If you were to associate one face to a large corporate manufacturing firm and one face to a smaller, more traditional manufacturing shop, would they be similar?
Odds are you imagined an older, white male in a suit for large corporates and a more down to earth looking white male (maybe with a sweet beard?) for the traditional manufacturing shop.
But AM attracts a younger, wider range of people. Can you associate just one face with Additive Manufacturing? We couldn’t. We think team dynamic and culture aren’t discussed enough, and from a people perspective we see that there is an opportunity in AM unlike anywhere else.
What does the average person in AM look like? Do we know? Not really, because AM is both disruptive & diverse, and therefore attracts all kinds of people. AM does not have a standard identity.
There is no standard identity, and therefore there are shortfalls and skills gaps. However, we believe there is a path to success: through education & diversity. You must ensure that group of people has access to education and is diverse.
The answer, Part 1 - Education.
Education is the number one enabler for People in AM, and it must be both broad across the highest organizational levels and deep within the technical ranks. The most successful companies we work with understand what AM is and isn’t and how they can make money from it across their entire organization. Within their engineering organization, they look to train and retain people with detailed knowledge of AM processes and techniques.
So why is education and training so important to AM? Time after time, AM leaders comment on the problem of finding skilled people. One went as far as to say it was “rate limiting”. Another said learning is “our biggest challenge” and linked the reason for utilizing AM to wanting to “be seen as innovators by our customers”.
Yet education is still a challenge. One startup CEO framed it as: “There are maybe 1,000 engineers in the world today who know how to design for additive.” He went on to add that his additive journey will be more effective when there are 100,000 trained engineers.
There are a number of resources available now to help fill knowledge gaps, including Additive Manufacturing courses offered by MIT, Penn State, and several others. We recently partnered with Purdue University to launch our #onelayerhigher Moonshot mission to train 100,000 people through an AM certification course. The course is online and available to anyone, anywhere, therefore allowing better access to a diverse audience. We believe this course will help reduce or even remove the rate limiting factor of knowledgeable people and enable AM to industrialize and grow.
We have a demand, but we lack supply. We have interest, but lack a defined system or channel to skill people. It is a unique opportunity. We would prefer to see this collision of supply and demand come together and be as inclusive as possible.
The answer, Part 2 - Diversity.
We see countless studies that confirm corporations with a balanced Board outperform those with a male-only Board. Our firm is approximately 40% female. We believe diversity drives creative thinking and better answers, and we want our customers to have the best answers to the hardest questions.
Malcolm Forbes (of Forbes magazine) stated, “Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” The very best team is one that harnesses the power of diversity. AM needs a diverse workforce, and lucky for us, there is a diverse group of people chomping at the bit to be on “Team AM”.
AM is both disruptive & diverse and attracts all kinds of people. We believe through increased education and embracing of diversity, the industry will continue to adapt and grow.
John E. Barnes is the Founder and Managing Director of The Barnes Group Advisors, the leading independent consulting firm in Additive Manufacturing. John is a Materials Engineer by trade and has over 25 years of complex product development in aerospace and materials manufacturing technology.
Laura Ely is the Leader of ADDvisor℠ Services at The Barnes Group Advisors. She is a Materials Engineer by trade and has extensive experience in manufacturing and materials technologies.
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