in the industry to a much more essential degree than it looks like it does today. I believe that the answer is just as simple as the solutions are challenging. We have to make it exiting to work in the mechanical industry. We must provide that people go to work in a, for them, creative business where they experience an exciting working life. Most people working with production in the mechanical industry today do not have this feeling. I have been interested in and studied industrial production in mechanical industry through many years. Based on that, I think we now need to do industrial production in quite a new way. I consider it to be natural that it will be large changes after approximately 100 years with the same thought industrial production. It is quite necessary "to get a new start" with a new industrial revolution where we have quite another basis for how we shall build the new creative businesses. The whole world is completely changed. Media and the airplanes have made the world small. Hunger, war and natural catastrophes anywhere in the world concern all of us and the globalization comes whether we like it or not, and that demand large mental changes. How must the new creative businesses be?

  1. The industry must adjust to better products and production facilities.
  2. I have in other articles I have written told concrete about what has to be done with many large product groups like cars, airplanes, construction machines, farming machines etc. When all these products at present are so bad it would of course had been strange if the factories that produce them were better, and of course they are not. When we shall invent and develop a new product we must of course invent the production equipment simultaneously so that it becomes interplay between the product solutions and the production equipment that shall produce the item. Today this relation is not strong enough. They design the product first and then use consults and suppliers to develop equipment and buildings for manufacturing of the product. These consults and suppliers claim that they are experts in this field and that they know how things have to be done. What you never should forget is that these companies first of all are interested in selling as much as possible and earn as much as possible for themselves. This result is gigantic investments in "quite necessary" and expensive special machines and robots. I have from time to time shaken my head a bit for myself when I have seen people proudly demonstrate gigantic, over dimensioned robots that carry a minor welding head for MIG-welding that maybe only weigh approximately a pound and that only weld on a minor product part. This is obviously sold under the motto "nice to have", even if the buying company never has welded large parts and probably never will be in the position to deliver large parts either. (But of course it will give more money to the suppliers of the robots even if it sucks large sums out of the buyer.) When this happens for all parts of the production equipment it sums up to an enormous amount of money even if each single item maybe is not quite ruinous.
    So to this problem with adjusting between product and production machinery. Here, if the product and the production machinery to a much larger extent were designed together, you would quite surely often see that you could make the production machinery much simpler by adjusting the product. Many times the product would even become better if you coupled this process as we do now. Both the product and the factory will be far less costly to produce and thus the product will be much cheaper for the customer. The next factor is that these consultants always deliver solutions that they can show that have been used by someone else before. This sounds safe, but in that way you never get a lead either and everything boil down to a question of who is going to pay lowest wages to the workers. The result might impress someone, but not me.

  3. Much smaller production facilities.
  4. This approach to the problem as I describe it here is of vital importance to get the size of the production facility size down and thus the investments for building it. The only ones who find pleasure in an unnecessary huge shop is the construction companies and possibly the banks that deliver gigantic building loans with high interests. Maybe it also impresses one or another factory owner, and politicians also that think that large is equivalent to nice. Other will hardly be enthusiastic and by adapting the production machinery better to the purpose one could for sure also make the production factory nicer. Tastes differ but it is something wrong with the factory buildings since absolutely none will accept the factory buildings in the neighborhood of where they otherwise stay. Huge and for many threatening concrete colossuses that one can relate very little to. Why shall everything that has to do with production industry appear so confounded inhuman? We will do this different for the pleasure of employees and surroundings.

  5. Protection of rights
  6. Some countries now have made so difficult and costly patent rules with so many exceptions and coercive license rules that I often wonder if it has any purpose to pay all the money it cost when applying for patent for an invention. Politicians work against creative people and businesses in acting and shaping of laws so that they do not get the opportunity to develop product that in their elegance and smartness compares with the very best in art and culture. Besides, all the competitors use the information to see if they can copy the solutions without paying anything at all. One chief engineer I once spoke with declared that "they never had used more than half an hour to avoid a patent claim". When I asked which patent, he had no answer, but this shows that to steal an intellectual achievement of this type is regarded as quite legal and quite in order. In countries with a not functioning patent defense the patent papers is used to get an exact description of the product. Since most people think that this is quite OK it is important to use the ingenuity maximally also in shaping of the production machinery and in the earlier mentioned symbioses between product and production machinery. When we then keep the production machinery strictly secret and neither give competitors or any other access, we will be able to produce the products at a much better quality and to a much lower price than any copyist any time will be able to in decades. The drawback for some countries with high salary levels is that it will be less production there, but since the politicians there do not provide for a functioning patent protection and in sum acceptable patenting costs, it must be in that way they want it to be. Politicians regards evidently not inventions as something a country can benefit from and that can give export income, reduced import and more prosperity. In connection with inventions I have seen that the point is being made that the inventions must be patented so that not places of works get lost, but that is of course also wrong. On the contrary; If a product becomes cheaper because the patent spending disappear the price will be lower, the sales increase and the number of places of works increase. The ones that will have great pleasure from this are the customers that will get much cheaper and better products.

  7. Less assembly work
  8. Most of the present product solutions demand far too much assembly work. Excessive complex machinery is a mental heritage from the industrial revolution in the 1,800 century when steam engine and large flanges was almost the very boy dream. The mans victory over nature. One should have believed that in 2008 the pleasure of that a product contain lots of bolts had passed off a bit, but when you look at many mechanical product it is obvious that one still enjoy the sight of huge amounts of bolts and think that it still is nice. But in a way it is good because then these products are much easier to oust.

  9. Better working positions and working environment
  10. It is more than tragic to see reportages from some car factories and similar mechanical industries where you can see how assembly workers have to wring into the most odd and most harmful positions to get the part mounted in place, when some simple planning could have given a very good working environment. In many factory surroundings it looks like as it is almost amusing that they have many assembly workers that toil in demanding positions to get the machines assembled. I reckon that this is done inadvertently, but I am not always sure anymore.

  11. Less material and energy consumption
  12. By making the products much more optimal the steel consumption is brought down. When a 12 metric tons excavator can do the same or a better job than the present 30 metric tons excavator, it is obvious that here it is lots to save. When you at the same time heavily improves the production equipment and make simple special machines to produce it and reduces the material waste in all links of the production and makes the assembly much simpler, then the product cost will fall very extensively. Similar will happen with the energy consumption both in production and in use later. These we will do.


+It is quite possible, in few years, to produce new mechanical machines at 50 – 80 % lower costs. Machines that have equivalent or much better function than today´s machines.

+It is quite possible, in few years, to produce the most mechanical machines in creative businesses where the job satisfaction for the workers is considerable better than in today´s factories.

+The emissions and the climate destruction can be reduced 50 – 80 %.


Mechanical machines are fantastic devices that maybe in a more efficient way than anything else in history, have contributed to more prosperity for parts of the world´s population. What now remains is that the rest of the world´s population gets more prosperity at the same time as the world´s development becomes more sustainable. This can only be done with a 3rd industrial revolution that at the same time take into consideration the huge challenges that is in not to overload the recourses and not emit so much climate gases to the atmosphere that the global warming accelerates, but decline. I opened the article with comparing production of a product with an iceberg. The goal must be to compare it with a tree where the useful material in the tree approaches the halves of the total tree and not the tenth as with today´s products. When we manage that I am convinced that we have a sustainable globe for the humans with prosperity for almost everyone and the possibility for this is within reach. I am sure about that, but then all the possibilities that is in new inventions and developments must be taken into use in a positive way.


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© Tron-Halvard Fladby/ 2008.02.19