Internet Of Production Alliance Wants You To Think Globally, Make Locally

A map of the world with continents in light grey and countries outlined in dark grey. A nuber of yellow and grey circles with cartoon factories on them are connected with curved lines reminiscent of airplane flight paths. The lines have seemingly-arbitrary binary ones and zeros next to them. All of the grey factories are in the Americas, likely since IoP is currently focused on Africa and Europe.

With the proliferation of digital fabrication tools, many feel the future of manufacturing is distributed. It would certainly be welcome after the pandemic-induced supply chain kerfuffles from toilet paper to Raspberry Pis. The Internet of Production Alliance (IoP) is designing standards to smooth this transition. [via Solarpunk Presents]

IoP was founded in 2016 to build the infrastructure necessary to move toward a global supply chain based on local production of goods from a global database of designs instead of the current centralized model of production with closed designs. Some might identify this decentralization as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They currently have developed two standards, Open Know-Where [PDF] and Open Know-How.

Open Know-Where is designed to help locate makerspaces, FabLabs, and other spaces with the tools and materials necessary to build a thing. The sort of data collected here is broken down in to five categories: manufacturing facility, people, location, equipment, and materials.

Open Know-How focuses on open designs having more consistent metadata to fast-track someone making it instead of trying to piece together the varying amounts of data available for a build. They even have a database of designs that already follow the Open Know-How standard. Given the focus on relief work and developing countries, there seems to be a higher density of medical and rescue equipment than you might find elsewhere. Some of the organizations you might recognize with members that helped develop the standard are the Open Source Hardware Association, the e-Nable Alliance, and Appropedia.

We have a HackChat about on-demand manufacturing, have pondered the opportunities for Open Source Hardware to be more like software, and have also seen biohackers pushing for more distributed production of drugs. Modular platforms like OpenStructures and the Open Robotic Platform could certainly help too.


18 thoughts on “Internet Of Production Alliance Wants You To Think Globally, Make Locally

  1. Or we could.. Idunno, try and be self-sufficient and make stuff again instead of giving our whole country away… Just a wacky idea.

    You can keep your “fourth industrial revolution.” Gross.

    1. I’m with you in spirit on this one, but I see this as a means of doing precisely what you;re saying. I’m less interested in individual self-sufficiency than I am in community self-sufficiency, and this kind of distributed manufacturing is a way to allow a community to potentially support themselves and, if feasible and appropriate, sell their surplus at a profit.

      As an example: to fight the whole “fast fashion” trend that’s filling the Atacama desert with waste, I’d like to see local clothing manufacturing that follows a model similar to what’s described here – a local makerspace or whatever has a CAD Jacquard loom, along with some other machines (laser cutter for patterns, sewing machines, etc.) so that a person may download a weave pattern, “print” it out on the loom, cut it either using scissors or the laser cutter (overkill, but why not if you have it), sew it on the sewing machine, and completely personalize it, even with little skills as a seamster.

      The maker team can take local orders, fulfill them, and probably sell it off for far less if they work as a cooperative instead of an extractive hierarchical organization. The clothing can be shared among the community once the original owner no longer needs it, and it may be able to be recycled locally into other uses, such as rags or – if using natural materials – garden supplies.

      We’d need to encourage a change among folks – this is not “fast fashion”, this is highly automated custom fashion that takes time and should be taken care of. That means you don;t make a new shirt every week – you take the time to create some special, unique clothing and you continue to use it or modify it for as long as you can.

      I like the ideas here. I agree that painting them with a capitalist light is… crappy. But I’m not willing to toss the whole thing out over it. There’s a LOT of value in building community like this. It’s where we should be focusing our attention.

    2. The “fourth industrial revolution” thing seems to be about enabling being self sufficient, removing control from monopolies and helping people build what they want/need and where they want/need.
      Sooo… Good job…

      All in all seems like a really nifty idea. It can be so helpful to find resources to make project a reality. Especially if they are local to you. I would rather have some experienced old timer grump about my design being unnecessarily complicated and wrong than play back and forth with abroad manufacturer while throwing more money at the problem

    3. Not going to happen unless workers are willing to accept something around 1/5th of their current real wages. Using cheap foreign labour for low-value production has been key for economic growth in the developed world

      1. When in many cases the product will be exactly what you want and you may well be making it yourself…
        I’d suggest that is an entirely different mentality – if I buy something cheap and import that is only just about good enough for what I needed I don’t care if it breaks and I have to replace it, or want to look after it nearly as much as if it is the ideal object for me, that can be repaired, probably cost more upfront etc. If you are going to be using this thing for a decade or more, and in many cases can repair/upgrade it to go another decade the initial cost can be higher.

        Also even with the wage difference a local make anything co-operative can end up having to pay less people total and less for the materials – much less shipping. Then add in the saving of a library of designs so you have no R&D costs in many cases. Doubt it will offset the cost entirely in most places, but it will help.

    1. That would require more than a minimal amount of effort by people who don’t actually build things. The domain is registered to Squarespace, the site is made with Squarespace, and the site is hosted on Squarespace.

