The appetite for the latest new products and services is growing exponentially driven by the 24 hour, on demand, social media driven, next day delivery expecting, ‘selfie’ posing with the new shiny object, hyper informed consumer. Satisfying the demand for this fast-paced consumer cycle requires manufacturers to move rapidly to stay ahead of competitors and consumer tastes. They must bring interesting and exciting new products to market in a timely fashion, whether they are first to market or responding to a competitor’s new product offerings.
Two specific trends are emerging and transforming how the industry develops, manufactures and meets the demands of the new on demand consumer driving market - crowd sourcing and 3D printing.
Manufacturing Game Changers: Crowdsourcing and 3D Printing
Crowdsourcing is not a new development model. In fact, the open-source model gave us the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server over 20 years ago. But there is one very distinct difference when applying crowdsourcing methodology to a manufacturing process, as opposed to software development, and that is raw material. This is where 3D printing technology is rapidly maturing driving orders of magnitude efficiencies and cost savings into the value chain.
A Printed Car
In fact, a start-up called Local Motors is on the cutting edge of combining crowdsourcing and 3D printing to revolutionize the automobile industry. In a process that Local Motors calls “co-creation,” — also known as “crowdsourcing” — the software allows enthusiasts to post a design for a part that other users in a worldwide community can call up on a browser, see in 3D, take measurements from, and comment on, thus providing a new model and methodology for innovation. Local Motors then leverage 3D printing technology to deploy “microfactories”
Can crowdsourcing and 3D printing produce an electric car?
Fact: laying fiber communications infrastructure is expensive. Fantasy: the ability to know ahead of time how many property owners in a given neighborhood would pay for a new fiber infrastructure by subscribing to services or even – and here’s a real fantasy – paying more to get the fiber laid initially.
Except it’s not a fantasy. If you’re a telecom carrier, a cable company, a municipality, even a group of community activists, Greg Richardson is here to offer a compelling approach to capital investment in new infrastructure. And he’s done it with an idea that’s almost embarrassingly simple.
Live music is a very social experience. And, social media enables concerts to be experienced outside of the four walls of the concert hall.
I went to see the Rolling Stones in San Jose earlier this week. “How was the concert?” people asked me. My Response: “The most rocking concert put on by 70-year old rockers in the history of rock.” This is a true statement, but it also belittles the staying power of the greatest rock and roll band of all time. (You can disagree or agree with me on the “greatest band” point in the comments section).
Rolling Stones: 1962 -- present
Sir Michael Philip “Mick” Jagger -- born 1943
Keith Richards -- born 1943
Ronald David “Ronnie” Wood -- born 1947
Charles Robert “Charlie” Watts -- born 1941
(a combined 200 years of rocking)
As I work in technology, I noticed a lot of technology during the concert. There was a sea of people with smart phones taking photos or video of the concert (link to photo below) as well as people posting to Facebook and Twitter or texting during the concert. Yes, I was guilty of some of this as well.
It made me to think about the shared experience of live music. I had a blast at the concert, but if it were just me and the Rolling Stones it wouldn’t have been as much fun -- actually, that’s not true, that would be awesome, but stay with me here…we just want to share our experience with friends. If they are right beside us, great. If they are half a state, a country or world away then that’s fine too -- social media allows us to do this.
The challenges facing the US manufacturing industry are varied and well-known: foreign competition, regulatory and environmental concerns, and a decline in STEM education, to name a few.
Most of what we hear in the news is a continual stream of reminders of these challenges from politicians, pundits, etc. Everyone seems to acknowledge this is a problem, but what are we going to do about it?
If I like you and you like me, and you like what I like and I like what you like, then I want to know about it. You follow? Call it peer pressure, call it follow the leader, call it the ultimate marketing tool…whatever you call it, it’s the power of the relationships, the influence, that is driving friends and fans to click.
Influence, when it comes to crowdsourcing, is worth noting. Jeff Howe, the author who first coined the term in 2006, defines crowdsourcing as tasks previously done by employees “now outsourced in the form of an open call to a large, undefined group of people generally using the Internet.” Web 2.0 technology and social media tools have made this phenomenon commonplace, with Facebook among the most popular applications.
I tend to alter the definition of crowdsourcing a bit, particularly when it comes to purchasing decisions. I think of it more as a means to an end, using the power of many to provide insight that otherwise might not have surfaced had it been left to just one person. Reviews, essentially. Add on top of that, influence, and now you not have only input and feedback on a particular product or service, but now you have individuals you know or know of weighing in. In your world, the information becomes more credible. (Cisco home products, grants contributors a particular status in its peer to peer community…adding to the pool of influencers. We’re seeing this with badging programs as well.)
A few thoughts on relationships and social media to cuddle up with this Valentine’s week.