15 07, 2012

Personal Mobility by Daimler: New moovel platform wants to make travel more efficient

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:07+00:00 Juli 15th, 2012|Customization Trends, Long Tail, Personalization, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

Copyright Daimler, www.daimler.de, all rights reserved!During his presentation at the MC2012 conference, Wolfgang Gruel from NBD at Daimler already indicated a major new offering that shall move Daimler into the nexat area of automotive transportation. Last week, this service was finally announced: MOOVEL 

It shal provide a more comnpelling answer on teh question: Why is it necessary that privately owned cars are often used in a really inefficient way, by either standing around most of the time or being driven by only one person where four or more passengers could be transported. 

One solution to this could be more car pooling. The idea is not new at all and i being offered in most (if not all) major cities over here in Germany. However, it is kind of revolutionary that a major car company like Daimler starts a project aiming at getting people to do what is, by traditional means, not in a car manufacturer's interest in the slightest: Buy less "useless" automobiles by using an improved, automated car pooling model. 

Daimler, though, aware of their social and ecological responsibility, has just launched a platform that does exactly that: moovel

Copyright Daimler, www.daimler.de, all rights reserved!The concept is really simple. Moovel is availible either as a (free) iPhone app or via their website. Users can easily offer unused seat capacity availible during a car ride they are going to take, at a certain time and from one destination to another.

Likewise, travelers in need of transportation can enter the time and places they want to go to and are instantly shown information about not only availible seats in privately offered car pool vehicles but also details on commercial rides by buy or tram offered by local companies. 

The best about it (especailly if you are used to the often tiresome information-websites of railway companies) is its ease of use. You literally do not have to invest more effort than it takes to alter one short sentense to your needs, by specifying when and where you want to go. The software does the rest, and beutifully so.

Since this is a pilot project by Daimler, the service is in German language and limited to the city of Stuttgart, Germany, for now. If it proves to be successful, though, it might be adopted and coming to a place near you sooner than you think.

So if you understand any German at all, I really recommend taking a quick look, its a concept that will be really interesting to watch evolve. More about moovel on their website.

11 06, 2012

Market Watch: New MC Platform by RPI Helps Stationery Retailers to Jump onto Personalization Business

By | 2018-06-14T06:56:25+00:00 Juni 11th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Long Tail, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

Courtesy of RPI, all rights reserved. Click to enlarge!Personalized stationery like paper, photobooks, greeting cards etc. with your individual text or design printed on them are not exactly a new idea. They are, however, a widely popular product for those who wish to express themselves with something more individual than what your average mall has to offer. Hence, selling personalized stationery is an interesting market model.

Unfortunately it comes with the usual issues of offering individualized products: You need a well-working, easy to operate configurator that lets your customers design their goods. You also need to have them printed and shipped within a relatively short amount of time. This as well as all the complementary logistics can be a severe obstacle on the path to the personlization market place.

If you are on the fence about offering individual stationery of any kind – may it be as a sole business model or to complement your already existing brand – you might be interested in investigating RPI's new storefront solution, specifically designed for stationery products. RPI hence is following the course of Zazzle, Cafepress, or other companies that successfully have established a MC platform.

I met the company on the last MCPC conference and was impressed from the general MC knowhow in their field. According to the company's latest press release their new can be "seamlessly embedded into any retailer's existing website" and let your customers choose from "hundreds of personalized products". RPI will take care of all the printing and delivery work so you can focus on your core business.

With the same press release we also learned about RPI's Courtesy of RPI, all rights reserved. Click to enlarge! new special product line for retailers in the  growing market of the pet industry. This might be a promissing approach, seeing how, according to Mintel, 76% of cat or dog owners consider their pets to be family members. If products like the "Woof Card" and the "Furfolio" (pet-) photo book sound appealing to you or if RPI's special cards for "fur-nouncements" to family and fellow pet owners are just what you need, you might want to check out their respective website for this product line, www.woofcards.com.


18 12, 2011

The $1 Million Zazzle Innovation Challenge: What is your great idea for the next in mass customization?

By | 2018-06-14T07:14:54+00:00 Dezember 18th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Long Tail, MC & Art, MCPC2011, MIT SCG, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

Here is your perfect thing to do over the Christmas holidays:


Zazzle, a leading platform for quality custom products, is hosting their first "One Million-Dollar Innovation Challenge" to launch the development of the next, most innovative customization product or company.

This can be an idea for a new consumer product, but also one for an innovative service, health, business to business or whatever offering … Feel free to bring mass customization to a new level!

The contest had been announced during the MCPC 2011 conference dinner. It is hosted in association with MIT's Smart Customization Group and UC Berkeley's Center for Corporate Innovation,

The Million-Dollar Innovation Challenge and prize is open to any person or company with an idea for a customizable product. Applicants must create a one-minute video, describing their product and explaining why their innovative concept is special and will contribute to the growing movement of mass customization. Applicants will be judged on innovation and economic viability.

Jeff Beaver from Zazzle announces the Challenge. Photo by Bruce CookThe winner will gain access to Zazzle's world-class engineering team, which will support the winning project with software development, exclusive proprietary design tools and 3-D product visualization technologies. Additionally, Zazzle will fund the project with resources to develop a global product-marketing plan and launch the product to a worldwide audience of tens of millions of potential consumers. The winner will also receive mentorship from a veteran panel of potential investors and industry leaders, in addition to introductions to Zazzle's many brands and partners.

