Class of 2026

Rick CarlsenIt drove me nuts when my parents used to say, “well, back when I was your age…” and then they’d proceed to tell me how much better I had it then they did.  At the time, and still today, I don’t see a huge difference between growing up in the 1950’s and the 1980’s.  They had black and white TV; I had color TV.  They played outside all the time; I played outside all the time.  They didn’t get a participation trophy; I didn’t get a participation trophy.  You get the point.

I do see a huge difference between the world I grew up in and the world in which my kids are growing up.  I had 4 TV channels; they have 400.  I played with legos with buddies from down the street; they play Minecraft on their iPads with people from around the world.  My first on-line experience was during my freshman year in college and involved a 14.4 modem; they are mad that we don’t have wifi in the car.

Things are different now.

My oldest child recently turned 10-years-old.  Her birthday list included a MakerBot 3D printer (for the record, she did not get it).  When I asked her why she wanted a 3D printer, she told me “because it’s cool and I can make stuff for my friends”.  She proceeded to show me the online, downloadable catalog of items that you can build with a 3D printer.  She believes it’s totally normal that she should be able to create something, anything on the computer and be able to turn it into an actual object.  She believes that manufacturing is fast, agile, flexible and that it fosters creativity.

She enters the workforce in 12 years.

And she’s not alone.  There are a ton of other kids who have similar life experiences and expectations of what is possible.  They love technology, and they use it express creativity.

So, what can we take away from this?  I can’t answer that for you, and I’m not going to pretend to know the answer either.  What I can say is that I am spending time learning about new manufacturing technology and understanding where it may have a place in rotomolding.  We use 3D-printing on a regular basis, and I am really excited to embrace additional uses in the future.  We believe in process automation, even for our “low volume” industry, and we are looking at where we can further automate.

Everyone’s business is different, and you are going to have to figure out what works for you.  Technology is evolving quickly, and we need to figure out how to apply it to our industry.

Rick Carlsen is an owner and the VP of Sales and Marketing at Solar Plastics, Inc. He is the 2013-2014 President of ARM.

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One response to “Class of 2026”

  1. Right on, Rick. As an industry, we’re challenged to create a perception of being “high-tech.” By embracing new technologies – such as automation, 3D printing, etc. – we can enhance the perception of roto, generate more value in our products, and hopefully appeal to consumers from the Class of 2026.

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