May 2, 2014    Volume 21, No. 7

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GE Embraces Crowd Sourcing For Improving Appliance Products And Manufacturing Processes

By Richard A. McCormack

General Electric's manufacturing division has embraced the idea of crowd sourcing to attract new design, prototyping and production ideas for it product lines. The company has selected Louisville, Ky., home of its GE Appliance manufacturing headquarters, to host its first "micro-factory." The facility, called "FirstBuild," will be located at the University of Louisville. It will use open platforms and a "global co-creation community" to accelerate the introduction of new appliances that "consumers want when they want them," says GE.

The company is partnering with Local Motors, an open-source hardware company that describes itself as being a "crowd-powered automotive design, manufacturing and technology" company aimed at creating "game-changing vehicles." The two companies will use crowd sourcing to create a "new model for the manufacturing industry," says GE. It is based on tapping the creative talent of individual entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, makers "and enthusiasts from around the world working to solve some of today's most pressing challenges from products to processes," says GE.

Says Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors: "Many people assume industrial reinvigoration will come out of the tech hubs of San Francisco, Boston or New York. Trends such as micro-manufacturing powered by co-creation, however, as well as the industrial Internet are showing us that cities like Louisville can again be leaders in the Third Industrial Revolution. FirstBuild is showing us that it is happening right now."

GE's first micro-factory will focus on cooking appliances. It is seeking individuals to help design new cooktop surfaces and systems.

"FirstBuild will enable us to move select products to larger scale production with more confidence because they will have been vetted by the new platform first," says Kevin Nolan, GE Appliances' vice president of technology.

FirstBuild is creating a "physical community of designers, builders, makers and creative minds," says the website "Join us to share ideas, test designs and rapidly create and sell the household products you've always wanted. Sign up now to be among the first members of this cutting-edge design community."

Under the banner "What We Offer," the FirstBuild website says it is a "radically open community encouraging innovators to share and develop their ideas alongside other community members, GE designers and GE engineers." The service will offer members the ability to use rapid manufacturing "to help quickly move your vision to the marketplace." Under the tab "Product Realization," GE promises that it will "help your innovation the best it can be and may help you earn money along with way. We will help market and sell the products that grow from your ideas."

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