Friday, April 18, 2014

The Art of Product Design

The Art of Product Design: Changing How Things Get Made
Manuscript Version by Hardi Meybaum
I often wonder what story history is going to say about the times we live in now.  So much happens across the globe in the blink of an eye that there is no way a single historian can account for it all.  Between war, politics, revolutions, climate change, medical advances, and ethical and moral dilemmas, there is no room in the history books to tell the story of industry.

Clever names are concocted to describe the times we live in now.  One of those is known as the Maker Movement, or the Second Industrial Revolution.  In my opinion, these names change with winds to make room for the next passing fad.  But, at its roots, a change is happening in the design, engineering, and manufacturing industry.  In his book, Hardi Meybaum shares his unique vantage point.

Beautiful Estonia, located in northeastern Europe.
Hardi hails from a small country in Eastern Europe.  Estonia was once part of the Soviet bloc. Since the breakup of the USSR, Estonia has experienced some radical changes in government and economics while maintaining their cultural heritage.  During the process, Estonia became a technological powerhouse rivaling many neighboring countries.  Estonia has become so important in the world's political scene recently that envoys have visited to assure their independence.  Estonia has become so important on the international scene, that I wouldn't be surprised if some Estonian company would be capable of world domination.

From these roots, Hardi moved to the United States with no more than $3000 and started his own technology company GrabCAD.  It is from this vantage point that Hardi tells his story about the art of product design and the new way things are getting made.

Book Review

I like the book.  There is no doubt Hardi has an interesting perspective on the changes happening in the world of design and manufacturing.  His position in the industry and his background in living through change gives him key abilities to recognize a revolution.

Hardi takes us through our memories of manufacturing as it used to be - a bunch of white shirts and pocket protectors passing 2D drawings over the wall to machinists and metal workers to figure out how to produce these designs.  The first major shake-up was CAD and the ability to visualize complexity not otherwise possible with 2D prints. The second major shake-up is cloud computing and the seemingly endless possibility of raw computing horse power and data storage.  The third major shake-up will be combining CAD with the cloud, something GrabCAD does very well.  New tools will converge in the cloud, new business models will develop around the cloud, and the walls between design and manufacturing will crumble.

Too Big to Fail

Hardi compares innovation, then versus now.  What he sees is astonishing.  Large companies are slow to adapt.  They have years of history and thousands of people to move.  That's a big ship and big ships take time to change course.  Start-ups, on the other hand, are fast and nimble.  Not long ago a start-up company couldn't find the capital to take the risk and invent something new.  But today, with crowd funding and cloud-sharing ideas, a handful of individuals can do in weeks what it used to take behemoth companies years to develop.

A Personal Touch

Interjected within his perspective on the industry, Hardi relates personal stories and (GrabCAD) customer case studies.  These prove that his anecdotes are more than just hearsay.  The way things are made is changing now; not tomorrow, not the next generation, but now.  People resist change even though we know change is inevitable.  As individuals, we can either embrace the change and ride the winning tide or resist the change and find ourselves treading water.  Hardi's book relates many success stories from those who embraced the change.  Even behemoth companies like GE recognize the how things are made is changing and have taken steps to successfully embrace the change.

Final Thoughts on the Book

I think Hardi did a magnificent job telling an intriguing story of the art of product design.  By taking us through history and into the common day, through storytelling and factual proof, Hardi emboldens us to recognize the revolution that is happening right now.  The only thing I didn't like about the book is that it will soon become dated.  Many of the references used in the book are applicable to today's generations.  In as little as a decade from now, the industry will have changed dramatically and many of the terms used in the book will not easily translate.  The book will become obsolete and irrelevant.  I would still highly recommend the book, though; just buy it soon.

The interesting part about being in the middle of a revolution is recognizing that you are in it.  Seeing the forest through the trees, as they say.  For that, I can't recommend this book enough to any person who wants to capitalize on the changing ways how things get made.

You can get it through Amazon or find it at your local bookseller.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent writeup, Scott. I'll now need to see about adding this to my Kindle reading list.