Studio Fabrication LAB
Colombia, the context I’m working in, is in deep change today. Not only the political and economic situation is very demanding, the establishment is being confronted with an intrinsic change originated in the digital revolution, where Colombia is no exception to the rest of the world. Although Colombia is a traditional and conservative society, it can’t pretend to remain in isolation from the dynamics of an international network of industry partners and potential investors.
Given the significance of the digital transformation in regard to competitiveness and permanence of the businesses in the industrial sector, the Andi (Asociación Nacional de Industriales) has run a survey called Encuesta de Opinión Industrial Conjunta (Survey of Joint Industrial Opinion) in the month of may 2016, where a survey section was included particularly on the subject of digital technology, asking about the Digital Revolution (4th Industrial Revolution as it has come to be known). The resulting mapping is interesting, showing that more than half, a 56.3% of the surveyed industrial businessmen, still not know about the subject, but the majority of them (78.5%) think it is of utmost importance to promote digital technologies.
The idea of designing a business plan for a FabLab in Colombia came about from collaborating with mate designers at the FabLab during our DesignbyData experience at L’École des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris. I’m totally convinced the richness is in the making and in the environment where creativity and technological capabilities meet. Besides from the fact of working with digital technologies, there is the interest to experiment with creative minds, thus, the possibility of collaborating with others in the FabLab came to hand. We started working in the design phase, collaborating on the development of the design idea and bringing it into a reality; we will experiment at the FabLab on different fabrication technologies, to find the most appropriate ones, and prototype the designed object.
“Advanced technologies are shaping the future of manufacturing. From predictive analytics, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing to digital design, advanced robotics, and new materials, innovations in manufacturing can enhance organizational competitiveness and drive economic prosperity.”
In the ambit of my professional reflections, it is clear, change is permeating the whole dimension of what we call reality; the virtual realm is expanding space-time dimensions, raising the complexity of our habitat, and data is becoming ubiquitous. The aspect of this new condition is that of a community-based innovation ecosystem where the limits are yet to be established regarding our technological capacity in combination with our imagination. The expectations of the public are demanding. “In an internet society, [people] can obtain knowledge in seconds. When they engage [-] the bar is high. They know what they want. They know what they expect. [-]Professionals can no longer work alongside centuries-old processes.” Dale Sinclair / AD 03.2017
The target market we are seeking to serve is composed of two related sectors, the industrial manufacturing sector, and the services sector, estimated the first in 2% of the GDP of Colombia, while the second is not yet very well documented.
Considering there has been technological appropriation from the industrial sector, one questions the manner these technologies are being implemented. Being it a great potential market, the fact that the manufacturing sector already has accommodated technological improvements in their production chains, it could be a barrier to entry since the preamble might as well be that there needs to be a considerable raise in awareness and digital culture growth, in order to change or at least clarify the differing approach towards an integrated value chain where computational design and digital fabrication come together.
From this standpoint, the idea of designing a business plan for a FabLab in Colombia comes across the urge of understanding the structure of the environment where designers grow into makers, where professionals in the creative industry may raise their creative productivity. But in Colombia there is still a lack of digital culture. It is important to start raising awareness on the importance of getting involved with The Digital in the broad sense of its meaning. It is not only technology, it is not Data, it is the reality of a digital realm that comprises the real and the virtual, artificial intelligence as well as creativity and imagination.
The idea deserves deep thought; in the conjunction of computational thought and technological capability rests the power of information, and information is the added value of Data. And Data has become today’s most valuable resource.
Why a FabLab in Bogotá? There is the space to establish a digital fabrication laboratory; there is the need for a place where a creative community can find the possibility to integrate prototyping and fabrication into their workflow, but also the industrial sector and the services sector need to enhance their businesses, renovating their approach towards research and development, to integrate digital processes further than technological implementation, and that is to incorporate computational thinking into design, alongside fabrication.
Now, the character of this FabLab is to be clearly defined given that there are already 7 established FabLabs, and much more technological capability available in terms of digital fabrication. The idea is to create a place where clients may find a Professional Service Firm providing Innovation Support; it will be an experimentation space at the intersection of information and matter, where prototyping can bring physical objects into being, using different materials.
In this business plan I perceive Innovation as a means of Business Development, a value proposition based on creating a Community-Based Business, prone to research and development, supported by the dynamics of the industry partners and sponsors. Peer-driven training and growth, turns in time to be increasingly social and successful. Social networks become more effective where technology and algorithms are used to optimize the peer-to-peer work with higher levels of competitiveness.
The clients of a FabLab are different according to the type of FabLab being designed. The idea is to generate a FabLab that is oriented towards design and innovation. Given this conceptual orientation, the business model must address various issues that seem to be determinant for the success of the business model, on the one hand the objective of conquering the space and opportunity to design, and be able to innovate through design; on the other hand, the objective of offering digital fabrication services while attending the necessity of leading DesignbyData processes, both for in-house research and professional projects, as well as for clients’ research and professional projects.
As a business model, this Community-Based environment is about Commercial Activities and Open Access. It is expected to benefit the inventors, labs, and networks that contribute to their success Beyond the Lab; it is about People, Designers, Innovators and Entrepreneurs, not so much about the machines, but more to what is done with them. The measure of Productivity in this context must be Validated Learning and Involvement in the Community, rather than production of new features; these will generate opportunities to develop projects and get people involved as a community, developing their capabilities and increasing the number of opportunities.
“Customers will be willing to adopt this new way of [working] only if they can see proof that it was working early on.” (Eric Ries) We must create the need in order to be able to cultivate!
The plan should be implemented starting from the bottom up. It is important to be aware that at the start, the most important thing will be to raise awareness among the community, to be able to surmount the lack of digital culture given the present state of matters. To be able to work with the industrial and services sectors, a comprehensive plan must be raised to show and put to test the importance of computational thinking in enhancing businesses, which to date is one of the main threats. Technological infrastructure will become a needed result when the time to experiment and prototype comes.
 Underlined by the author. (https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/topics/advanced-manufacturing.htm)
 Andi — Colombia: Balance 2016 y Perspectivas 2017. Pg. 28