Andrew Lamb - New Alumni

by Chris McGivern, 1 September 2021

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Created by Jason Hudson (CC BY 2.0)

On 1st September this year, we welcomed Andrew Lamb to the growing ranks of Shuttleworth Alumni.

Andrew is an engineer and experienced leader in humanitarian and international development. His idea is Massive Small Manufacturing, a concept that addresses systemic failures in the disaster relief supply chain by revolutionising how the world makes and distributes products and parts.

Tapping into emergent technologies, Andrew is shifting thinking away from the decades-old trend of centralised, mass manufacturing and towards a future of openly-licensed designs and hyper-local manufacturing by the masses. At present, aid workers struggle to deliver critical equipment. Supply chain delays cause long-lasting and fatal harm to already-devastated communities. Massive Small Manufacturing is an ecosystem where the supply chain is significantly shortened - if not eliminated entirely - and enables people to make what is needed, where it’s needed and when it’s needed.

Over his three-year fellowship, Andrew has turned his theories into something real and tangible and given us valuable insight into systems thinking and breaking down a problem into its constituent parts. He has identified each of the critical components of the Massive Small Manufacturing ecosystem and brought several distinct communities together around those ideas. The Internet of Production Alliance is a group of people and organisations that are building the foundations for a future of sustainable, decentralised manufacturing and shared knowledge, and creating essential open standards and protocols. Open Know-How is distributing over a thousand openly-licensed, low-cost designs to inspire innovation and save lives, while Open Know-Where maps and shares critical information about the location of manufacturing capabilities. Put all these components together, and the Internet becomes an intermediary for economic development and production at a local level in the real world.

In practical terms, Andrew’s progress means people in Fiji are using buckets made in Fiji for relief efforts rather than relying on and waiting for delivery by the traditional supply chain. People and organisations are beginning to adopt open data standards and bake them into their platforms and systems, moving hardware designs out of corporate platform silos and making them open and discoverable. It is still a work in progress and very early days - akin to putting the first web pages on the Internet - but, to date, Andrew estimates over 100,000 life-saving items have been made by matching local demand with local supply.

Andrew’s professional profile has grown significantly over the last three years, and his ideas are much in demand. In part, this is due to the pandemic, which has opened a number of doors for the Massive Small Manufacturing concept that may otherwise have remained closed. It has prompted growing political advocacy towards making medical devices open, and Andrew is in an excellent position to grasp the opportunity in the immediate future. But the pandemic has also increased the likelihood of catch-up by the private sector. The race to help individual manufacturers compete in the marketplace, it seems, is getting a little faster.

One other big question about Andrew’s fellowship remains. For system change to be effective it requires mass adoption and independence from any particular person. The organisations and support structures Andrew has created are excellent starting points, but there is still a sense that they require him at the helm. With his new funding avenues and a runway of several years, we look forward to Andrew developing his ideas further and ensuring they stick so others can start picking up the baton.

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