Home internet-linked manufacturing workstations
Adequate energy, adequate human resources, and adequate communication and transportation, are central to America as it is to civilization. As is adequate productiveness to match the needs of the nation and its place in the larger world economy.
As America is using 25% of the world's energy while producing only 3% of the world's energy, clearly energy is a key issue. Somehow, the two numbers need to be brought into equality. Many means for bringing wind and direct solar energy into the system have long been discussed elsewhere.
The current trends of approaches are necessarily to be made with minimum change involved, such as merely upping the fuel efficiency of the average car; that is an achievable goal if it is the goal instead of business profits being the prime goal; I drove a car that would meet probably 80% of the average commuter and housewife transportation needs and got 42 miles per gallon when cruising at freeway speeds, roomy inside, safe and very easy to drive, it was built 19 years ago. Surely that same vehicle could be being built today, if it was 19 years ago. But egos, franchises and excessive profiteering is in the way of doing that; and clearly we cannot overcome that problem even now.
Yet, even doubling the average car's fuel efficiency, does not bridge the great gap in energy usage vs energy supply in the nation. And in fact, the vehicular efficiency is part of a national system that can provide for the adequate energy, human resources, communication, transportation and productiveness. Putting patches such as raising fuel efficiency standards for car manufacturers, is needed as soon as possible; yet, there really needs to be an eye toward what could actually meet the goal requirements in a time frame enough to rescue the nation.
Key to the solution is the vision of the whole picture; and the endless questions of does a proposed change get us closer to the goal or not, and what does it do to the myriad other factors in the overall picture.
Some potential approaches would have a more interesting appearance if the whole picture is referenced.
The Home Workstation Approach:
Such an approach is that of bringing into reality a whole new technique for getting things done efficiently in terms of energy, time, and human resources for a new category of national productiveness, thorough to creation of an economy stimulation through creating a nationwide at-home workstation system of "kanban" subassembly and internet-coordinated and in some case partially teleoperated equipment for various kinds of manufacturing steps done at home, coordinated by small and large business management which is in turn managed by reference to the entire needs of the nation.
Home workstations, linked with internet, unified by corporate or small business management including shuffling of kanbans between homes.
Those home workstations being also set up to be on the job training workstations.
Goal for part time work at home with these home workstations. They could be used a few hours after a regular 9-5 job workday, instead of commuting to a second job to make ends meet.
The home workstations could be part time work for the unemployed, doing make-work that builds up their skills for when real work becomes available. They would be used for retired people, to get them back in the work force, at their skill level; this could boost their self esteem as they continue to contribute to the GNP even after retirement, when no full time job is practical for them. Aptitudes, rather than prior employment, would be the determiner for who does what on these home workstations.
Testing of aptitudes, much like the on the job training from the home workstations, would be done at home too.
Continued monitoring of quality and quantity of work from each workstation and person over time would provide additional data for potential for further jobs they could do, including change or upgrade to the particular type of fabrication or testing workstation.
These home workstation's design and fabrication would provide new business opportunities too. They could be of many kinds and be designed for modular add-ons for adding versatility; each would include common computer workstation functions much like already exist, as linked through the high speed internet, along with small scale tooling for manufacturing subassembly steps, some of which could be done teleoperated from elsewhere in some steps such as micro-assembly parts, analogous to electronic "pick-and-place" assembly of tiny surface mount parts on circuit boards common for decades. drill presses and similar small scale machine tools would be part of the workstations, as well as precision measuring equipment, especially suited for the home workstations primarily involved in quality control.
Instead of the commuter intensive transportation system we now have, this would then change to a delivery-intensive transportation system. The movement of the "kanbans" or packages of subassemblies between the various home workstations would become the domain of the delivery service providers; initially this could be the existing carriers such as the US postal service, UPS, Fed-Ex etc, as well as more local enterprising delivery such as by teenagers with small delivery trucks working within a smaller neighborhood subset. The tracking of location and movement of these "kanban" packages would be a prime function, possibly utilizing GPS tracking systems.
(* Note: the term "kanban" is adopted from the Japanese "Just-In-Time" - JIT - highly efficient manufacturing system begun in the 1980's.)
Existing types of video-chat systems can provide much of the face-to-face type interactions as needed between management and employees. Existing homes often have rudimentary computer, much less versatile, workstations for internet and game use with computers via the internet; such sites would be useful for addition with the workstation locations. The same combination of computer and manufacturing equipment of the workstations would also be adapted to on-the-job training and generalized home education, expanding the capabilities of the employees right at their workstations. The more versatile the workstations, the greater the potential for performing a wider range of kinds of processes as becomes needed by the national productivity's evolving need set.
This concept has potential to bring back competitive manufacturing to the United States, through massively boosting productivity, by enabling part time work at home to match the abilities of all classes of people including retired seniors and young people, changing the transportation system needs drastically through elimination of much of the automotive commute system, and being more time-and-energy efficient due to the elimination of the daily commute to a worksite.