Manufacturing jobs take center stage every campaign season, but the reality is that when manufacturing leaves the country, it doesn’t come back. This is even more accurate for “low tech” manufacturing such as textiles, an industry decimated in the US by low-cost labor pools around the world.
But even as these low tech industries left the country, a new Maker Culture has arisen, driven in large part by DIY tech culture. This Maker movement can be as simple as crochet and pickled vegetables, and as complicated as bee keeping or making your own drones. While many see the maker community as mostly hobbyists, driving little impact in the economy, Mark Dwight, CEO and Founder of Rickshaw Bagworks, sees an opportunity to revive local manufacturing. By using high-tech tools and focusing on labor efficiency, Rickshaw Bagworks is thriving in San Francisco, a city with some of the highest labor costs in the world. The company produces custom-made bags in a brick and mortar factory in the San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, the epicenter of San Francisco’s Maker movement in recent years.
Will robots be doing all the manufacturing in the future? Rickshaw already employs a couple of high tech machines, giving the company an edge against competitors with lower labor costs, and for now at least, it still needs humans to maintain and run them. This arrangement seems to be the future of manufacturing in the United States, as the industry slowly shifts from a labor intensive endeavor to an industry currently making more than ever while using the labour of fewer and fewer people to do it.
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