June 20th was a big day for us- we were invited to attend THE White House’s From Maker to Manufacturer Stakeholder Event celebrating The National Week of Making with about 60 other doers in the industry. The event was organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and we discussed how, collectively, we can get entrepenurers and makers to connect with local manufacturers and help increase manufacturing in the country.
The diversity of presenters was amazing- there were some who were really rethinking manufacturing, for instance Nadya Peed of MIT was working on a doctorate to redesign a machine as we know it into light weight, modular components that could provide a wider variety of tasks and portability (view her presentation here). Nick Pinkston of Plethora- a small batch, quick turn around manufacturer- spoke about how he is creating software to create autodidactic (self teaching) machines, eliminating the need for training. A big player he mentioned in this sector is Bret Victor, who completely rethinks workspaces, check out this video to see what he is up to.
Along side the future thinkers, where also those that deal with connecting makers and manufacturers today. Ubran Manufacturing Alliance helps collaborate Manufacturing groups in 120 cities around the country to keep infusing innovation through education and programs. Greentown Labs and MassMEP, partnered together to research how manufacturers and entrepeners understand and talk to each other. The findings revealed that many start ups do not understand when is the right time to start talking to a manufacturer or how manufacturing business models work- a huge opportunity for DesignHouse to help engage designers on when and how to start those conversations. We also got to personally speak with Matthew Burnett, CEO of Makers Row. They have created a simple, easy to use Alibaba style match making system to connect makers ready to product products and manufacturers, really bridging the gap that we see today between these two groups.
Some of the main hurdles we saw, were the lack of concrete terminology- for instance, what is a Maker? At what point do you become a Manufacturer? Are jobs in these areas White Collar, Blue Collar (or New Collar, as we call it)? How can the US build up manufacturing networks like China does, so that new relationships do not need to be built each time a company changes or grows? How can we get more innovation to happen on the factory floor? This was an exciting chance to hear the latest in what is happening around the country in local manufacturing and see how DesignHouse can help engage the design community in creating innovative ideas for local manufacturing, but also educate the two groups on how best to work together.