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by Giulio Prisco, Feb 22, 2018

Industrial Revolution 4.0: Creating Jobs With Decentralized Manufacturing


Manufacturing

Silicon Valley–based SyncFab is on a mission to foster smart reshoring: bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. through decentralized, digitally inspired “smart” manufacturing empowered with blockchain technology. 

The vision of SyncFab is that of a domestic network of high-tech manufacturers of all sorts of precision industrial parts, connected to a smart contract platform able to offer efficiency gains and cost savings to the large buyers that currently rely on cheap offshore suppliers.

Part of the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (CESMII) and Manufacturing USA of the U.S. Department of Commerce, SyncFab wants to support smart manufacturing for the clean, local supply chain of the future.

“If you want a product made in the United States, you can either start searching now and in two years find somebody or just go directly to SyncFab, which is where you are going to end up anyway,” said Brad Butler, co-founder of Bicycle Coffee Co., per the SyncFab homepage.

SyncFab describes itself as an on-demand regional manufacturing procurement platform, matching buyer purchase order requirements to local machine shops that specialize in distributed manufacturing technologies such as computer numerical control (CNC) machining and 3D printing.

CNC manufacturing uses computers to control machine tools including lathes, mills, routers, grinders and lasers. 3D printing is a manufacturing process by which digital 3D design data is used to build up a component in layers by depositing material.

These technologies permit the accurate manufacturing of complex industrial items according to digital specs. Therefore, CNC and 3D printing can enable a next-generation, decentralized manufacturing economy, independent of central physical locations and open to small participants in rural areas. SyncFab wants to connect buyers to sellers in this decentralized manufacturing marketplace and match demand to machine shop production capability, with a platform featuring mobile access, search functions, order flow, digital inspection reports and online payments. 

In September, SyncFab started introducing blockchain technology to achieve better operational efficiency on its network, and announced its MFG token sale. Using SyncFab’s MFG, an ERC20 utility token on the Ethereum blockchain, buyers and sellers of manufacturing services will be able to source domestic manufacturing and conduct secure transactions using smart contracts.

“With the launch of the MFG token, we aim to blaze a trail in smart manufacturing and procurement to make economies-of-scale manufacturing more accessible and affordable to all,” said Jeremy Goodwin, founder and CEO of SyncFab, per the announcement. “As we are committed to efficiency and security, the robust functions of smart contracts on our new blockchain service will enable our customers to shorten their negotiations with suppliers and better manage their supply chains. Through our automated peer-to-peer platform, SyncFab is also solving a major problem for manufacturers with limited marketing budgets and underutilized capacities.”

A one-page MFG explainer noted, “For every dollar spent on manufacturing within the United States alone, $1.81 is expected to be added to the economy.” A more detailed white paper describes how decentralized manufacturing, blockchain technology and smart contracts could bring about the “Industrial Revolution 4.0.”

According to the SyncFab white paper, decentralized manufacturing will strengthen U.S. industry and give small machine shops direct access to a peer-to-peer manufacturing ecosystem for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), where purchasers will find companies capable of advanced machining of on-demand parts, dramatically improving the efficiency of their supply chains. It’s likely that if SyncFab’s initiative delivers on its promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to local economies, its impact could be huge. 

“The future of smart manufacturing is data-optimized precision parts manufacturing,” added Goodwin in the token sale announcement. “The value proposition of SyncFab is that, by connecting supply-chain purchase managers with those underutilized smart manufacturers with advanced CNC machine shops, many domestic advanced factories are becoming more accessible and productive and procurement costs are lowered.”