The newest book by Chris Anderson, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, describes an innovative cutting-edge age for transforming American manufacturing. A Maker is an entrepreneur who is industrializing the do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit. Through the use of the Internet they can harness the power of communities across the globe to utilize tools for both invention and production. The author sees the Maker as the catalyst for the resurgence of American manufacturing.
Anderson opens by sharing a historical recount of the process of invention using a story about his own grandfather. He believed that only because he was in the wrong time period; before Internet was invented, his grandfather was not able to become the entrepreneur he needed to be to get his product off the ground. However, the new industrial revolution that Anderson proposes is upon us now. A person can be both inventor and entrepreneur, thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and technological advancements.
Technology improvements over the past couple decades provide us all with the tools to become designers. The use of computer software design applications helps us to create virtual models of our ideas. The hardware tools for transformation that Anderson highlights are: the 3-D printer, CNC machine, laser cutter and 3-D scanner which help us turn designs into physical products.
The rise of open source software and hardware availability enables individuals and communities to contribute and support in the creation of an idea into reality. Leading private organizations have even tapped into the open market to supplement their in-house expertise. Once a design is perfected, Makers utilize websites like Kickstarter to host the financial backing of the product. Anderson explains the unique opportunity that Kickstarter provides to inventors/entrepreneurs as having the ability to simultaneously generate pre-sale orders, market and promote the product, as well as gauge market receptiveness.
Throughout the book, he shares stories about real people who turn what may have been a hobby at first, into a profitable livelihood. He also explains how the use of the Internet has opened manufacturing to the wide reaches of the world. Anyone can take their design to almost any manufacturer to create their product just by harnessing the power of the Internet, and all from the comfort of their home. The final chapter describes how the DIY movement is prevalent in biology. Anderson relates what is already done in nature with DNA, to what is potentially the future of biological science. What can now only be done by a small number of professional labs will soon evolve to a point where not just trained scientists can have all the fun. The Maker Movement is upon us; if you can imagine it, you can make it.
Supply Chain Management Impact
The book highlights a number of key areas in supply chain management that are transformed through this new industrial revolution. First and foremost, the Maker movement is about taking an active role in invention and following through to fabrication of a product. When a product design is shared openly, anyone can add value by improving or modifying it. Through the use of communities of like-minded, driven individuals, research and development can be expedited faster than a normal product development lifecycle. Just because the consumers might be located all over the world, doesn’t make it harder to manufacture and deliver products. Currently, there are even manufacturers that no longer charge for intellectual property.
The impacts of this model are profound. In the new model, a Maker can send a design via the Internet to be produced at a manufacturer closer to the customer to avoid paying additional transportation costs. All these steps improve the time it takes to get a mass customizable product to market and enables production closer to the customer so that they get their goods sooner than traditional methods. In the future, there would be no need for centralized warehouses or even necessity to maintain inventory. The future will be a highly decentralized model, manufacturing closer to the end consumer. This decreases transportation costs and minimizes the costs of inventory storage. This new way of manufacturing is also capable of mass customization, the ultimate supply chain oxymoron. The time when manufacturing required expensive custom machines that had to make the same thing in huge numbers to justify the tooling expense is fading fast. Setup costs are decreasing with the improved accessibility of 3-D printers and their inherent costs decreasing as well. All these factors create a supply chain that is highly agile and adaptive to consumer needs; and since the design is shared in an open-source community, the designs constantly evolve to meet the needs of the consumer.
My overall thoughts on this book are positive and I recommend it to anyone interested in turning their inventions into small businesses. Anderson provides a number of anecdotes and personal stories both within the chapters and some that are carried through the course of the book that help the reader understand the transformational changes that this new industrial revolution is bringing. The book is inspiring in that it is applicable to a wide audience due to the belief that anyone can be a Maker (or contributor). Anderson is helping engage and shape the American inventor and bring the economy back to making things again. At the same time, he is telling the American corporations and manufacturers about the new wave of producing things and calling them to action to jump on board.
My favorite part of the book was when Anderson promoted the Etsy Marketplace because I feel that this website is lesser known to the common web surfer; but, it has played a big part in my personal crafting and jewelry-making hobbies. If I am unable to make something myself, why go to Macy’s department store and get a mass-produced bauble when in reality I can log into Etsy and request an artist in the marketplace to make one for me for relatively the same price. The difference is that I can feel proud about my purchase because of the uniqueness and knowing that entrepreneurial artist, located virtually anywhere, has crafted the piece just for me. It makes me feel special because I get the product I desired, unique to my taste, and it promotes an inventor becoming a Maker.
The only neutral critique I have for the book is Chris Anderson’s repetitive use of multiple stories involving his own company, inventions or investments. Often while I was reading, it seemed like there were self-promoting plugs and it came off a bit egotistical. Overall, the book was easy and enjoyable to read. It was inspiring and provides a compelling call to action, for Americans in particular, to join in the community of making and take an active role of bringing back the American manufacturing industry. Anderson makes it all sound so easy! He makes me want to find a community where I can contribute to designs and then find a 3-D printing machine to create my own stuff. I think it is a very productive outlet that provides a huge amount of enjoyment and satisfaction that might not otherwise be achieved through a normal full-time career.