Zazzle will announce five semi-finalists on February 24, 2012. Academic experts, industry executives and active investors will help refine the concepts and plans for final evaluation and judge the presentations.

For more information, including objectives, application, rules and prize details, visit www.Zazzle.com/challenge.

28 07, 2011

Quirky in Numbers: Entrepreneur Magazine shares new data on Quirky’s social product development business model

By | 2018-06-14T09:43:56+00:00 Juli 28th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Long Tail, MC Alternatives, User Manufacturing|

Entrepreneur-magazine-august-2011_lrg In the August issue of Entrepreneur, Jennifer Wang has a great story on Quirky, featuring the person of founder Ben Kaufman (everyone attending the MIT SCG Seminar in 2010 still remembers his presentation), but also sharing some great info on the company.

Read the full article here, but here are some of the facts I found most interesting:

Old world: If you have an idea and want to turn it into a product "Kaufman puts the upfront costs of building a company around a single product at about $200,000–just to get the paperwork done and the first prototype out." Combined with the risk, most people never get their product idea anywhere near retail shelves.

Quirky's approach:

Create an online community of 65,000 members (growing by 20 percent every month).

Have "every week hundreds of inventor hopefuls, or "ideators," submit their concepts online".

So called "influencers" than vote on the ideas and develop them further, together with Quirky's inhouse design team.

Requirement: Product ideas must retail for less than $150 and should not require integrated software.

Examples of products in the making and development: "an auto-stirring microwavable bowl with steam-release function; a modular tent-making kit for use with couch cushions and throw quilts; a yoga mat with magnetic or Velcro closures."

30% payoff: "Thirty cents of every revenue dollar goes back to ideators, and a number of them have already earned tens of thousands of dollars."

Typical income of inventors:

Michael McCoy, inventor of Cloak, a two-in-one iPad stand and case, that retails for $29.99. This item generated total sales of $100,128, and Michael got a share of $38,007 for this.

Jake Zien, inventor of the Pivot Power, an adjustable power strip with six outlets, that retails for $29.99. This item generated total sales: $13,021, and Jake got a share of $4,919.

Quirky's take: "The company retains the rights to all the cool ideas that are voted into the development process, and because the company gets validation from thousands of potential customers before making a move, Kaufman avoids all the costs associated with early design phases." => our idea of collective customer commitment at its best!

2011 revenue: Expected "to be between $6 million and $10 million"

Financing: Quirky has raised $12.6 million in funding.

Staff: Today 40, planned are about 80 by the end of this year.

Media: Ben is a master in self promotion and announcing his company, and so the Sundance Channel's will have a reality TV show featuring Kaufman, Quirky employees, the inventors and their stories, premiering in August.

Ben's core learning in running an online community:

"Face-time is important, transparency is important!" There's a whole department dedicated to "inventor services," and the company regularly holds virtual town hall meetings with the whole staff, inviting community members to log on and ask anyone on the team questions."

 For me, Quirky still is one of the best ideas of co-creation. Here is my earlier more extended analysis of their business model.


19 04, 2011

CYO 2011: Final Agenda – European BtC Customization & Personalization Entrepreneurs meet in Berlin

By | 2018-06-14T09:44:16+00:00 April 19th, 2011|Co-creation, Customization Trends, Events, Long Tail, Research Studies, Technologies & Enablers|

Cyo2011-speakersThe "Create Your Own" event on May 30-31, 2011 in Berlin at Theater Aufbau Kreuzberg, Moritzplatz 1, 10969 Berlin.

The CYO 2011 is a unique opportunity to explore the reality and future behind individualisation, co-creation, and personalisation — mega trends that are shaping the European consumption landscape. The event is co-organized by a consortium of European companies and research institutes in the field of mass customization. Here is the semi-final agenda. Participation is 200,- Euro only — but register until May 1.

Monday, 30th of May 2011: CREATE YOUR OWN 2011 Company Showcase & Evening

The opening event will feature over fifty co-creation entrepreneurs, makers, researchers, technology experts, policy maker, and investors from around Europe. A press conference and special exhibition will present the makers and shapers of personalisation and customisation in Europe to a wider audience.

16:00 Registration starts

17:00 Opening Talk: Greetings & Event Overview

17:30 Showcase Exhibition Opening: Experience some of the best European CYO consumer good companies

19:00 Press event, film screening and recpetion: Create Your Own — The Official Movie, produced and directed by the London College of Fashion

Tuesday, 31st of May 2011: CREATE YOUR OWN 2011 Business Conference and Workshop

  The business conference will provide a detailed look at innovative European start-ups that are quite literally giving the people what they want. At the seminar, plenary presentations and panels will look into the market for mass customisation, new business models connected with the trend, and the latest technologies that make it happen.

8.00 Registration starts

9:00 Welcome Addresss: John Cleuren, DG Research, European Commission

9:30 CYO Opening Presentation: The Mass Customization 500 – A Benchmarking Report of 500 CYO Offerings, Frank Piller (RWTH Aachen) & Dominik Walcher (Salzburg University of Applied Sciences)

10:00 Best Practice: How to sell dreams – The Success Story of Personal Novel, Jan-Christoph Goetze (Personal Novel)

10:30 Coffee & Networking Break

11:00 Best Practice: To be announced

11:30 Panel I: The market for customization & personalization – where will we go?

