MENAT Manufacturers and the Arrival of Micro-Factories and Artisanal Entrepreneurs

MENAT Manufacturers and the Arrival of Micro-Factories and Artisanal Entrepreneurs
September 29, 2014 at 02:09pm

As little as 15 years ago, if you wanted to produce high quality film or video, you needed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy or rent professional equipment. Today, high-end consumer digital cameras costing a couple thousand dollars allow anyone to produce videos of equally high, or even higher, quality.

The same trend is happening in manufacturing. A confluence of technology and software advances and digital design tools, combined with fast-falling prices for a range of manufacturing tools such as 3D printing, CNC mills, laser cutters and injection molders, is creating a whole new sub-industry of micro-factories, do-it-yourself entrepreneurs and “makers.”

It’s already happening in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey region, nurtured in makerspaces, hackerspaces and co-working locations in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey. GE has launched its makerspace, called “GE Garages,” in Algeria recently as part of the launch of its I.D.E.A. initiative, and will be rolling it out in key markets across the region.

Previously, you needed hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a workshop or factory to make things; today, you can do it for thousands of dollars. This democratization of manufacturing allows for smaller scale production using cheaper equipment, thereby lowering barriers to entry and allowing small firms, and even individuals, to launch production of products, or parts and components, with a relatively limited initial investment.

This is not only sparking micro-factories and artisanal entrepreneurs – even here in the MENAT region – but also improving the local supply chain. By bringing designers, manufacturers and customers together, these technologies can spark innovation and expand localized manufacturing to the benefit of customers, workers and the broader economy. GE’s customer innovation centers in the region are in reality ‘industrial incubators’.

This phenomenon is driven by three disruptive forces that are changing the way we work: Industrial Internet, Advanced Manufacturing, and the Global Brain. GE calls these interdependent elements of a new technological revolution “the Future of Work.”

GE has just released a white paper title “Mapping the Future of Work in MENAT” discussing the impact across the region. For more on GE’s exploration of the future of micro-factories and the maker movement, click here.

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