The ‘Maker Movement’ is Taking Manufacturing Back to Its Roots

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Are you familiar with the Maker Movement? If not, you’re not alone. Essentially, the Maker Movement is a confined but expanding market of individuals using their skills in manufacturing and crafting to usurp the corporate world and venture into the business for themselves. Their crafts are as varied as the individuals who hone them, and the cool thing about it is that the makers are actually starting to make a difference.
Think about it this way: If you’ve ever been to Etsy, you’ve probably had a run-in with the Maker Movement at a very basic level. These are people independently producing something, and selling it themselves. It’s done on a small scale by a select, specialized group of talented individuals, without all of the shareholders, stock prices and everything else commonly associated with manufacturing. Big businesses are taking notice as well, and are actually adopting some of the Movement’s techniques and products into their own. Adweek has mentioned companies like Levi’s and Home Depot, but many more are on board as well.
The Makers are definitely making their way into the mainstream, having been covered by large publications like Time and even Newsweek, among others. But what truly makes the Maker Movement special, is that it allows people from all kinds of backgrounds to become creators of one kind or another, and by doing so, they may actually shift the entire world of manufacturing and production as we know it.
So, how many people are actually involved in this? According to Agency of Trillions, a collaborative media company that is part of the Movement themselves, the U.S. is home to 135 million of them. Not only that, but new collaborative laboratories and coworking spaces are popping up all over the country all of the time, and 100 fairs and conferences last year attracted more than half a million attendees.
Not only that, but the potential value within the projects being put out by Maker spaces is in the billions. It allows for startups and small businesses to be brought up quickly and cheaply, simply by collaborating and putting creative minds together.
“With the right motivation and time on your hands, you can now go through your own personal industrial revolution in 90 days, and can launch a company or product within those 90 days,” Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop told USA Today.”The skill level required to produce a usable prototype or usable object has dropped precipitously just in the last five years.”
Collaborative spaces offer the opportunity for ordinary folks to get their hands on equipment that would otherwise be completely inaccessible, like 3D printers and laser cutters. A perfect example of a company that has come out of the Maker Movement is Local Motors, which has achieved enough success that they have had one of their top projects, a 3D-printed car, appear on national television during NBC’s Today Show. Local Motors, as we’ve written before, is throwing a real wrench into the traditional manufacturing model, by using collaborative designs from people all over the world, and incorporating “microfactories” into the process to ensure fast and reliable assembly of its products.
While Local Motors is only one example of a success from the Maker Movement, there are plenty more. The important thing to remember is that the Movement itself is still in its early stages, and down the road could lead to a drastically different market for products and services than we see today. Instead of going to your local Chevrolet dealer for your next truck, why not have an army of designers write up some blueprints, then have it printed and assembled by a Maker’s group? It’s not as far-fetched as it seems.
What’s really happening is that people are turning away from the overly corporatized world of production, and taking on a more DIY attitude. Getting back to the roots of manufacturing and production, for many, is offering a new way to provide themselves with income, and giving consumers additional choices on the open market. It’s almost medieval in nature, where the division of labor among residents of particular areas depend upon each other for goods and services. Well, the Maker Movement is capturing a little bit of that, at least in spirit.
“People are moving out of big business and looking for an environment in which they have control over what work looks like — whether that’s as a consultant, or as a product developer trying to start a big company,” Molly Rubenstein of Artisan’s Asylum told USA Today.
“Everyone is becoming an entrepreneur.”
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