The Maker Movement and The Manufacturing Industry

The maker movement is basically about making things, about creating and/or customizing things. You will notice that I will use the word “thing(s)” a lot in this article. As meaningless as this word usually is, it is crucial here because it embodies the whole concept of the maker movement. It is about things, anything and everything, from the person cooking, to the person programming a robot, to the person making his own jewellery or pickles. They are all making something.

The maker movement is nothing new. It was always there through the DIYers, art and crafts lovers and tinkerers but it increased in the recent years due to the access to information and material. On the one hand, there is more access to instructions/learning through platforms such as YouTube, Pinterest, Github and on the other hand there is more access to means of producing/concretizing these ideas with the 3D printer or the Raspberry PI for example. Anderson, who wrote a book about the maker movement argues that the last ten years have been about using the web and screens to virtually create things and that the next ten years will be about making them into being. He also importantly points out that the reason why the maker movement is important is not because things are being created but because they are being created by anyone and everyone.

The maker movement as a social movement
One of the essential aspects of the maker movement is that it is about collaborative learning. According to Richardson, Elliot and Haylock (2013) “Open Source Hardware (OSHW) has sparkled the Maker movement”, not only because it gives access to knowledge but because it is based on the idea of the community of learners. And with the internet, this community is not limited to physical boundaries anymore but has moved on to being international communities where knowledge can be shared across borders. Nevertheless this community is not only virtual but also provides the maker with the possibility to use physical spaces, such as “Fablabs, hackerspaces and 100K Garages” (Richarson, Elliot and Haylock 2013) and meet other makers and their products, through events such as the Maker Faire.

How is it important to the corporate/business/manufacturing world?
The Maker Media & Deloitte Center for the Edge (2013) argued that “[o]ver time we could see customized products making up an increasing portion of the market and consequently eroding the mass-produced portion of the market”. Inevitably this will have an impact on the manufacturing world and the industry will have to cope with it. This has been a worry in recent years particularly with crowdfunding now enabling anyone to produce anything. Websites like Kickstarter have revolutionised the way that products are manufactured today but also how they are consumed. Website like Etsy have also made it even easier for makers who can now sell directly to the public.

What does that mean for the manufacturing industry?

Well it means that they have to surf the waves. The aim of the maker movement is not to eliminate mass produced good but rather to be able to customize different things and to encourage creation. As Dougherty (2012) pointed out companies need to look at the makers as potential generators of ideas. As pointed in the by Bajarin (2014) the Maker movement has already “has caught the attention of many major players in the tech and corporate worlds” and that is essentially good because there is a lot that industries can learn/get from makers. It is not an isolated movement for geeks but rather a platform where people can really create things that matter; that have not just sentimental value but also commercial value. There is a pool of talent and skills out there and it up to the manufacturing industry to work with them.

What do you think of the maker movement? Has it had an influence on you or your company? Do you think it has a future?