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Industry Updates

Can Manufacturers Succeed in the Shared Economy?


As manufacturers struggle to find skilled workers to support their operations, it becomes harder for them to meet time-to-market goals. Some industry experts believe, however, that by working with manufacturing-as-a-service (MaaS) providers, operations can fill their talent gaps.

Jeff Hojlo, program director for manufacturing insights at International Data Corp. (IDC), believes that as value chains become more complex, companies need to develop a network of partners that help them be more resilient. MaaS providers could come in and help with hardware-centric services, enterprise software services and technology, such as cloud offerings, big data/analytics, IoT, robotics, 3D printing, cognitive and AI systems, asset management.

“I think we should be looking at manufacturing as a service to complement a firm’s current innovation, engineering, R&D and manufacturing approach,” Hojlo says.

Dave Evans founded Fictiv, an on-demand manufacturing startup based in San Francisco. Described as “an Airbnb for manufacturers,” Fictiv matches customers who need quickly produced parts and prototypes with a network of idle machinery and talent in more than 200 highly vetted manufacturers in the United States and China. It then manages the entire process from quoting to delivery. Services offered include CNC machining, injection molding, 3-D printing, sheet metal, die casting, and urethane casting.

“Manufacturing is about taking a digital design and turning that idea into a physical product,” Evans says. “Technology and manufacturing must work hand-in-hand to drive the next generation of manufacturing tools that enable rapid, responsive product development.”