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The Place-Based Implications of the Digital Manufacturing Revolution

<em>The Economist</em> describes the dawn of the third industrial revolution, brought by the rise of digital manufacturing, and its implications for the how and the where of the future of industry.
April 28, 2012, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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The first two industrial revolutions, beginning in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry, and metamorphosing into the age of mass production in the early 20th century, had profound impacts on the built environment. They also helped initiate the modern planning profession through the need to protect individuals from the health impacts of the temples of industry, and the need to plan for the communities and infrastructure to support manufacturing.

The factories of the future, however, "will not be full of grimy machines manned by men in oily overalls. Many will be squeaky clean-and almost deserted...Most jobs will not be on the factory floor but in the offices nearby, which will be full of designers, engineers, IT specialists, logistics experts, marketing staff and other professionals."

This shift will again impact how we build and plan for our communities. What will happen to areas zoned for industry when factories no longer have negative environmental impacts or disappear entirely as manufacturing decentralizes? What types of cities will draw and retain the businesses and skilled employees new enterprises will rely on?

These are among the questions planners will be asked to consider as the era of digital manufacturing dawns.

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Published on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in The Economist
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