Moderator: Prof. Frank Piller, RWTH Aachen

  • Thorsten Harzer, Boston Consulting Group/RWTH: “What about the MC market today?”
  • Tom de Bruyne, Boondoggle: “How to sell your innovativeness”
  • Michael Bruck, Chocri: “How to take the plunge to the US”
  • Oliver Hickfang, Juuway: “Perspectives for European Companies to Sell Custom Goods to the Chinese Consumer”
  • Rolf-Christian Wentz, Business Angel: “When are MC start-ups promising?”
  • Paul Blazek, CyLEDGE: “Mass Customization at the Edge: the most curious CYO businesses”

12:30 Lunch

13:30 Panel 2: The power of communities – Qualified open innovation and mass customization
Moderator: Prof. Thomas Fischer, ITV Denkendorf

Panel Keynote: How to realize the ideas of consumers, Hervé Francois (Color Textil) & Niels Hendriks (KH Limburg)

  • Hervé Francois, Color Textil: “Designers as professional customers
  • Niels Hendriks, KHLim: “How to satisfy customer’s needs
  • Ellen Mutchler, Color Textil/ Digifabrix: “How to develop professional exchange platforms
  • Sue Jenkyn-Jones, London College of Fashion: “How to support the customer by Style Advice
  • Michiel Willemse, TNO: “3D printing of jewellery

15:00 Coffee Break

15:30 Panel 3: Business models and platforms to run a successful mass customization business
Moderator: Sergio Dulio, Milano

Joint Panel Keynote: Platforms as collaborative business models for the future of mass customization: The cases of BivolinoServices and Customax, Bas Possen, Customax, and Michel Byvoet, Bivolino

  • Andreas Kortmann. Matteo Dosso: “Being successful in a BtoBtoC market within 12 countries
  • Carine Moitier, Bivolino: “Bringing art into the customized apparel market
  • Philip Rooke, Spreadshirt: “How to let customers make money with their designs
  • Martin Meuser, Customate: ”How to collaborate with big players
  • Lotta Nordin, Adidas: ”Aligning mass production and mass customiaztion

17:15 Wrap up and results of the the “Makers Incubator” (workshop)

17:30 Reception and Exhibition

Participation at the CYO 2011 is 200,- Euro only — but register until May 1.

SPECIAL OFFER: If your company is offering mass customization products or services, participate at the CYO 2011 showcase exhibition. This will be a great opportunity to showcase your offerings to a wider public, the CYO 2011 participants, and a large group of invited journalists and multiplicators. Participation at the exhibition is only 250,- Euro (including the 200,- Euro participation fee at the business seminar), but place is limited. For any exhibition requests, just check the CYO website.

Cyp2011 banner long

24 11, 2010

The Ponoko-Google Challenge: Show the World How Easy It Is to Manufacture What You Like

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:15+00:00 November 24th, 2010|Fabbing, Long Tail, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

Googponoko2 If have written several times about Ponoko here, a platform where designers, users, and manufacturers meet and enable to production of cool items in a very democratic way. It allows you to turn the stuff you dream up into physical objects that you can hold in your hands.  "User manufactuing" at its best!

Ponoko now has teamed up with Google in a user contest to get people educated about the opportunities available for anyone to design things and turn them into real products — without the help of any "large" company! With Ponoko's new "Personal Factory 4", the process got even easier.

The Google-Ponoko challenge is to produce a piece of instructional content that’s equal parts enlightening and entertaining. Each entry must be titled “How to use Google SketchUp for Ponoko 3D printing,” but aside from that, the format is pretty open. Text, images and video (or some combination of the three) are all fair game.

The competition deadline is four weeks from now; all entries are due December 17, 2010. Visit the official announcement page for all the details, and have fun making the world a more interesting place to be.

18 09, 2009

Zazzle Launches in Germany to Continue European Rollout

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:04+00:00 September 18th, 2009|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Co-creation, Long Tail, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, T-Shirts|

Zazzle offeres local content for German market Yesterday at around midnight, Zazzle.de went online, the Zazzle platform in German language. Being German, I of course were especially appealed (even if the translation at some places still is bumpy, it is difficult to translate the American startup slang in German, I suppose).

In addition to supporting the German market with full German-language translation, www.Zazzle.de will base its transactions in Euros and buyers will not need to pay additional taxes or customs duties beyond the product price. Customers on the www.Zazzle.de website will enjoy fast delivery of their order to any address in Germany at competitive prices. But the zazzle.de website will be a virtual front end, with all information being managed from the US.

But an interesting feature, and one that make's a lot of sense, is the promise of Zazzle to offer localized merchandising featuring German Sellers and content relevant to the German market. In the moment, this is Oktoberfest beerfest stuff.

The also promise a standard delivery across Germany at competitive prices with delivery typically in 5-7 days, with Express delivery in about three days (hence just a bit slower than Spreadshirt or other Germany-based companies).

I am curious to see how zazzle.de will develop and are happy about another strong case close to my home.

In the press release, Zazzle offers some more information about their business development. Zazzle's recent statistics include:

–  Monthly unique visitors to the Zazzle websites now exceed 12 million;
–  140+ percent year-over-year traffic growth;
–  Total number of members is 5 million+;
–  Total items shipped is more than 11 million;
–  Leading on-demand custom products marketplace in terms of traffic
    rank, page views, and other key metrics, according to alexa.com

PS: Zazzle will present at the MCPC 2009 conference in Helsinki about their recent achievements and future plans!

