Yesterday, my son and I went to see Fritz Lang's Moonfleet in a movie theater (and it still works - that angel in the graveyard!). Sure, we have de DVD at home. But these are two different experiences. On the way there, I saw an ad for a device to have your own beer on tap at home. This is after Nespresso machines, and make your own bread machines and etc…
A decade ago Godefroy Beauvallet and I theorized about this:
Our idea was that industrial processes allow us to create machines to improve quality of life, but first these need investment, such as an expresso machine you can only pay back if your run a café and charge for every use, or, indeed, beer on tap. The next step, through tech progress is to miniaturize these machines and bring them home: think of the switch from Internet cafés replaced by smartphones.
This can be seen as a disaster if we reason like Malthus and see that as the number of people who can afford their own nespresso machine explodes exponentially, the world resources will be depleted just to have a better machiato, but we need to inquire in how the shift from a central expresso machine to the one on your kitchen table is even possible.
Mostly, substitution. Parts are substituted one by one by cheaper, lighter components that draw less on resources. I am myself deeply involved in one such substation game with http://www.alliancemim.com that replaces machines metal parts with molded metal parts, which reduces overall consumption radically.
Progress on individual machines now forces progress on the central ones as well. The café is nbot about to disappear, nor is the movie theater - we go there for different reasons, talking monkeys need spaces to get together and feel wowed, either by the camaraderie, or the show. But the tech used to miniaturize equipment will force evolution in the big central ones. As we watched Moonfleet, I wondered whether they were still projecting from film (it felt like it) or had moved to digital.
Where are you in the substitution chain? Are you moving your product or service in a way that is kinder to the environment and wiser in its use? Personally, I have tried for years to include "environment" to the safety, quality, productivity, inventory measures that we use to Check kaizen efforts - and largely failed so far. But I now see this has nothing to do with political correctness, but true evolutionary pressure on product, so I'll fight hard for it. This, I believe is one of the essential questions for 2014, no matter what one does.
Enjoy the last days of 2013! The future is now!