Craft is the execution of strategies that turn ideas - designs, inventions and innovation - into reality. But technology is and has always redefined the value of craft. And those changes are at the heart of frustration for many manufacturers today.
Consider the process for manufacturing like this:
The thought and scrutiny that go into selecting the right tool, process, choreography of resource, and material for each job are certainly at the heart of the manufacturing arts, and great sources of pride. It was the same for the Luddites, and it's the same now.
But craft is most sacred to manufacturers. Craft is the conduit through which creativity passes, and it is evident purely in the form of results. Craft has always defined our values, and it is where in the manufacturing cycle that we are most vulnerable to technological innovation. Technology is the bedrock - when it moves, it alters our approach and how product is created.
- How often do you use a darkroom? Do you lament the passing of the technology that required you to wait 3 days for photos? Or even 1 hour? Do you own a digital camera? (By the way - do you know who invented it? Fuji - the makers of film.) The craft of developing photographs was altered forever and put in the hands of the masses - by the people who stood the most to lose.
- How often do you print brochures, collateral for your business, or other documents? Do you own a computer, a printer? Do you read or watch news online? What is becoming of the printer, the newspaper and especially the craft that once defined their creation? It's now in the hands of the masses.
- The craft that goes into a blog post - posted, and instantly available around the world - isn't the same as it was for journalists a just few years ago. Then, an editor would mull over a topic and print one column - at most - per day. Often, once a month. Now, an idea can travel from the mind to the world in 10 minutes. From anyone.
- CNC proliferated manufacturing in the 1970s to ease the labor costs during an economic downturn. Prior to that, craft was defined by more physical contact between humans and machines. Do your machines have controls today? How about that Bridgeport drill press? Tool changers? How many people would you need to do what you do now if you didn't utilize the automation you have? Manufacturing is gradually - but certainly - becomming commoditized.
My point here is this - technology has always caused upheaval for craftsman. The rapid changes in communications (your marketing) and manufacturing technologies are impacting your craft. It's always been so. And it's not going to change.
So, that means you have to. What now?