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|Articles - January 2014|
|Monday, December 09, 2013|
Page 3 of 5
Onshoring and the maker movement
Chris Scherer isn’t quite as apocalyptic as Oborne. But the president of the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nonprofit that helps manufacturers adapt to the challenges of a global economy, is plenty attuned to the winds of change. One major transformation under way is onshoring, Scherer says, a movement fueled by rising labor costs in Asia and Mexico, along with new lower-cost information management technologies such as “big data” and cloud computing. “The result is more companies are successful in reducing the hassles of doing [manufacturing] here.”
Undermining the onshoring trend is “the most disruptive force in the workplace today”: the depletion of human capital. The percentage of skilled workers 50 and older is "really high," Scherer says. And as those people phase out, it’s increasingly difficult to replace them. To help recruit the next generation, manufacturers should pay attention to the tech sector, an industry that knows what millennials want. “The things software companies do to attract young workers are completely different than manufacturing," Scherer says: "free gym membership, flex time.”
Over the next decade, "the changes manufacturers are going to have to adopt are pretty extreme,” he adds. But the industry tends to be “somewhat myopic” in terms of looking into the future. “That could create a situation where local companies are behind. Certainly in the workforce that is true; in technology, it could be true.”
If some manufacturers turn inward, plenty are eager to embrace forces of change. One is former Wired editor Chris Anderson, now CEO of 3D Robotics, who delivered the keynote speech at Greater Portland Inc.’s sixth annual economic summit this past fall. The speech, about technologies poised to “revolutionize” the manufacturing space — the 3-D printer, for example — hit home for Greater Portland Inc. president and CEO Sean Robbins, a man who spends a lot of his time thinking about the next phase of economic growth.
In Portland, “hackerspaces” such as Flux, BrainSilo and ADX already feature guilds of producers manufacturing “real products, real things,” Robbins says. As software and hardware costs continue to decline, the 3-D printer will only accelerate the “makers’ movement,” he says.
Indeed, a study conducted this year by Michigan Technological University considered 20 household items — smartphone cases, a garlic press — then calculated how much it would cost to make each using a household 3-D printer. The results are telling: It would cost between $312 and $1,944 to buy the items, but just $18 to make them using the 3-D printer. “It’s democratizing manufacturing,” Robbins says.
The convergence of software and internet connectivity, along with big data, also has the potential to unlock public institutions, he adds. Robbins cites as an example New York City’s “geek squad,” a city department that crunches all sorts of data — number of street trees, grease-disposal permits, 911 calls — to solve problems ranging from identifying violators of city codes to accelerating disaster cleanup. The larger goal is to leverage massive amounts of data to collaborate with citizens and create efficiencies between government agencies. “A smart city can transform public institutions over time,” Robbins says. “There is potential for huge civic disruption.”
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes first came up with the idea of an ocean power device 23 years ago, when they were students at Oregon State University. They realized a long-held vision last summer, when their startup, M3 Wave, successfully launched the first ocean power device that works underwater.
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
The technology at the center of Oregon’s road usage fee reform.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE
The right sunglasses can protect your eyes and look cool at the same time. This being the 21st century, select shades are socially conscious, too. Portland brand Shwood uses wood and other natural materials and manufactures locally. Founded by Ann Sacks, the brand Fetch dedicates a portion of its profits to animal welfare. But whether you choose classic tortiseshell or aviator chic, please, shed the sunglasses when you walk in the door — and, of course, at night.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
As the recession recedes and tourism grows, Central Oregon resorts redefine themselves for a new generation.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that ban self serve gas stations. But these two holdouts may be ready to give up the game. New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. Oregon is considering smaller scale changes.
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