4 Reasons “The Maker Movement” Will Redefine Traditional Manufacturing in the U.S.

My Dad and I met for lunch recently, and he showed me plans for a custom potting bench he had already designed and built for my mother.  Before I get too far, I should say that it is a beautiful piece and received rave reviews from the ladies at bridge club (nice work Pop).

He wants to market the product online and was looking for pointers from a trusted Xennial on website design, marketing and distribution so he could determine whether or not a larger market existed for the beloved potting bench (i.e. beyond bridge club).

I don’t know where my Dad’s project will land, but it got me thinking about how DIY could revolutionize our idea of traditional manufacturing.

“The next generation of manufacturing wisdom is more likely to bubble up from local experiments than trickle down from legacy institutions”Mark Muro and Peter Hirshberg

Death of distance and communication along with easier access to tools and resources have created a way for individuals, hacks, tinkerers and inventors (“Makers”) to quickly and easily create and market products to a global audience.

The decentralized community of Makers is spreading throughout developed nations and has already produced several products you might recognize (e.g. FitBit, OtterBox, SimpliSafe and SodaStream).  Products and services have been created from the collaboration of tech and non-tech in a way that is creating new markets and disrupting old ones.

I know this because Etsy’s revenue has more than quadrupled since 2012, consumer behemoth ACE Hardware purchased The Grommet in October of this year, and “Maker Communities” and businesses accommodating the “Maker Culture” like Inventables continue to pop up.  Also see Make Magazine.  Chevron has contributed funding for Fab Lab in support of STEM Education.

Universities like Arizona State and Northern Illinois University have also built “Maker Spaces” to encourage experienced craftsman, engineering and tech students to create innovative processes and products.

Here is a link to a study Deloitte put together in 2014 on the effect of the “Maker Movement.”

We’ve already seen manufacturing of clothes, consumer electronics, and gadgets shift overseas to production facilities where the lower wages offset high volume, factory scale risk.  However, this has opened the door for new markets and opportunities to emerge.

Basically, the Maker Movement is a network of decentralized communities making, crafting and designing unique products typically sold online to a niche market of consumers.  The Maker Movement has also made it easier for new companies to start and sustain in what I believe will become a new era of manufacturing.

“As economies get richer, the relative share of manufacturing in their output and their workforce inevitably goes down (as it does for farming-even as absolute in both categories keeps going up), because service sectors are growing faster. This is true even of economies which much more aggressive pro-manufacturing industrial government policies and corporate practices, like Germany and Japan. And as manufacturing efficiency goes up, the share of manufacturing jobs goes down even faster than the output share. Everyone’s grandfather worked in a factory; each generation, fewer do.” James Fallows

The major barriers that once stood to keep entrepreneurs out have fallen. Now tools that were once out of reach are more readily accessible to the Maker Community.  This, in turn, has created an environment for innovation and production at a relatively low cost.

Below are a few tools and outlets Makers have at their disposal that will redefine the way we look at manufacturing in the years to come.

  1. Computer Aided Design (CAD) products and other computerized design systems provide digital renderings, and in some cases product testing, before any prototypes are created.
  2. Maker Spaces bring CNC machines, production and printing machines, which drastically reduce overhead.  Zach Kaplan, CEO and founder of Inventables said, “The key driver is that the cost of the tools such as 3D printers, CNC Mills and things like Ardunino and Raspberry PI motherboards and other core tech products have come down and are in reach of normal consumers.”  3D Printing is making it faster, easier and much less expensive to prototype new products or produce high-value low volume items that would normally have to come from a large manufacturer.  Click here to learn more about 3D printing.
  3. Marketing channels are available at a relatively low cost since mediums like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, among others, allow for paperless and data driven marketing campaigns achieving a direct and precise touch with the target consumers.
  4. Training and Collaboration: Maker Spaces also offer training for manufacturing processes and design.  Collaboration with other Makers encourages innovation and best practices across product categories.

Repeated findings from The Kauffman Foundation illustrate that nearly all net new job creation comes from businesses in the first few years of being established.  Older companies tend to decrease employment over time.

This means that we want new businesses to be established, new processes to be created and entrepreneurs to innovate better ways of doing business as opposed to subsidizing an older group of companies which have a much less positive effect on the economy.  I say, good riddance.  Out with the old, in with the new.

The stigma and risk of high volume, factory scale production is being mitigated through a decentralized network of Maker Communities and successful companies that spin out of Maker Culture.  20 years ago you had to get a replacement circuit board from overseas, now it can be readily produced and distributed in days.

Groups like FirstBuild (GE spin off) are creating an environment that is dedicated to exploring high quality production of lower volume, lower risk products.  Companies like GE and ACE Hardware are using these communities to innovate for them and act as a test kitchen for innovative products consumers want.

Thanks for reading!  A like or share speaks volumes!


Resources:

  1. Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing Our Cities
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2017/10/07/ace-hardware-bets-on-the-maker-movement-in-acquiring-majority-stake-in-the-grommet/#1573a9b21cee
  3. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/brit-morin/what-is-the-maker-movemen_b_3201977.html
  4. http://time.com/104210/maker-faire-maker-movement/
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maker_culture\
  6. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2017/01/04/the-maker-movement-can-catalyze-a-manufacturing-renaissance/
  7. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/06/why-the-maker-movement-matters-part-1-the-tools-revolution/485720/