The craft era
The first major era is now referred to as ‘craft’ manufacturing and service ‘shop’ delivery. This system was European in origin and linked to the way in which skills were developed: the apprentice–journeyman– master progression, which led to the creation of guilds of skilled people who sought to control the supply of their speciality, and the consolidation of skill within a subsector of society (as, for example, skills were passed on from father to son). This was noted for low-volume, high-variety products, where workers tended to be highly skilled and quality was built into the very process of operations. It was also appropriate for largely national markets, supplied internally with minimal imports and exports. Some craft manufacturing still remains today, in markets where exotic products and services can control demands through some unique feature or high level of desirability. For instance, some house building, furniture making, clock and watch making are still carried out by skilled craftsmen/women working on a single or few items of output at a time. While the processes and techniques used by these craftsmen/women are highly inefficient, the unique quality of their products commands a premium price, as illustrated by the secondhand value of products such as a Daniels pocket watch or a Morgan car. In the case of Morgan, however, it is a mistake to conclude that the passenger car industry might still be able to employ craft production. Morgan is unashamedly part of a sector that is closer to specialist toys than that concerned with personal transportation. It is also the end of a very thin tail, other parts of which (AC, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, etc.) have already been absorbed by volume producers, keen to operate in exotic niches for purposes that are closer to corporate advertising than to income generation. In the clothing industry, one significant sector of the industry – haute couture – is based on the craft production approach. In...
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