18 08, 2009

Custom Jewelry: FORBES Video report about Paragon Lake

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:21+00:00 August 18th, 2009|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Design, Long Tail|

Paragonlake I wrote earlier that one of the large trends in mass customization is the creation of a network structure where an intermediary brokers between diverse retailers and manufacturers for custom products. Customax.com or Bivolino Services are good examples for this trend in the fashion industry.

As reported before, Paragon Lake wants to bring this model to the retail world. Forbes just published a nice Video report about them (you have to watch a short commercial before it starts!), with interviews with the key persons behind the concept.

Paragon Lake was founded in 2006 by Matt Lauzon while he and fellow students were at Babson College. They were exploring personalization and other new ways that people shop. They soon realized there was an opportunity to drastically improve the way fine jewelry is bought and sold. Their vision led to the creation of Paragon Lake. On a presentation at the Smart Customization Seminar at MIT in November 2008, Matt introduced his company to a larger audience.

The group's focus on fine jewelry was inspired by a friend's search for a present for his girlfriend. The friend thought that jewelry would be the perfect gift, but considered jewelry shopping experience to be intimidating and overwhelming. After visiting a few local jewelers, he was unable to find a piece that was just right. Hearing his story, Matt realized that technology could not only help fix this problem, but also revolutionize an industry.

Paragon Lake joins consumers, retailers and designers together to create one of a kind jewelry using a special sales application tool with really cool rendering capabilities. The video explains the concept quite neatly.

A good background report about the company is here.

28 10, 2008

Personal Fabrication for Dummies — Teaching Videos at Replicator, Inc.

By | 2018-06-14T11:11:17+00:00 Oktober 28th, 2008|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, Design, Fabbing, Long Tail, MC/OI on the Web, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

I just discovered the great new blog by Joseph Flaherty, founder of a start-up called Replicator, Inc. While the company will launch in full speed in February 2009, they already were quite successful in securing seed money and attention in a number of important start-up competitions (MIT 100K  (semi-finals), Princeton (semi-finals), and the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition (runner up prize winner)).

I hope that we can meet Joseph at the MIT Smart Customization Seminar in three weeks.

Replicator, Inc., manufactures and sells custom consumer products. Their first product is custom jewelry for tween and teenage girls, sold under the name WhirlyBelle. This is made possible by combining web-based design tools with custom manufacturing

His company blog not just has a recent posting about 47 words you can not use on custom Nike sneakers (which I do not quote here to get my blog not banned from your corporate content filter). In another posting, he has a great chart about the price premiums you can gain with mass customization:

Price premiums with mass customization

A great number of postings covers user manufacturing and the new opportunities for users to produce anything they want. In one of my favorite posts, Joseph explains all technologies that enable personal fabrication. You probably also could Google those, but Joseph created a great posting with small videos explaining all technologies.

Many people think 3D printers are the way this will happen, but there are half a dozen other amazing technologies that allow people to make anything they can imagine.

While by no means an exhaustive list, his list is a is a very convenient overview for anyone interested in how the idea user co-design meets manufacturing. As Joseph writes:

"Combined with web-based design tools these technologies could enable a change as profound as the industrial revolution: increasing the options for customers while reducing the environmental impact."

His posting shows examples of these machines in action and provides a glimpse of what is possible already today:

1. 3D Printers (some notable examples: Z Corp., Dimension, 3d systems, Objet, Desktop Factory, Paragon Lake, Figure Prints, EOS)

2. Laser Cutters  (Notable Examples: Epilog, Trotec, Etchstar, Ponoko, VersaLaser)

3. Waterjet Cutters (Notable Examples: OMAX, Flow Corp, OCC)

4. 2D Plotter Cutters (Notable Examples: Cricut, CraftRobo, Xyron)

5. Print on Demand (Notable Companies: Blurb, Lulu, Shutterfly)

6. Direct To Garment Printing (Notable Companies: Cafe Press, Zazzle, Spreadshirt, Spoonflower)

7. CNC Milling (Notable Examples: eMachine Shop, Tech Shop, Craftsman Compucarve)

8. CNC Embroidery (Notable Examples: Singer, Brother, Toyota)

9. Cut & Sew Construction (Notable Examples: NIKEiD, Timbuk2, Freitag)

10. 3D Scanning (Notable Examples: Z Corp., Next Engine, 3D Digital Corp., Corpus-e)

Go to his web site to watch all videos

16 11, 2007

Personalization in Retail: How RFID tags are helping a German retailer to provide customization of the retail experience

By | 2018-06-14T12:56:47+00:00 November 16th, 2007|Cases-Consumer, Long Tail, MC Alternatives, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

Personalization in Retail at METRO (Source: baselinemag.com)Roland Piquepaille wrote in a ZD-Net Blog about RFID tags that help you to choose your clothes at a German retailer close to my home.

This application fits perfectly to the discussion we had at the MCPC 2007 Business Seminar a month ago in Montreal on „A total makeover of retail“. Here are some quotes from the posting:

„A German department store, the Galeria Kaufhof in Essen, part of the Metro retailing group, is using RFID technology in a new way. … Men buying clothes in this store will get automatic suggestions. For example, when you go to a dressing room to try a suit, a ’smart mirror’ will tell you what kind of shirt or tie you need to buy with it. Will this technology be deployed elsewhere? Time will tell.

