Three Ways to Bring Crowdsourcing into Mainstream Manufacturing
February 10th, 2012

Marc Halpern, Vice President of Gartner Manufacturing Industry Advisory Service, recently suggested that crowdsourcing could fix manufacturing by leaning on crowds for some aspects of product design and development.

Beyond improving the exchange of ideas, crowdsourcing can also be useful for keeping companies “in touch with the tenor of the market,” says Halpern.

Software Advice Analyst Derek Singleton caught up with Halpern to learn how crowdsourcing might work in the manufacturing industry, and what needs to happen before it can gain widespread acceptance.

[Read Derek Singletons full article here]

Halpern explained, there are three obstacles that need to be overcome before crowdsourcing can become mainstream: fear of change, intellectual property issues, and a lack of design sharing technologies. Halpern shared three strategies for overcoming these obstacles.

1.Ease into crowdsourcing for idea creation. Historically, many manufacturers have taken the attitude that if it wasn’t invented within the “four walls,” an idea didn’t merit consideration. This can be a tough change management issue to tackle. One piece of advice Halpern offered is to start using crowdsourcing with a fringe product that isn’t core to the business. “These products can be used as a training ground for managers to get used to the approach,” explains Halpern. After a few successes, they might get bolder about introducing more products through crowdsourcing.
2.Divide projects to protect intellectual property (IP). IP theft is a big concern in the manufacturing industry. What’s to stop an outside party that collaborates with Proctor & Gamble from taking those ideas and collaborating with Clorox? Compartmentalizing roles in the project can help limit the problem of information sharing. For instance, a manufacturer may want to crowdsource just the fuel cell for a car but keep the rest of the car design proprietary. To protect the IP of the car design, manufacturers can limit information by narrowly defining crowdsourced project roles and information access.
3.Create a single file sharing system for design files. There is a broad ecosystem of computer-aided design (CAD) software out there, with each system running its own flavor of XML code. This makes it difficult to share design files with collaborators. While creating a universal standard for CAD programs is beyond the reach of any one manufacturer, the industry as a group could push for format standardization. In Halpern’s view, creating a standard format and standard environment that everyone could use would go a long way toward enabling more crowdsourcing projects in manufacturing.

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