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?

Following The Crowd Is Not Easy – You Need A Scalable and Secure Platform

In order to leverage the full potential of crowdsourcing and 3D Printing, manufacturers need to move away from contests to continual innovation and leverage a platform that harnesses big data, social tools, cloud computing, automation, security and mobility technologies.  Manufacturers must be able to securely collect and respond to data from customers, suppliers, and now the products themselves.  You need a platform.

Connected Factory – The Platform for Innovation

Cisco takes a holistic approach to addressing this market need by offering our Connected Factory solution.  Connected Factory is a validated system architecture that connects the carpeted IT enterprise with the plant floor OT (operational technology) networks.  The Connected Factory solution provides a platform where applications can be securely deployed connecting manufacturers to their customers, vendors, partners and internal business organizations.  Internal and external crowdsourcing of ideas over an effective, secure and easy to use and manage platform is achieved.

The result, is a platform that provides stakeholders with real- time access to all product data, including the components design history, materials composition, design parameters, and manufacturing specs. Changes to existing products, or combinations for new products, are made easier when collaborative teams have such information at their fingertips to reduce errors during design work-ups. The real-time access to minute technical details is now realized.  Complex, integrated technology products desired by consumers are delivered in record time.

The Results Are In……

Polling consumers about their product preferences opens a window to future demand. Acting on user feedback rewards consumers with a sense of ownership in brands, as well as products catered to their preferences. Crowdsourcing yields loads of free market research and advertising. The best way to forecast upcoming demand? Ask consumers and let them broadcast their creativity with your product through social media. Crowd psychology can work to manufacturers’ advantage. The crowd does the work; the manufacturer benefits.

How are you driving innovation?  Do you have the platform to carry you?



Kevin Davenport

Cisco’s Global Solutions Manager

Industrial Intelligence