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“We are putting a premium on speed,” said Jeff Immelt in his latest letter to the long-suffering shareholders of General Electric (GE).
Ginni Rometty, who is struggling to revive IBM, recently told the , “People ask, ‘Is there a silver bullet?
Japanese firms pioneered flexible supply chains and reorganised factory floors in the 1970s and 1980s—eking out efficiency gains by eliminating delays.
In 1990 George Stalk and Thomas Hout, of BCG, a consulting firm, popularised this approach in “Competing Against Time” (a favourite book of Apple’s boss, Tim Cook).
Some firms are so fast that they can travel into the future: Amazon plans to do “anticipatory” shipping before orders are placed.
“The pace of change is accelerating,” Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg of Google assert in their book “How Google Works”.
For evidence look no further than the “unicorns”—highflying startups—which can win billion-dollar valuations within a year or two of coming into being.
The frequency with which consumers shop for groceries, which has been declining for a decade or more, may have picked up thanks to the spread of e-commerce. The rate of new consumer-product launches is probably slowing or in decline. A crude gauge of production speed can be gained by looking at the inventories of industrial firms, which mainly comprise half-finished goods, or “work-in-progress”.
The ratio of work-in-progress to sales points to a slowdown over the past decade (though if you exclude Boeing, an aircraft-maker, it is merely flat).
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It has shortened from over 100 years for the spindle (invented in 1779), to 13 years for mobile phones, according to Diego Comin and Martí Mestieri, two scholars.