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23 October 2007 ~ 0 Comments                                       

Amazon and User manufacturing

Another wicked old post from another blog that I wanted to mention regarding Amazon’s potential to facilitate user manufacturing. Frank Pillar discusses user manufacturing which he defines as:

User manufacturing… is a business model where users (customers) are becoming not only co-designers, but also manufacturers, using an infrastructure provided by some specialized companies.

As things stand now, concieving, designing, sourcing, manufacturing, promoting, and distributing a product of any kind remains a challenge. Things have progressed rapidly over the last few years and will continue to at a rapid pace. Within a few years, with companies such as Ponoko, eMachineShop (and many other built to order manufacturing shops), Threadless, and, potentiall, Amazon refining their processes and services, the most difficult portions of physical product production will become much easier.

You can rent space on Amazon’s computers to run a business, or rent out its transaction capabilities to sell things and collect money, or rent pieces of its warehouses and distribution system to store and ship items — or all of the above. So, with almost no start-up costs, anyone anywhere could become a retailer. It’s not just contracting with Amazon to sell your stuff, the way Target does. It’s leasing pieces of Amazon to create something totally unrelated to Amazon.

Complexity is hidden. Interactions between companies are standardized. Customers become more comfortable with more control through crowdsourcing, customer co-design, and mass customization. You can sit at home, use a freely available CAD system to design a product, get feedback from users, send the design to a made to order shop (or stop there and sell the design on Ponoko), promote it using online tools like Ad-words, and distribute using something like UPS’s outsourced distribution services.

One might imagine a network of local manufacturers with a certain set of skills and specializations. Just upload your design to an imagined site which lists providers, the system automatically matches your design to potential manufacturers (maybe it’s a guy down the street with a great laser cutting setup…), and perhaps you put the work up for bid.

With such incredible flexibility and standardization built into a networked and interlocking system of vendors and services, there are bound to be huge disruptions and an explosion of creativity in the physical product space.

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