The saying goes that there’s three kinds of people: Makers, takers, and fakers. In the past several years, there’s been a lot more attention paid to makers, which is focusing new attention on inventing, developing, and, most of all, manufacturing.
Known as the Maker Movement – love that alliteration – it all started in the early 2000s. To a certain extent, it could be a reaction against the interest in computers and robots that dissociated people from the activity of making things with their own hands – sort of like the “high tech, high touch” from John Naisbitt’s Megatrends in 1982 – as well as, perhaps, concern about traditional American manufacturing moving offshore.
“Bleary-eyed souls peering up over their laptops and monitors, craving something
more tactile than a keyboard, plus a measure of control over their surroundings,” describes Gwen Moran in a 2011 Entrepreneur article on the rise of the Maker Movement. “And then it began: They started making things, things that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with 1s or 0s.” In 2005, Make magazine was created, to help address this community.
Now, there’s “maker” groups in a number of cities, as well as “Maker Faires” around the world. Starting in 2006, Maker Faires now attract over 100,000 people who get together to show things they’ve made and to buy and sell tools and materials to help them make them. In fact, even the White House is getting into the act. The Maker Movement is said to include up to 135 million people and to contribute up to $29 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
Where the manufacturing industry gradually became bigger and bigger, “making” works by thinking small. Not necessarily as innovative as inventing, yet going beyond inventing to actually building the products, “making” typically involves manufacturing on a small, personal, and individual scale, whether it’s hooded sweatshirts made to order or surfboard hooks in a variety of materials.
The new focus on small and individual manufacturing means the maker movement is also partnering with the entrepreneurial movement, giving people the opportunity to create small companies to manufacture products to order.
What does this mean for traditional manufacturers? It could mean a lot of things, but most important, it means there’s a whole new group of potential manufacturing partners.
Steve Leavitt, GM of U.S. Cloud Solutions for Exact