  2. this is the sort of supposedly game changing idea you get from someone who has no understanding of how manufacturing actually works. Go and look at the backgrounds of the people behind the Internet of Production Alliance and indeed, they have no relevant experience (and very little experience of anything, for that matter). The article starts by mentioning the “supply chain kerfuffles” including toilet paper. It doesn’t matter how much meta-data or design specs or whatever I give you, you’re just not going to make toilet paper or a raspberry pi. Sure you can 3D print a pair of pliers (one of the items in the database of designs), but unless you’re in some isolated corner of the planet with no connections to the world’s commerce (yet somehow still have a 3D printer and source of filament), all you’re going to have is a very expensive, very inferior pair of pliers. This whole thing is just silly.

    1. Not to mention that many of the “supply chain kerfuffles” that I observed, e.g. toilet paper, certain food items were a supply chain issue only in that we were forced out of the chains in which we normally consumed said items. People aren’t allowed to go to work, they consume their toilet paper at home. Now the supply that was in the commercial/institutional chain (at work, church, etc.) was excess.

      Same with food, for example the flour that I needed to now bake my own bread because I couldn’t buy the bread that someone else had been baking for me. That flour was locked up in bakeries, production factories destined for bakeries, etc. It existed, but I couldn’t buy it through the channels that existed.

      I guess what I’m saying is that it was a forced demand chain issue that caused the perceived supply chain issue. That is, until the same restrictions on activity caused actual supply chain issues.

      1. I would like to have thought that there had been a legitimate reason for toilet paper to disappear like it did, but I’m pretty sure the dominant reason is that for some reason people all simultaneously decided they needed to get two years worth of it. The flour, at least, makes a little more sense since it was trendy to learn to bake, and since most people didn’t use much flour beforehand. I would guess that most people probably could and would buy bread with their groceries though. I do think you’ve got a fair point; I also think that it accounts for some of the variability in who could get what – many people probably didn’t know alternative channels for things, and thought that they were simply unavailable.

  3. I am all for DIY – y’all have certainly seen some of my projects on the Hackaday front page.

    I do not, however, see DIY replacing mass production.

    One of the reasons that mass produced things are so cheap is that the people doing the work get lots of practice doing just one thing until they can do it perfectly (or nearly so) all day long.

    If I make a pair of pants, I’m going to make mistakes. I’ll cut something wrong or sew a seam crooked or assemble something in the wrong order causing me to have to undo and redo parts. The mistakes waste material and time. It is not efficient for everyone to make their own clothing or whatever – you have everyone making the same mistakes while learning to make things. That’s a waste of time and resources.

    That’s why we have division of labor and factories in the first place. With factories and people specializing, we (society as a whole) can get more done more efficiently.

    The idea of everyone using a makerspace to custom weave cloth then cutting and sewing custom clothing is a fantasy. What would happen is that people will soon discover that Fred is better at sewing, Joan can get the loom to produce better cloth than anyone else, and that some third person does a much neater job of cutting. From that you are back into division of labor, and people will start paying Fred and Joan and whoever else to do the work for them – and we are right back in a factory.

    For one offs and for fun and for learning, I’m all for DIY.

    For society as a whole, I’m all for mass production of durable goods – from clothing to appliances to vehicles.


    As far as making a Raspberry Pi or toilet paper goes, that’s not just a fantasy. That’s an idiotic fantasy.

    Both require a very large amount of equipment and materials – as well as considerable know-how. Not “read it in a book or watched a video” know-how, but “done that, didn’t work found a better way” hands-on know-how.

    Once you’ve gathered the people and equipment to do it and the people have learned to do it, you’ve built a factory. It’d be better to then make use of that investment of resources to make things for trade – and there we are with shipping and transport and internationalization.

    1. I mostly agree, though mass production need not be of complete objects. Take the desktop PC market model for instance – mass produce the silicon and support components, probably into modular assemblies like GPU and MOBO. But these mass produced parts are compatible and can be assembled in whatever way suits the user, with many elements like the Case being relatively trivial to produce in a more CNC assisted one off style. Only the elements that are highly integrated industries of many complex steps need mass production, the rest can be but doesn’t have to be.

  4. I don’t have the patience to read through all the pie-in-the-sky optimism, but it seems to me that for those things that CAN be produced by such a network of makers and consumers, this would be a good thing for everyone.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if a large fraction of what the IoPA thinks is possible … isn’t.

    It also wouldn’t surprise me if there are things that seem impossible that can be “locally” produced.

    This topic has a lot of facets, and connections to a lot of political, economic, and ecological discussions as well.

    But I don’t think IoPA is going to change the world any time soon.

  5. Anybody else think that this idea is reminiscent of the Russian backyard iron smelters? They failed because they produced useless bad quality results and were so inefficient that they wasted megatons of fuel. The people behind this project clearly don’t understand the complexities of design, quality control, or how mass manufacturing works. Crafts and low volume production works fine for Etsy, but this is pure amateurism.

    1. Which is why we should work on improving the quality of humans, so they can be more capable of doing things for themselves. If people are too inept for self-sufficiency, they should be replaced by better people.

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