Can the Maker Movement benefit the marine industry?

August 1st, 2017 / By: / Feature

Roombas, smart phone apps, Alexa, and cars with park assist. It seems that humans don’t have to do much of anything these days in order to vacuum the carpet, track their calories, turn on the lights or squeeze their Ford Focus between curbside SUVs.

And yet, like the balance of nature, the world needs a counterpoint to a complete reliance on automation.

With the encroachment of technology on life hitting stride in the latter 20th century, the DIY movement took root. Witness the success of RadioShack, where people bought parts to assemble their own computers.

The DIY movement has evolved into the Maker Movement after Make magazine held its inaugural Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006 and endorsed the concept with MakerCon. Regional maker fairs and maker spaces with manufacturing equipment to be shared by tinkerers have popped up across the United States.

A January article from The Brookings Institution (“Five ways the Maker Movement can help catalyze a renaissance”) claims that the movement “has emerged as a significant source of experiential learning and skills building, as well as creativity for the nation’s innovation-driven manufacturing sector.”

“I wonder if the Maker Movement could generate more competition,” says Clint Halladay, lead fabricator and production manager at the marine fabrication company Sewlong Custom Covers in Salt Lake City, Utah. “But it might increase the labor pool, so I can imagine it would help our industry.”

“The Maker Movement could spark interest and cause a young person to seek out a canvas and upholstery shop for a summer job or older people to look at a career change,” suggests Chris Ritesma, owner of Canvas Innovations in Holland, Mich.

Amy Poe, who describes her Bend, Ore.-based company, Wyckam, as a sail loft, reports that she regularly visits maker fairs and spaces in search of talent to hire.

“I have not found anyone that way yet, but have been able to widen my industry network,” she says. “If nothing else, I have found complementary businesses I can call on if something is outside my area of expertise.”

Although no one can say with certainty how the Maker Movement will ultimately impact established manufacturers (though there is no doubt that it will), Rob Kotowski, owner of North Shore Boat Top Co. in St. Clair Shores, Mich., views it in a positive light.

“Companies like ours will capitalize on the Maker Movement, as it will give many individuals an idea of their future and hopefully provide the satisfaction of accomplishment that will lead them to join a growing team to build their career,” he says.

IFAI has responded to the Maker movement with its own Makers Division, which represents any company employing industrial sewing machine operators in the fabrics industry. The Makers Division works to build the industrial sewing workforce. IFAI Members have the opportunity to shape training curricula in their regions and find trained, certified employees to build their business. For more information, contact Magda Ronningen, Makers Division national program manager, at mronningen@ifai.com.

Janice Kleinschmidt is a writer and magazine editor based in San Diego.

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