… An RFID reader on a “smart mirror” in the change room determines which clothing has been brought into the room from the RFID tag attached to the apparel, then displays complementary clothing choices or accessories. The system is used in combination with ’smart shelves,’ which can read what merchandise is currently in stock, so that customers can be shown choices in sizes that are available, and in various styles and colors.

… RFID readers are installed in walls, tables, and clothing racks of the men’s department. In addition to providing METRO with data on store floor inventory in real-time, the readers enable a number of consumer-facing applications that METRO hopes will both wow customers and make their buying experience richer and more convenient. The RFID tables are hooked up to an accompanying flat screen, which displays what sizes and styles are immediately available on that table. The RFID mirrors detect which garment the customer is wearing or holding and offer recommendations for complementary items.”

And of course, all this information is extremely valuable to the retail chain. Let’s return to the Baseline article for its conclusion. “Bill Colleran, chief executive of Seattle-based Impinj, says the exciting thing about the Kaufhof deployment is that it demonstrates that RFID can be used in retail for much more than to wring out cost savings in the supply chain. With the use of business intelligence systems like smart mirrors and smart shelves, it can be a new sales driver. ‘People joke that this is the ideal place to start because men need more help” in making choices,’ he says.”

Context information:

– The full blog posting of Roland Piquepaille.
Report in Baseline Magazine which was the source of Roland’s article
Metro press announcement
Press release by the technology providers

10 11, 2007

MIT Technology Review on Ponoko: „Ponoko wants to give customers the tools to design and sell whatever they want.“

By | 2018-05-07T15:31:10+00:00 November 10th, 2007|Co-creation, Customization Trends, Fabbing, Long Tail, MC Alternatives, User Manufacturing|

How Ponoko works (Source: Ponoko.com)Last week, Michael Gibson published a very nice analysis on Ponoko in the MIT Technology Review. I wrote about this company before, and the article has a nice summary of the recent developments of this user manufacturing start up.

Gibson writes:

„For most companies, product design and development is a long process of trial and error, involving, among other things, in-house designers, committees, timed product releases, and, ultimately, customer feedback. Until a product sells, or if it doesn’t sell, it takes up costly shelf space in either stores or warehouses.

But by letting individuals dream up, make, and then sell unique products on demand, Ponoko is attempting to eliminate the product-development wing. Ultimately, it hopes to eliminate the need for a centralized manufacturing plant as well, by recruiting a large enough community of digital manufacturers–people scattered around the world who have 3-D printers, CNC routers, and laser cutters. Moving the site of production as close as possible to the point of purchase will reduce the need for long-distance shipping.

„Just as personal computing went from the mainframe to the desktop, and the result was distributed desktop computing, we see the same trend occurring with digital manufacturing, as it moves from the warehouse to the desktop,“ says Derek Elley, the chief strategy officer for Ponoko.“

At the end of the article, Gibson quotes Phillip Torrone, a senior editor at Make magazine, who tried Ponoko to create a custom stand for his iPhone:

„They did everything that was required for me to get my product,“ Torrone says. „Their tutorials are fine; the templates were good examples. Pretty much, they did everything right. Now the question is, is there a demand? How much money does a company like this need to make to stay afloat?“

Ellery’s answer is that, eventually, Ponoko’s revenue will come entirely from digital services, not from manufacturing fees. The company intends to develop six revenue streams, including ad sales and commissions on design purchases.“

For more analysis, head to the full article.

Ponoko and related services, and the corresponding business model, are the theme of my upcoming webinar with Pure Inisghts. More information here!

9 11, 2007

Webinar: The Next Gen of Mass Customization: User Manufacturing, Instant Companies, and Customer Co-Creation (Nov 29, 2007 on your desktop)

By | 2018-05-07T15:31:14+00:00 November 9th, 2007|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Design, Events, Fabbing, Long Tail, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

How a new infrastructure is enabling consumers to become instant manufacturers – and your future competitor — 10% discount for MC&OI Blog readers

Webinar on the future of mass customization

I am coming back to your desktop. After the large success of an earlier webinar on mass customization, London based Pure Inisghts is organizing a second webinar on the theme, this time around my new favorite topic of user manufacturing.

The topic: We are used to have a networked laser printer on every desk in our office and in every home, enabling us to print documents on the spot which a few decades ago demanded a specialized manufacturer. The same may be happening with the production of many other goods. Today new production technologies („fabbing“) and advanced design software allow average users to produce almost everything – on their own desk. Welcome to the factory in your kitchen.

This session will discuss the upcoming user manufacturing trend, a development that recently is taking shape in larger scope and scale: User manufacturing refers to a public available software, manufacturing, and distribution infrastructure that enables creative users and customers to design, build, and sell own creations to a larger public – without the traditional investments in setting up a business. User manufacturing supplements – or substitutes – mass customization strategies which many companies have implemented. It also may become the most efficient strategy to serve the long tail of variants in many industries.

Consider Spreadshirt, one of the world’s largest producers of graphic t-shirts. This company just allows everyone to create an own assortment of designs, and then sell this assortments in highly targeted retail outlets, online and offline, to a small market segment the user knows best. Thus, Spreadshirt does not have to predict the long tail of heterogeneity of fashion products, but just focuses on allowing users to create and sell this assortment by their own.

