As globalization has become more and more prevalent in America’s economy, motivation to move production and manufacturing overseas has grown. Offshoring often offers cheaper labor with less restrictions in foreign countries as opposed to the United States. However, while this trend may mean higher profit for companies, it can also mean less jobs for American workers. This, coupled with outsourcing of services and reliance on foreign resources and materials, could mean an uncertain future for the U.S. economy.
Groups such as the Reshoring Initiative, an organization dedicated to promoting local sourcing and production to manufacturers, are dedicated to reversing the offshoring trend. The Reshoring Initiative was founded by Harry Moser in 2010, at the peak (or valley) of a ten year decline of manufacturing employment in the U.S. The group focuses on teaching companies the risks and cost involved with sending manufacturing overseas, and provides tools to assist them in the decision-making process.
One group local to Chicago is Design House, a not-for-profit organization that has taken a more creative approach to bringing manufacturing back to the country. They start with the manufacturer, look at their capabilities and strengths, then design products based on those abilities. This way, instead of creating products that would require outsourcing and offshore production, manufacturers are presented with ideas conducive to their infrastructure and business model. Design House holds regular “Design Jams,” hand-on ideation sessions focused on developing products for local manufacturers.
Another more grass-roots trend that is gaining momentum is the maker movement. The maker movement combines of do-it-yourselfers, designers, inventors and traditional artisans with computer hackers and technology geeks creating new and innovative ideas and designs. Armedwith CNC machines and 3D printers, these enthusiasts come up with products and designs to solve everyday problems, increase efficiency of existing products, or just for the fun of it. Makers have gathered enough steam to merit their own magazine, Make, and a television show, “All-American Makers.” The creations of makers have more potential than ever thanks to crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter, where inventors can share their ideas to the public to gain funding. Local maker faires offer a chance for makers to show off their creations. The movement is sure to spawn local manufacturing of goods and products in the future.
Article written by Scott Froemming for Design Engine, February 26th, 2015
Scott is a staff videographer, photographer and web designer for Design Engine. Scott shoots and edits race video for Design Engine Racing and Design Engine Education testimonials for training videos for the school. Most can be located on the Design Engine Youtube Channel.