How to outsmart copycat manufacturing culture?

How to outsmart copycat manufacturing culture?


Manufacturing is changing. I can hear it from hardware startups, large manufacturing companies and software vendors. Future of manufacturing, next industrial revolution, 3D printing, connected products and internet of things..

TechCrunch journalist John Biggs (@johnbiggs) discussed future of manufacturing, improvements in design and 3D printing with Autodesk SVP of products Amar Hanspal. Navigate to the following link to listen to the story. The following passage is my favorite:

Imagine a world where manufacturing is no longer geographically mandated, when you can print custom parts in minutes, and anyone can build anything. That’s the world Amar Hanspal, Autodesk’s SVP or Product, wants to live in.

The vision is fascinating. You can dream about pushing the button and 3D printing any device, the reality is brutal and here is why it is very important… you can see it now in some places in the world.

Check out the following article published in Quartz earlier today – Your brilliant Kickstarter idea could be on sale in China before you’ve even finished funding it. The story speaks about brutal reality of hardware entrepreneurship, copycat culture and speed of manufacturing. Here is my favorite passage.

The shanzhai era in consumer electronics gradually faded as incomes rose and brand-name smartphones became more affordable. But it enforced a culture of knowledge-sharing among manufacturers, wherein no single product design is sacred. Lindtner compares the culture of Shenzhen’s manufacturing ecosystem to the open-source movement among software developers. Much like how programmers will freely share code for others to improve upon, Shenzhen manufacturers now see hardware and product design as something that can be borrowed freely and altered. Success in business comes down to speed and execution, not necessarily originality.

Article also gives some ideas to hardware manufacturers how to defend against brutal reality of copycats and speed of manufacturing. But the truth is that if you have simple product that has demand, it will be copied and manufactured very fast. However, it is not only happening with simple products. The “copy” is on of the most fundamental processes if you think about product design, engineering and manufacturing. When I developed one of my first PDM projects many years ago, “copy design” was one of the most demanded functions. Copy BOM is widely requested functions in PLM and ERP software. One of the reasons engineers and manufacturing companies are in love with spreadsheets is because you can easy duplicate it and change for the future projects.

It made me think about the software that can get help you to get from prototype to production. Hell yeah… maybe this is can be called PLM (product lifecycle management) software that can help to you to move between each stage of design, prototyping, production and insure that product can be shipped in time with expected cost. Isn’t it a dream that Autodesk Amar Hanspal wants to live in? As more and more products are going from Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, such type of planning software will be critical in making sure product will be build on time and all dots of supply chain will be connected – right parts will be selected, engineers and CMs will keep well-managed Bill of Materials and change processes will be managed across the network of people and companies.

The last time I checked, there is no engineering and manufacturing software that can magically orchestrate design to manufacturing processes globally, coordinating supply chain, recommending parts and factories and keep track of shipments. If you know one, please send me a link ASAP. I’m biased because of obvious reason (disclaimer – I’m co-founder of openBOM), but I think that cloud and internet is the infrastructure that can help. But then, we need to have a data network to connect people, design, bill of materials, catalog of parts, RFQs, orders and many other things together.

What is my conclusion? Software and network can outsmart many problems. GPS software can outsmart the traffic when it combines maps, traffic, cars and people together. Copycat manufacturing is a phenomenal thing we should learn from about how to organize the future manufacturing. It will require new paradigms of global data management, organization of processes and manufacturing networks. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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