Digital Manufacturing in a 21st Century Economy

Steve Nolan

  • Reading Time  Min Read
  • Publish Date September 20, 2011

So last week Skookum Nation made the headlines once again, heating up the twitter feeds and streaming blogospheres when we hosted Mayor Anthony Foxx’s town hall meeting at our offices in downtown Charlotte. The focus for the evening was the Queen City’s growing tech sector, driving our 21st Century Economy.

Bryan Delaney, co-founder of Skookum, got everyone’s juices flowing when he made a passionate attempt to define what it is that we do. If you are part of the tech community, you know exactly what I mean. How many times has your mom asked you, “What is it that you do again? Something to do with computers? Or Websites?”

Old Factory

Bryan’s opening remarks eloquently reminded us how over the past couple of decades, we as a nation, have stopped producing things as large portions of our manufacturing sectors have been systematically dismantled and shipped off-shore.

Looking back, our elected officials told us that it was good to shut down textile mills and furniture factories. We heard these jobs were part of the old economy—the 19th and 20th Century economy. They said America shouldn’t be in the business of manufacturing anymore. Those jobs were instead for emerging Third World economies. We assumed that we were now part of the global economy and this was the price of admission. America in the 21st Century would have to re-invent itself as a service-based economy.

Or so they told us…

Since the beginning of the DOT.COM era, when I first got into the industry 12 years ago (yes, that seems like a lifetime ago considering Internet years are like dog-years), I’ve seen a tremendous amount of digital transformation, innovation and adoption. Businesses were reinventing themselves, streamlining the way they did business, as they leveraged technology, the Internet, eCommerce and improved supply chains.

While Ross Perot’s colorful warning that NAFTA would create “…a giant sucking sound as manufacturing jobs left the United States,” a new industry was born. One that Bryan Delaney and Mayor Anthony Foxx touched on…they called it “Digital Manufacturing.”

So what is Digital Manufacturing you ask? If you looked it up in the Skookum Dictionary it would read:

dig · it · al


  • Adjective

  1. of or pertaining to a digit or finger: see Binary Code

  2. manipulated with a finger or fingertips: see fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coated Multi-Touch Display

  3. displaying a readout in digital form; see 9.7-inc LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology

man · u · fac · ture


  • verb, -tured, -tur-ing

  1. the making of goods or wares by manual labor or by machinery, especially on a large scale: i.e. the manufacture of an mobile application

  2. the making or producing fo anything; generation: i.e. the manufacture of a web applicaiton

  3. the thing or material manufactured; product: see good solid code

So in layman’s terms, digital manufacturing (according to Skookumites) is the process of making something out of nothing. It’s about taking an idea. It’s about fleshing it out. It’s about flipping it upside down and then turning it inside out. It’s about refining that idea through the prism of our users. It’s about incorporating aesthetics and the science of simplicity and good design to achieve that perfect state of nirvana—known as the user experience.

Digital Manufacturing is about applying cutting-edge innovation to ideas and transforming them into a business, or a product or an award-winning app. ?

At Skookum, we’re making new inventions everyday. What’s not tangible about that?

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