User manufacturing is enabled by three main technologies: (1) Easy-to-operate design software that allows users to transfer their ideas into a design. (2) Design repositories where users upload, search, and share designs with other users. This allows a community of loosely connected users to develop a large range of applications. (3) Easy-to-access flexible manufacturing technology. New rapid manufacturing technologies („fabbing“) finally deliver the dream of translating any 3-D data files into physical products — even in you living room. Combining this technology with recent web technologies can open a radical new way to provide custom products along the entire „long tail“ of demand.

User manufacturing builds on the notion that users are not just able to configure a good within the given solution space (mass customization), but also to develop such a solution space by their own and utilize it by producing custom products. As a result, customers are becoming not only co-designers, but also manufacturers, using an infrastructure provided by some specialized companies.

The webinar will discuss recent trends and case examples of the user manufacturing trend. We also will compare the business models of companies which are building on the user manufacturing trend and which implement and operate the underlying infrastructure ´for creative users to become manufacturers.

WebinarPlanned session outline:

– A short review of conventional mass customization thinking

– Which recent trends and developments enhance these strategies and how mass customization is related to “The Long Tail” phenomena

– What is user manufacturing, and which trends does this strategy support?

– What are the components of an infrastructure that supports user manufacturing?

– A review of business models of established companies and recent startups which already successfully benefit from the opportunities of user manufacturing

– A discussion of the major challenges and open issues in this domain

– Session wrap-up: Idea for further action

To register, please go to http://www.pure-insight.com/webinars/mass-customization-next-generation and use promotional code aix (case sensitive!) wenn registering for a 10% discount.

Note: You also can download the webinar after its initial live broadcast – but only when joining live, you can interact and ask direct questions.

All further information can be found here.

Context information

– If you prefer to see the content of this webinar in action, a seminar on Fabbing and User generated Manufacturing in Essen, Germany, provides a great opportunity on Nov 22.

– My earlier posts on user manufacturing

Article in CNN online on the fabbing trend

Article in New Scientist on the fabbing trend

Article in Make magazine on how to use a fabbing device

5 11, 2007

Udate: Crowdlogoing the New Spreadshirt Tagline: New Design Competition Launched — and finalized

By | 2018-05-07T15:31:25+00:00 November 5th, 2007|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Design, Long Tail, MC & Art, Open/User Innovation, T-Shirts|

Some recent entries to the Spreadshirt OLP(Update of the original posting from Sept 2007 — now with the project’s final result at the end of this post!).

Hey, you designers of the world. Treat me nice: I am on the panel of the new Spreadshirt Open Logo competition :-). Coined the Open Logo Project (OLP) 1.6, this is the second time that the company has started a crowdsourcing contest for its new logo. Anyone can submit a draft logo for comment and evaluation by an expert panel, other designers and the Spreadshirt community. Each week during the contest, the top entries will win awards and a place in the overall grand final.

The last contest (hosted 1.6 years ago) received over 1000 submissions from more than 600 designers mainly in Germany and France. This time, the entire world shall participate. The contest will run from the 27th August – 14th October. To take part in the contest – with submissions, comments, voting or just lurking – head to http://olp.spreadshirt.net.

Every branding textbook, however, will tell you not to change your logo every two (or even 1.6) years. But “…this is not a publicity stunt,“ said Jana Eggers, Spreadshirt’s new CEO. „We found a tagline that better represents what we do, and now is the right time to change our current logo to support it“.

The new tagline, resulting from working with an international branding firm: „Your own label“ shall reflect Spreadshirt’s mission to be „the world’s creative apparel platform“. After deciding on the new tagline, the natural step for Spreadshirt was to turn to its community again for a logo that better supports the new tagline.

The cool thing: Adam Fletcher, who is coordinating the competition at Spreadshirt, even allowed me to pick my own prize. So: I will award a first price for the most innovative design, one, that really demonstrates uniqueness and out of the box thinking. And this price will be truly innovative and unique as well: You can win an entire mass customized outfit. More on the website!

But beyond the innovative prices, also the OLP idea competition itself has some nice features which make it a great example of open innovation and sets it ahead to other design contests on the web:

They have ten different awards and prizes for different categories which also honor not only WHAT, but HOW you design, awarding good competition citizenship. There are prices for community involvement, memorability, branding excellence, etc …

This also allows Spreadshirt to think of those that offer input but can’t design (I would be a perfect candidate for this). Anyone who actively contributes to the OLP community by ratings, commenting, offering feedback, starting discussions etc can win one of every shirt that Spreadshirt’s “La Fraise” prints for the next year (should be around 100 shirts – so if you win, buy a new closet).


[want] to recognize out-of-the-box thinking, collaboration, community favorites and more,“ adds Adam Fletcher. „Even if you’re not the winning designer, you can scoop a number of other prizes, or just waste a lot of your time, learn a lot from looking at the work of the other designers.“

For real winning designers, they also provide more than cash, but help with the most valuable good for artists, recognition. Along with a MacBook pro and €3,000 cash, the winner will be featured with a photo and an interview in he “Computer Arts” magazine, an interview on “Computerlove” and a permanent “thank-you-page” at Spreadshirt.com

So, now get your creative fluids working … and submit a nice logo so that I have something to judge next week !!


