When considering where and how to Co-create with customers or some other companies what first comes to mind is a digital platform; virtual tools and communication means, photos, drawings or 3D models files to remotely discuss or refine ideas and concepts. Co-creation usually equals everything based on bits, not atoms. But this is not the case of FirstBuild, an open platform for collaborative Co-creation that will include a new microfactory open to the public.
FirstBuild is the result of a recently announced partnership between GE and Local Motors, a co-creation company that taps into an online community of users to design new vehicles. According to the announcement, this collaboration will pioneer the future of work with a new model for inventing, building and bringing the next-generation of major appliances to market.
GE and Local Motors will use FirstBuild to engage with a community of industrial designers, scientists, engineers, makers and early adopters to address some of the toughest engineering challenges and innovations, then manufacturing those designs in a micro-factory for rapid product introduction and iteration.
Local Motors, which now promotes the idea of co-creation in communities even beyond vehicles, already has microfactories in Chandler, Arizona, Knoxville, Tennessee, Las Vegas, and Germany, and plans to open 100 microfactories around the world in the next 10 years, but the new FirstBuild microfactory is a main novelty in this kind of initiatives coming from a big and well established company as GE. The new microfactory, already being built, is located on the University of Louisville campus. The university and GE plan to create an advanced manufacturing hub for students to conduct research while getting practical training on the latest 3D printing technology.
The FirstBuild platform will officially launch in the summer of 2014. The first set of projects will focus on GE Appliances and the future of cooking, inviting community members to submit and discuss ideas to improve the performance of select major kitchen appliances. The first product is expected to be available to U.S. consumers by late 2014. In the future, GE will evaluate applications of this business model across the company’s other business units.