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Digital or industrial manufacturing?

First the industrial revolution, then the digital revolution, with manufacturing caught in the middle, a manufacturing made of factories, offices, and a culture of production that arises, evolves and changes shape, but maintains the essence of the nature of the entrepreneur as one who brings together aspects of production, organises them, and generates wealth. Understanding what has happened in the past and what is happening now can help us to understand what to expect for tomorrow, particularly when we shift from the general to the particular, to practical situations, to the everyday life of a business and those who work there.

This is what we find in “Integrata, intelligente, digitale: il futuro della manifattura” (Integrated, intelligent, digital: the future of manufacturing), a collection of seven studies (by nine authors) of industry in the region of Lombardy and of Italian industry generally, which recently appeared in “Imprese & Città”, the magazine of the Milan chamber of commerce (Autumn 2014 edition).

The series of studies is tied together by a common thread that starts from an observation we find in the first few pages of the presentation: “Finding a way out of the crisis will depend on the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs able to find innovative responses to the challenges of our times: new areas of business, new products being offered, new organisational models, and new styles of consumption.”

The reasoning revolves around the union of tradition and innovation, old workers and new, factories and digital laboratories, and hinges, once again, on the entrepreneur and entrepreneurial spirit.

The focal points of the studies include: the digital revolution of manufacturing, the relationship between research and manufacturing, the challenge of “Made in China”, the relationship between workers and “new waves of technology”, and the interplay of designers, craftsmen, and “makers”. This brings us to 3D printing and the relationship between factories and “smart manufacturing”, as well as to the industrial “tragedies” of modern times. Naturally, the authors also cover exports, the new organisation of labour, bureaucracy, competition, and innovation, but true value added lies in finding together – in a single field – diverse approaches that come together and make each other more whole. Underlying all of this is a conviction regarding the “systemic effect” of technological innovation.

Also interesting and significant is a work by Mauro Magatti (sociologist and economist at Università Cattolica in Milan), “Considerazioni intempestive per una nuova generazione di imprenditori” (Untimely considerations for a new generation of entrepreneurs), which provides a roadmap to follow as laid out by the content of each individual study. A new journey through today’s culture of enterprise that we would all do well to read.

Integrata, intelligente, digitale: il futuro della manifattura

Various authors

Imprese & Città, no. 04/2014 – Magazine of the Milan Chamber of Commerce (Guerini & Associati)

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