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13 Observations on What Stands in the Way of Progress in Manufacturing

People and companies working in manufacturing need to work together to build better technology, reach more people, and increase adoption.

This is William Krueger and his dog, Bosley. Part of Xometry's amazing team in Lexington.
By William Krueger
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MakeTime was recently acquired by Xometry. We could not be happier. Why? Because people and companies working in manufacturing need to work together to build better technology, reach more people, and increase adoption. There is no more time for vultures, no more time for vaporware, no more time for snake oil. Manufacturing needs real, momentous change to help facilitate a future filled with innovative, meaningful world-changing products. Here are 13 not new observations on what stand in the way of progress in manufacturing.

1. Trust is most important

Whether or not you care about supply chain partner theory or similar thinking - trust is everything. Every tier down from OEM has less visibility. How we build trust digitally is essential to how global product development and production can scale to accommodate 21st-century shifts.

2. It feels like 1990 with computers, PDAs, and mobile devices

Ugh, come up with a standard. Wait there is one, MT Connect. But, why isn’t everyone on it? what about Europe? Oh, you have a brand new MT Connect enabled beautiful 21 tool machine? How do you connect it to the internet? Maybe 95% less makes and models of additive and subtractive machines? The point is we need to focus on manufacturing tool platform simplicity — one standard, please. It's exhausting.

3. It’s still very hard to make things

There are 18,000 machine shops and countless 3D printing bureaus. Many of those are going out of business, and many are struggling. The reason, MAKING IS HARD. Perfection at light speed is the only acceptable output. The problem is things are getting more complex by geometry, quantity, or assembly. With skilled labor being outpaced by our ability to automate, we are facing a large problem.

4. Consumers are more demanding than ever

Fits in with the rest, but we need to recognize that this will only continue to be more complex. More micro-niches at increasing volumes plus increasing customization equals a paradigm shift. No more Henry Ford and any color you want so long as it's black in this scenario.

5. Time to market is everything

More demanding consumers = need for faster time to market. Duh.

6. There is no one single bullet

There are hundreds of ERPS, CAD/CAM programs, Platforms, and technologies surrounding manufacturing touting they are the one. They are not and will not be and that is okay. Smarter technology will help stitch technologies together.

7. There are too many file types

Can we please just get on a standard file type. Embrace MBE and start building from there.

8. Paper is still king

See above. Why do we spend so much time making the perfect model to then turn around and say wait, don’t look at that look here at this piece of paper.  

9. Machine shop base is shrinking and global demand is increasing

Lack of efficiency, business acumen, and shifty supply chain games are creating bad results.

10. There is a serious shortage of skilled labor

We keep hearing that investment in the workforce is happening. However, investment doesn’t work when people are increasingly disinterested. We can and need to do better in creating a healthy, interesting manufacturing work environment.

11. There is an even more serious shortage of funds to equip and automate shops

Not to mention the time to go get funds. We will all benefit by upgrading our shop operating systems and processes.

12. Take politics out of products

Catalyze don't penalize the backbone of global commerce.

13. We all need to play nice and focus on fixing the backbone

There is no time for petty and bitter cross-shop, cross-OEM, cross-technology battles. There is plenty to profit from if we focus on making a better manufacturing environment at large.

This is William Krueger and his dog, Bosley. Part of Xometry's amazing team in Lexington.
William Krueger
As a digital marketing specialist, William works with all forms of media from photography and video to content writing and graphic design to tell the story of American manufacturing. He holds a B.A. in Communication from Wittenberg University.