More from my conversation with Jason Blessing
What other trends excite you in terms of manufacturing technology?
I think the other interesting thing that is emerging in manufacturing from a technology perspective is 3D printing and how that's affecting how products are manufactured. GE has made a huge push on 3D printing. They’ve acquired 3D printing technology and they’re already making important components of their CFM Leap engines using the capability. What’s even more exciting is that they have a skunk works demonstrator jet engine operating with 35 percent of the parts made using 3D printing. Pratt & Whitney also put 3D printed engine parts into production in 2015.
I've seen some research that has shown that over the next ten years, the efficiency of 3D printers and the cost of printing is going to intersect with the cost of the more traditional manufacturing methods that are used today, with lathes and presses and again more typical approaches.
Some of the manufacturers in Asia, particularly those that are building electronics and even things like toys, have been very progressive in their adoption of 3D printing. It's going to be interesting to see how that bleeds over into printing metal products that go into cars, and whether that becomes an advantage for them over time or if the U.S. manufacturers are equally as aggressive. I think American manufacturers like the GE and Pratt & Whitney examples are showing that it can do some pretty sophisticated things, but it'll be interesting to see how quickly the transition from traditional methods to printing expands.
Other automation trends?
The one thing I would love to do with you next time you're in the Bay Area, if you give me a little advance notice, is take you to my friend's startup company, Zume Pizza.
I think a lot of people look at that business and they say, "Oh, this is cute. We're building and using robots to build pizzas." But I think what they miss about that business is it's like books were to Amazon. It's the first use case for how you automate food production, and ultimately delivery, that could then be extrapolated out into other areas. He just completed his series A round.
The pizza is so good. It's way better than any of the chains that get delivered today. The savings from automation go right back into better ingredients.
His ultimate vision for it is to go all the way back to the beginning of the delivery chain and help source with local farmers, help them adopt technology that makes their practices better so that their cost and profitability increase, while they continue to produce great products that end up in his pizzas, or whatever is next. The long term vision is a very big idea and very disruptive. It's also capital intensive and hard to get people to understand what he's trying to do. It's an important one to watch.