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The Maker Movement can Flourish Thanks to Trade

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The Maker Movement can Flourish Thanks to Trade

The Maker Movement

Life is pretty cushy. We long ago stopped having to make everything we need: forging tools, handcrafting shoes from hides and weaving textiles for clothing. Manufacturers eventually specialized where they had comparative advantage and produced at scale. Specialization led to more trade in goods and services. Today, anything we need can be obtained at the push of a computer button from almost anywhere in the world.

While much attention is being paid to the potential for new technologies to displace manufacturing workers, there’s an interesting phenomenon afoot. Bits and bytes are bringing us back to our “maker” roots by making information and technologies more accessible to everyone. The smallest inventors and producers can integrate into globally distributed production chains and sell into global markets. Basically, trade is providing us the luxury of producing again at a small scale, and it’s the art of inventing nimbly and producing small that just might help us stay globally competitive.

Re-Making our Workforce

“Makerspaces,” TechShops and FabLabs are popping up in cities all over the country and they are playing an increasingly vital role in education, workforce development, entrepreneurship and even revolutionizing advanced manufacturing.

Memberships give hobbyists, tinkerers, students and entrepreneurs alike access to tools, machines and materials to gain experience with 3D printing, CAD/CAM, electronics, robotics, plastics and composites, fabrication, welding, coding and programming, woodworking and more. Students and young workers can be exposed to industrial careers in a relatively low-cost, low-risk environment, picking up skills in weeks — not months and years. They can create portfolios to demonstrate competency in the skills employers require.

By partnering with local colleges and employers, training in Makerspaces can culminate in recognized and portable credentials that prove mastery of a specific skill or set of equipment, enabling companies to develop talent pipelines with less direct investment. Meanwhile, students are not just gaining experience working with materials and machines. They are also putting math and measurement into practice, reading blueprints, and using design software — the knowledge skills associated with modern manufacturing and foundational competencies for a wide variety of jobs that lie in between traditional “blue collar” and executive levels.

TradeVistas- Maker movement graphic

Small Batch Production

“Making” can create new pathways to working at established manufacturing companies, but it is also spawning a resurgence of custom fabricators who are positioned for small-batch or on-demand manufacturing. The current trend of “niche consumerism” is responding to demand for tailored products in small lots, even by the big brands.

Makers can iterate quickly in response to consumer feedback or engage in rapid prototyping to optimize product design. Makers can offer these services to larger firms or they can leverage the resources of Makerspaces to keep costs down and retain control during product development, iteration and initial production of their own invention. The difficulty of communicating well with manufacturers or visiting facilities in China is a common refrain for small entrepreneurs.

Reverse Engineering

Makers and Makerspaces are attracting the attention of major corporations. GE and National Instruments were among the first to emulate Makerspaces to support open innovation on their corporate campuses. Ford Motor Company worked with a company called TechShop to build a world-class Makerspace for Detroit, becoming the facility’s anchor tenant. Affording their engineers the opportunity to cross-pollinate with other inventors and have a freer hand in direct and more rapid prototyping, Ford says that within one year, the company doubled the number of patents the company produced.

Large companies recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere, from hobbyists to amateur scientists and roboticists. Some Makerspaces cater more to small designers and inventors, but others are more like modern-day Edison workshops hosting sophisticated “experiments” employing biotechnology, nanotechnology and additive manufacturing. As such, they have become ecosystems of innovation where individuals, small businesses and large corporations can come together to incubate and accelerate ideas in a decentralized and agile network — emulating the same set of activities and interactions that were once only housed inside the corporation.

Manufacturing Renaissance?

Putting compact versions of industrial tools in the hands of millions more people means that inventors can get a “minimum viable product” out in the world faster and at much lower cost. Small and growing manufacturers can take smaller bets on the market with lower volume commitments or put a wider variety of products out for testing consumer preferences.

Specialty manufacturers that can re-tool quickly are filling an increasingly important role offering “manufacturing-as-a-service.” The Maker Movement encourages innovation through co-creation and crowdsourced designs, rapid prototyping and experimentation with new production processes. Maker facilities enable micro-factories that can service orders from anywhere in the world. Some notable inventions in Makerspaces have even transformed commerce itself. For example, millions of small businesses now use Square to take payments.

Join the Movement

Makers aren’t likely to replace mass production anytime soon, but they are an important source for training the next generation of inventors and manufacturing workers. Makerspaces are poised to drive real economic benefits for cities that embrace and support them. For example, the Brooklyn Navy Yard brings together makers, artisans, and manufacturers. The more than 10,000 people working within the complex generate some $390 million in economic output, supporting an estimated $2 billion in indirect earnings and an additional 15,500 jobs in 2011. According to the Pratt Center for Community Development, it’s a model producing similar results from across the country from Chicago to Minden, Nevada.

The famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has supported a TechShop in Pittsburgh and provides membership for thousands of veterans. With funding from the Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO and Carnegie Mellon University partnered with TechShop Pittsburgh to create apprenticeship programs for workers and to encourage startups to manufacture locally. As Brooking’s Mark Muro has written, the Maker Movement is “a deeply American source of decentralized creativity for rebuilding America’s thinning manufacturing ecosystems…hacking the new industrial revolution one town at a time.”

#Thankstrade

Makers are able to access the materials and tools they need because of trade. Take the 3D printer, for example. The global market for 3D printers, plastics and related services have exploded in recent years. And perhaps one could even be so bold as to say that it’s the expansion of global trade that affords us the opportunity to rediscover and reinvent the art of “making” itself, which could in turn profoundly impact what we make and what we trade.

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

Old Dominion

Old Dominion Meets Growing Demand with Facility Expansions

As capacity and customer demands continue to grow, leading LTL carrier Old Dominion Freight Line (OD) prepares to meet these industry needs by expanding its facilities across the country from Texas and Ohio to Idaho and Arkansas while adding more facilities to growing markets. The announces expansions include innovative technology allowing for increased shipping paces and seamless shipment transfers while reducing shipping time and adding more room for capacity and flexibility options.

“As our customers adjust to growing e-commerce demands, they rely on us to not only accommodate the additional shipments but to also help them keep their promises to their customers with fast, on-time delivery with no product damage,” said Terry Hutchins, Vice President of Real Estate. “We are excited about these new and renovated service center openings. OD will continue to invest in new capacity to welcome the growing demand and exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Among the regions now boasting renovated and improved facilities in El Paso and Lubbock, TX, Columbus, OH, and Chicago. The facility expansions and additions ultimately strengthen the LTL carrier’s market presence while maintaining customer satisfaction through upgrades and more bodies for support.

In addition to facility expansions, remodeling, and employee additions, OD will celebrate the opening of new facilities recently opened in Oregon, Idaho, Arkansas, and Georgia throughout the month of October.

Our long term strategic plan includes continual investment in our network to improve efficiencies and increase capacity so when our customers grow, we can serve them. The end goal of helping our customers keep their promises is solidified by our continued investment in new technology and service center expansion,” said Hutchins.

Tech Mahindra Ltd. Opens O’Fallon, MO Location

M Property Services officially announced the addition of Tech Mahindra Ltd. to its WingHaven Development earlier this week. The technology-focused global company – which is specialized in areas pertaining to digital transformation, consulting, business reengineering and software solutions, now boasts an address on Technology Drive in the O’Fallon, Missouri region.

“Due to the many amenities throughout O’Fallon and the WingHaven development, we were able to invite a world-class tech company to open a facility within the city’s boundaries which would allow it to continue supporting world-class companies in O’Fallon, MO and numerous other large companies outside of the O’Fallon area,” said MPS Chairman Paul McKee, Jr. “So many of Tech Mahindra’s employees currently live in O’Fallon and WingHaven, so the location for the new technology center was ideal.”

As innovative solutions for micro services, automation, artificial intelligence, security, machine learning, cloud computing, big data, data and analytics, and blockchain serve as primary drivers behind the expansion, Tech Mahindra’s new 14,000-square-foot Technology Center also supports efforts in addressing the needs of customers.

“As part of our TechMNxt charter, we are committed to inspire our partner ecosystem, academia and employees to focus on innovation in next gen technologies and customer experience,” said CP Gurnani, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Tech Mahindra.

“We believe it is our responsibility to invest in the local communities we operate in, and this is a step towards supporting increase in employability of future technologists, and delivering enhanced experience to our customers globally. We look forward to seeing the innovations that come out of this center as we develop real-world solutions for a digital future,” Gurnami concluded.

2019 Manhattan Momentum: 25 Years and Counting

It’s the 25th anniversary of the annual supply chain-centered conference, Manhattan Momentum which boasts an agenda packed with insightful sessions led by some of the most important supply chain movers and shakers across a variety of sectors.

From May 20-23, Manhattan Momentum will draw in more than a thousand global senior supply chain, retail, omnichannel, logistics, press, industry analysts, and innovative partners to network and learn about the latest and greatest trends, innovations, and technologies changing the pace for the supply chain environment. This year’s event will take place at the JW Marriott, Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona.

With a full agenda scheduled, a special Modern Robotics Enabling Flexible Automation session with IDC’s John Santagate will be held on May 22. Other keynote speakers include former NFL player Jon Dorenbos, ULTA Beauty Senior IT Manager Nancy Mclain, IBM’s Senior Offering Manager Jason Tavoularis, and many more leaders speaking on topics such as enterprise management, supply chain intelligence, and 2019 retail opportunities, to name a few.

To review the full agenda and registration information, please visit: manh-momentum.com