In an age when factories make custom-fit blue jeans — and the management gurus who wear them preach individual empowerment in the workplace — Intel seems to be swimming against the tide. It has adopted a production strategy called Copy Exactly.

That may sound like the slogan of some people’s republic devoted to plagiarism, but it’s actually the newest thing in corporate capitalism. The company, which makes its computer chips all over the world, discovered dismaying variations in quality and output from plant to plant, and these variations cost money. Intel’s solution was to figure out the single best way to make a given chip and then set about cloning this ideal factory — all other production facilities devoted to the same product would be identical, right down to the hue of paint used on the walls or the precise way a tool is wiped clean.