America is the land of opportunity – the home of makers, builders and doers. Once the economic engine fueled by the Industrial Revolution, today’s manufacturing is charged by tinkerers and problem solvers who intersect:
♦ Technology and innovation
♦ Handcrafted goods
♦ Social enterprises
♦ Alternative funding such as crowd source funding
In a nod to manufacturing 2.0, in 2015, Barack Obama declared the first National Week of Making to “encourage a new generation of makers and manufacturers to share their talents and hone their skills.” Maker’s week 2018 is June 11-18.
Real Manufacturing of Products
In the past few years, American makerspaces launched FitBit, SodaStream and the dongle for Square credit card processing and payment system.
With significant implications for manufacturing, workforce development, education, healthcare innovation and technology advancements, the maker movement is “a big and important development in the American economy,” according to James Fallows, national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly.
Fallows notes that access to low-cost tools such as 3-D printers enables makers to “capitalize on a strategy that combines quick response, local sills and a global marketplace to foster manufacturing in U.S. cities.”
Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO of The Grommet concurs. “The remarkable part of the maker movement is that tools to create products have become accessible to just about anyone.”
Until recently, industrial design often had to be done in a large company because the tools were exclusively the property of big companies. Makerspaces make equipment such as laser cutters available to anyone. In addition to equipment rental, makers have access to a community of innovators.
Jamais Cascio, author and futurist who was named a Top 100 Global Thinker, says that the shift from industrial manufacturing to maker manufacturing is a movement of transformation between older and newer systems. “The older system is losing reliability, losing flexibility. But the newer system has yet to become as powerful and dominant as the old system once was. It’s more about cultural change than about economics.”
Not Dead – Just Different
Makerspaces are on the rise. According to the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC), there were 1,941 Global Makerspaces, with numbers expected to increase dramatically in the next five years.
Manufacturing is not dead, but it is changing. After the 2007 recession, millennial buyers changed the face of retail. They want to buy products that:
- Come with meaning and a story,
- Are produced locally,
- Are made with methods that reflect their personal values and
- Are merchandized by people and brands they trust.
This is how makerspaces products are created, discovered and shared. This is part of the changing landscape of what it means to be “made in America.”