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5 Surprising Impacts the Maker Movement is Having on Manufacturing

No longer considered a passing fad, the Maker Movement is the unconventional, but popular convergence of DIY and hacker cultures. Combining technical pursuits, like electronics, robotics, and 3D printing with trade oriented DIY like metalworking and woodworking, the Maker Movement encourages the use of open sourced design and contemporary approaches to solve age-old problems. Estimated to reach $93 billion by 2025, the Maker Movement is beginning to transform industries like manufacturing and distribution. As the “physical manifestation of the digital movement,” the Maker Movement will challenge manufacturing assumptions on what can be created, traditional design limitations, and the speed with which concepts make it to market. Below are five significant impacts makers have had on manufacturing so far:


Leading brands such as Levi’s, Home Depot, and Best Buy are looking to the Maker Movement to incorporate a new sense of individuality into their ethos. These brands are promoting the makers’ products, often celebrating the story behind them. These products don’t have to be better than their mass-produced counterparts – it’s the personality of the makers’ products that will drive sales. In turn, more consumers are turning to known brands to learn about lesser known artisans, bolstering brand awareness and loyalty.

Micro-Market Potential

Traditional manufacturers typically will only build a product where a well-defined and sizable market exists. The market must have fairly homogenous needs, usages, and buying power. While these truisms have held for decades, the Maker Movement challenges this assertion by bringing inexpensive, low-scale production to smaller micro-markets. In particular, medical manufacturing is experiencing a surge of innovation due to the Maker Movement. Some diseases and sicknesses only impact a small fraction of the market – making them unattractive for traditional manufacturers. However, groups of makers who may personally suffer from these health issues are exploring small-scale solutions.

Expedited Development Timelines

Established manufacturers are known for thinking about product timelines in years, but makers are eroding these expectations into months. GE is using the Maker Movement to rethink its manufacturing cycle – learning how to harness the independence of makers to speed up the process. By following a model more common in startups, GE has created low-volume micro-factories and common workspaces to explore new markets and the products best suited for them. Working on faster timelines in these facilities, GE can quickly decide what is worth further investment and what is better left on the drawing board. One of the most notable success stories is the Opal ice maker, developed as part of GE’s FirstBuild Maker Movement consortium. Whereas a typically product could take four years to develop and go to market, the Opal ice maker went from idea to sales in four months.

Radicalized Supply Chain

In the Maker Movement, R&D effectively moves out of the corporate environment into individual innovators’ homes, offices, and labs. Successful large companies will find ways to provide scale- and scope-based services to makers in the form of infrastructure, platforms, and technologies that manufacturers can offer on a shared or rental basis. GE’s FirstBuild serves as an open platform to source collaborative ideas online and move quickly to product prototype, iteration, and refinement of both existing and new products.

New Manufacturing Jobs

It’s indisputable that increased manufacturing efficiency has resulted in scarcer manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and even higher-value manufacturing process may now be offshore in the foreseeable future. Despite this, the Maker Movement not only delivers new manufacturing jobs by lowering the barriers of entry for new companies, but also creates jobs within manufacturing giants expanding into new domestic spaces.

In the coming year, the Maker Movement will continue to revolutionize manufacturing. Companies are proving they’re not afraid to ride this wave of the future – learning from and working with makers in new ways. The most visionary will realize scale- and scope- based manufacturing services as a standalone, significant revenue stream. Small-to-medium-sized businesses and large corporations alike can work with makers to explore untapped markets. As simple as partnering with a maker workshop or providing space, logistics, technology, or infrastructure support to promising artisans, few barriers exist separating makers from traditional manufacturing. With so much potential, the Maker Movement can bring companies of all sizes into a new age of innovation.


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