Labelhead - my personal winner of the OLPUPDATE: The project is over –– and it was an interesting experience for me to be on the panel of such an open innovation competition. Here some observations:

First: The winner: While Spreadshirt selected two first prices for their new logo (see the designs here) and is now working with the community on improving the designs. My personal short list looked a bit different, see it here.

Second: My winner: As written above, I could award my very special price for the most innovative design. My clear favorite was Labelhead, not just a logo but an entire logo configurator. Here is my long description why this is the most innovative (and in any case customizable) logo! (and this posting also gives you a rare view of my living room 🙂

Third: Participants of an open innovation project get engaged and personal: The entire competition drew more than 2800 entires, generated millions of hits and views, a lot of postings and good press for Spreadshirt — and did not cost really too much compared to the cost of getting a professional new logo (and PR campaign) from a regular agency (cost were about 10 K Euro for prices, Adam Fletcher’s salary of running the contest, and some web site programming etc ..). The best insight into the enthusiasm and engagement of the participants can be found in the comments to the posts, just browse through some of the winning designs or see the comment on the selection of the winners (example).

For me, it was was interesting to read what people really thought about my selections (more comments here). I think I really do not look like a designer or pretend to know much about graphic design — my task was to provide a business and customization perspective for the panel. But participants expected my real feedback on their designs … learning_ pick panelists that really know what they are writing about.

Fourth: I learned a lot about customized toilets 🙂 See comments in the middle of this stream.

9 06, 2007

BMW’s Mini Brand Launches Custom Roof Designer Online

By | 2018-05-07T15:31:57+00:00 Juni 9th, 2007|Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Design, Long Tail, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization|

Evaluation of the new roof design toolkit and some ideas for improvements and additions

Driving a BMW-Mini often is seen as the ultimate expression of individualism. People paying the extra premium for a small, but fun car often select a Mini to express their individual lifestyle and to set themselves ahead from the crowd. For me, this always seemed to be a bit a contradiction, as I have seen very few really “cool” people driving a Mini, and at least in Germany, Mini drivers seem to follow a general pattern of belonging to a conservative upper middle-class medium aged segment living in larger cities. (I have, however, to admit that driving a Mini really is fun and a very nice experience).

Also, from a mass customization point of view, a Mini has rather limited customization offerings. While the configurator suggests plenty of choice options, they are rather limited, especially with regard to style customization like color combinations between body, roof, and interior. All choices seem to be perfectly balanced to deliver neatly tuned combinations fitting the Mini brand image as seen by its corporate parents.

Mini Roof DesignerBut now, there is ultimate choice. Customers now can freely design the Mini’s roof with their very own design. The roof is one of the signature design features of the Mini. It is often selected in a different color than the body. And now you not only can select from 15 or so standard colors, but really design your own, as the German weekly Der Spiegel reports in its online edition.

Enter the Mini Roof Designer, a very well done playful online design toolkit that allows you to generate your own roof design. The configurator is full of nice gimmicks providing a great experience, but not really helping you to come up with a better design. As far as I could evaluate this configuration toolkit, this – in the moment – is a pure marketing gimmick. You can design your roof and save it, but that’s it.

According to the regularly well informed Der Spiegel, however, you also can order very soon your individual design in form a custom-made foil with your individual pattern that your Mini dealer will fix on your roof. (and in the Carscoop blog I read that the orders are available only in Italy for the time being, Germany will follow in June, Austria in the third quarter, with further countries being added later).

Given the high prices for extras for the Mini, 400 Euros for this service seem to be not too expensive. I bet there even will be fans ordering their custom roof stickers without even owning a Mini. And I am looking forward to see all the really custom designs printed on Mini cars and how they match the look of their owners. Have a look in the gallery of the Roof Configurator to see what I mean.

Nice idea. Some thoughts I had while playing around with the configurator how to improve this offering :

(1) It will be interesting to see if and how Mini approves all designs and whether there will be limits of what people can print. For the online gallery publicly showing your saved design, a manual approval process takes place. After I saved my Mini, the system told me that it will take ONE WEEK to approve my design before it is online. Hey, we are in an online, real-time, instant gratification world and the automotive industry is talking about the Three-Day-Car http://www.3daycar.com/!!

(2) It is rather difficult to come up with a nice design. The system offers many tools, but as an average user without design skills, it is difficult to come up with something creative. Easy-to-modify starting designs are missing. Also, I would have loved to get some more inspirations, perhaps by famous designers sharing their own Mini roof. And if I would be a professional designer, I would love to be able to upload a design made in Photoshop or any other professional design program using a template provided by BMW.

(3) The custom Mini roof sounds like a perfect idea for a new Threadless clone . Let the best in the world design roofs in form of an open (ongoing) competition, and let the community of Mini fans and owners evaluate the designs and vote on the winners. Then produce these designs in limited editions and sell them within days.

(4) Or a modification of the Spreadshirt idea: Let users design roofs, and sell their individual designs to others. Designs are then individually printed, and designers get a share of the proceeds. Perhaps this also is a great after-sales tuning idea. Think of transferring the BEMZ idea of tuning IKEA sofas onto Mini roofs: Create custom Mini roof covers and sell them independently for 200 Euros. Given that about 1 Mio. New Minis have been sold, this sounds like a nice market opportunity.

So many opportunities for mass customization in the automotive industry. Let’s see what is happening next.

