Makerspaces (we call them co-manufacturing spaces) are locations where companies share physical workspace as they produce and manufacture tangible goods. They aren’t your typical coworking spaces. Makerspaces need more than standard office equipment such as a desk, chair, internet access, and an outlet. Makers need specific tools and resources to run and grow a manufacturing business. It’s crucial to understand what great co-manufacturing spaces offer if you’re thinking about moving your business into one.

To start, ask yourself a few basic questions.

  • Have you outgrown your current space to a point where it’s impacting operations and fulfillment and/or your ability to grow/scale your staffing?
  • Do you need access to forklifts and large roll-up doors for easy shipping access?
  • Does your manufacturing process require a cleanroom or a specific piece of equipment that dictates the size of your space?
  • Is it important to have your operations, support, or sales team onsite or can they be located elsewhere?

Answering “Yes” to any of these questions means that you’re ready to grow your physical footprint or scale operations. So, congratulations if that’s you!

Now you have to determine if the makerspaces in your area offer the right amenities. Do they have the ones that will help your business grow AND connect you with a supportive community? Here are a few amenities we believe are critical when selecting a makerspace:

Amenity 1: The Right Equipment

Let’s say your company manufactures cases and cases of glass products. They’re heavy and fragile. You’ve grown to a point where hand-carrying them to and from your van out of your garage is no longer efficient or safe. You’ve broken too many products from tripping over your son’s tricycle 1,000 times. You bought a dolly, but that only did so much. You need to start shipping pallets of boxes, and yet you don’t have the physical space or money to get a forklift. With the increase in the quantity of raw materials you receive to manufacture your glass products, you certainly don’t have a loading dock or anything to help expedite shipping and receiving.

In cases like this, a makerspace that provides basics like forklifts, roll-up doors, and loading docks makes a huge difference. You can imagine how the operations side of your business would benefit from these amenities given the situation above.

The question is: how in need of the basics is your company? If you have them covered, you  may not need all the amenities of a co-manufacturing space (but keep reading to be sure). If you’re in need, having access to the right equipment is one highly valuable amenity that a co-manufacturing space can provide.

Amenity 2: Basic Comforts

The right co-manufacturing space should also be a comfortable workspace. While it may seem obvious, not every makerspace is equipped with features like heating, air conditioning, and proper ventilation. Although a lot of people still think manufacturing is a hot, sweaty, stinky mess, we don’t. You should look for a space that allows your team to be as comfortable as possible while they work.

In addition, some forward-thinking makerspaces offer proper waste disposal and recycling amenities. These help with safe disposal of materials and equipment, and they keep your company’s environmental impact low.

Does your current space have these bases covered? Is the physical working environment comfortable and climate-controlled? Are you using something other than your city-provided garbage can to get rid of your scraps and waste? These amenities may seem basic, but they’re things you need to consider as you grow.

Amenity 3: Secure and Dedicated Space

Moving your business operations to a shared makerspace shouldn’t leave you with a feeling of compromised security.  Physical security and the secure feeling that comes from having a dedicated space for your company is huge. You should feel okay about leaving your valuable assets and intellectual property overnight so you can actually go home and life life outside of your work.

This means you need a co-manufacturing space that offers controlled access into the facility and redundant physical security inside the building. Your dedicated space should be off limits when you’re not there.

Amenity 4: A Flexible Footprint

A growing manufacturing business can grow (and shrink) rapidly based on market demand. With this volatility comes the stress of expanding or scaling back on your physical footprint. A lot of manufacturers find that this leads to building-hopping, which disrupts production and impacts inventory in the short run.

A great makerspace has an option for flexibility when it comes to space. We do it by offering flexible leases and giving companies the option to increase or decrease their floorspace in real time, which removes the stress of disrupting production while you transition to a new facility. You want to find a space that offers some flexibility because you never know when your next growth spike will come, and you don’t want to deal with moving more times than you have to.

You also need to account for any administrative or office space you need on-site or nearby. A great shared space will offer solutions for both. Some companies want dedicated office space at the production facility and others want their support team nearby, but not on-site. Think about what’s ideal for you and ask if the makerspace you’re considering can accommodate you.

If you want to know what this flexibility looks like in real life, check out the story of Truce and how they navigated a period of growth within our space.

Amenity 5: Community Focus

You may think that manufacturing companies operate on their own island. After all, each company makes a different product and has its own production processes. However, we find that an often overlooked amenity for shared makerspaces is the community that comes with being shoulder-to-shoulder with other makers.

In our co-manufacturing spaces, the environment is mutually-supportive and collaborative. Businesses learn from each other and leverage their networks to promote other businesses within the co-manufacturing community.

You could think of this amenity as a wild card. If you find a space that promotes community as a selling point, it’s worth taking a look. Frankly, it’s hard enough to make and sell physical products at a profitable margin. Being able to work with other companies in a similar stage of business or learn from others who have grown past where you are now is a major amenity of a makerspace that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Decisions, Decisions

Choosing whether or not to move to a shared makerspace isn’t easy, and it’s even harder to know which kind of facility is right for your business. If you hit a growth ceiling in your current space, need more professional-grade equipment to handle shipping and receiving, realize that you have specific space needs, and are about to add more people to the team, it’s time to make a move.

The right space will accomodate all of these needs and alleviate your pressing pain points.  It should satisfy all your basic requirements and leave you with the peace of mind knowing that your inventory and production equipment is safe and sound when you go home at night. Ideally, it will give you the flexibility to grow into the future and plug you into a supportive community of other makers.

For our part at MAC6, we do our best to offer the amenities that matter most to makers in our co-manufacturing facility. We’re always inspired by the makers and doers around us, and we love seeing the creativity and imagination that comes out of the maker community that calls our makerspace home. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, get in touch and check us out.