Industrialization altered the way everything was fabricated. Factories became the locus of commercializing everything from utensils to pharmaceuticals, building parts and automobiles. In generally closed loops, businesses safeguarded their commodities and methods through patents and protectionist attitudes underwritten by privatisation. Strategies were outlined to give each corporation a competitive edge over their peers. Design and manufacturing were trademarked, intraoperable and exclusive only to internal stakeholders. Methodological frameworks from Ford to Toyota envisioned their production secrets as their very ethos and core of their potential economic successes. This closed manufacturing is the emblem of industrialization, and of the free market economy.
Digital principles and societies’ crises are challenging these closed loops in favour of shared access to crowd iterations. Many have been inspired by the open-source revolution in software to apply the same interoperable freedom to hardware and to a diversity of manufacturing sectors. Known as open manufacturing or open factories, these attitudes harness the power of commonalities, democratized designs, innovative processes, and shared research infrastructure crosspollinated across customarily private lines. Trade associations can play an important role in the suggestion of normalized and acquiesced methods to elevate quality through industrial clusters. Collaboration or sharing hubs put forward innovation and expand peer production to explode closed ideological loops.
This type of sector endorsed equity and normalization could offer opportunities in offsite construction, whether modular or panelized. Currently, most manufacturers protect their production secrets even though most are building in a similar way. Timber based prefabrication for mobile homes, volumetric modular or open wall and floor panels use timber frame principles that are non-proprietary and used onsite to realize the same basic structures as their factory-built analogs; frame details and materials are common construction knowledge. Still, the industry remains very conservative about sharing. Mutual methodologies pushed by trade associations could be a way forward to increase capacity and develop process and design intelligence throughout the industry making it possible for many small companies to compete fairly against larger manufacturers. Even for larger manufacturers, open and peer production leads to knowledge accessibility, potential affordability for the consumer and possibilities for greater growth.