3 06, 2007

User Manufacturing and Crowdsourcing in New Zealand: How Ponoko enables creative users to create, manufacture, and sell digital products online

By | 2018-05-07T15:31:58+00:00 Juni 3rd, 2007|Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Fabbing, Guest Articles, Long Tail, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, User Manufacturing|

How Ponoko worksPonoko is a user manufacturing platform based in Wellington, New Zealand, where anyone can click to make, buy and sell digital products. Users upload designs, Ponoko manufactures them for them using rapid manufacturing technology, and send the result to users. If they like and approve the result, users then can start to sell their designs (and products) to others using Ponoko’s online shop and distribution system. And as in many ventures, the initiator of the business was a frustrated user who could not buy what he wanted to fulfill his needs. After reading about the idea of personal fabrication by Neil Gershenfield at MIT, a business was born.

I asked Dave ten Have, Ponoko’s founder and CEO, to describe how the company was founded and what the team wants to achieve. With the help of Steven Kempton , Ponoko’s chief blogging officer, the following guest article came in:

Ponoko was founded on the idea that making or buying individualized products shouldn’t be so complex, time-consuming and at a high cost, both financially and environmentally. It should be an enjoyable experience, where you can focus on the design and not be overly limited to what resources, materials or tools you may or may not have or know about.

The idea for Ponoko came from software entrepreneurs Dave ten Have and Derek Elley, both of whom have made a number of things where each experience left a sour taste. A particularly disappointing project was Dave’s experience in designing some wall art – a skateboard shape made of dark rich wood with mother of pearl inset designs. This small project took way too much time than Dave had anticipated – two years in fact. It took an incredible amount of phone calls and emails to multiple parties (mostly engineers who didn’t have an interest in creativity/art). In the end, it cost a huge amount for an unpleasant making / buying experience – and when it turned up, it was wrong and had to be sent back. The worst part was having to go through the horrid process all over again. (You can see Dave’s personal blog for pictures). After this and other disappointing experiences in making individualized projects, they founded Ponoko.

Encouraged by the rise of the Internet connected ‚creative-class‘ along with smarter, faster, smaller and cheaper digital manufacturing hardware (laser cutters, CNC routers and 3D printers that connect to your everyday PC), Dave and Derek formed a plan to solve these problems. They started with the premise that the personal computing and the personal manufacturing industries have strong parallels, realizing that one day everyone will be able to create and make any product from their own home. This led to the idea of mass-individualized products created by the Web community and made on a globally distributed network of manufacturing hardware controlled from any PC.

Today’s product making and distribution model is financially and environmentally unsustainable. It’s also under pressure to digitize like the music and video industries have. Because today’s 100-year old product making and distribution system is so ingrained into our every day lives and delivers so much benefit, problems are not so obvious. But when was the last time you made something?

Making products today does not come easy – some major problems exist:

* Making and delivering (individualized) products is a time consuming, complex and expensive process. This pain does not fit well in a world that is increasingly in demand for instant satisfaction from mass personalized and customized products at low cost.

* Product making and distribution is cost prohibitive for new entrants without relatively deep financial reserves. This is stifling mass creativity of real products and the progress of humanity on unimaginable fronts.

* Low cost mass production and global distribution relies upon using lots of cheap energy and labor. But these two resources are running out.

* Product making and distribution is a major contributor to the global warming problem (according to the WRI, perhaps 20% of the problem). Being environmentally unsustainable, the increasing ‚carbon currency‘ costs also make the current model financially unsustainable.

* Finding individualized products is very difficult and buying such products is a time consuming, relatively complex and expensive burden. Why is there no easy to find supplier of low cost personalized products?

These pressing problems illustrate that a new product making and distribution process is required. Our solution is made possible given the rise of the Internet connected ‚creative class‘ along with digital manufacturing hardware (laser cutters, CNC routers and 3D printers that connect to your everyday PC), and production materials.

The idea of Ponoko is to address these challenges and to deliver the future of product making and distribution to the mass market, today. Ponoko shall deliver the following benefits:

Less risk. On-demand design and manufacture is made possible, so work does not need to be commenced until a consumer makes a purchase. And because product designs can be sold to a large global audience from day one, pay back periods can be shortened.

Lower costs. With Ponoko, creators can now ship digital product designs with the click of a mouse, not physical products requiring a pocket full of cash. This is Apple iTunes for products, but with YouTube style user-generated content.

Instant scalability without cost. Ponoko’s distributed manufacturing model means the creator’s cost and time frame to manufacture a product for 1 customer is the same as for 1 million customers. Creators can sell millions of products on-demand at ’no‘ extra cost.

Increased control. Ponoko is specifically designed to provide end-to-end visibility & control over the entire product making and distribution process.

Less complexity. By connecting creators direct with consumers, the traditional supply chain complexity involving a manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler and retailer is eliminated.

But also for consumers, the system has a number of benefits. The main advantage are low cost individualized products. Because no physical product exists until purchase, product design collaboration makes it possible for everyone to co-create and personalize ‚almost anything‘ they need & want. As adoption increases, prices for Ponoko’s design-to-order and made-to-order commodity type products will become unrecognizably low.

We are in beta phase at the moment, so if you’re interested to find out how this all works and to help us make it the best making/buying experience you’ve had, please sign up.


Ponoko Blog
– Previous posts on the user manufacturing trend
Neil Gershenfield on personal fabrication