Maker to Manufacturer: Part 2
In my last blog post, I shared my thoughts in advance of the White House Maker to Manufacturer Summit on technologies and practices that would close the gap between entrepreneurs with ideas and entrepreneurs with manufacturing know-how.
The White House summit allowed me to share my experiences as the head of product development with WrightGrid with other stakeholders from industry and government. There are several common threads to our experiences that are shared across the space.
One of the big discussion points was how much tacit knowledge there is in the manufacturing workforce that is not taught in schools or readily available online. Workers in the manufacturing industry can tell you at a glance that your design violates any one of a dozen “design rules” they’ve learned over the years (i.e. hole depth vs. diameter ratio, minimum inside radius dimensions, chamfers to break all sharp edges to make handling easier, dimensional tolerance across multiple bend lines, etc…)
Some manufacturers have the resources to invest heavily in content marketing, capturing as much worker knowledge as they can and putting it into design guides online. Protomold.com does an incredible job of this. Most manufacturers are small businesses, though, with an aging workforce and don’t have the savvy or the time to put such great educational material together.
We also discussed how the student internship or summer job working on the factory floor is not as common as it used to be. Working as a machine operator, even if it isn’t your long term career goal, is an incredibly valuable experience for a young engineer.
As it stands, the best way to develop manufacturing know-how is still to visit manufacturers themselves, in person, face to face, to discuss designs in person. For example, a significant portion of WrightGrid’s physical appearance comes from seeing a power-roller in operation on a factory tour and learning what it can do.
That’s why WrightGrid insists (and frankly, loves!) factory tours from all our manufacturers. There is no substitute for seeing a manufacturer’s process running first hand so we can adapt our designs and thought processes to work with them. It’s how we close the gap between idea and execution and contribute to being a #nationofmakers.