Belgium’s industrial base – the foundation of our welfare – is evaporating rapidly, faster than the EU average. As a country we do not compete well in the manufacturing and export of top-quality products, ranking only 25th in the EU. We urgently need more manufacturers and more innovative manufacturers.
However, new entrepreneurs tend not to start new manufacturing companies because it is perceived to be so capital-intensive. It’s what large corporations do, not startups, we think. Existing manufacturers are struggling to build more flexible operations that could help them run smaller production series, accelerate new product development and customise products for end-users.
In this challenge, we will try make Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS) a reality, making manufacturing accessible to practically anyone while at the same time greatly improving the flexibility and efficiency of the existing manufacturing base. We will explore the potential of digital prototyping, 3D printing, Uber-like maker platforms and consumer-engagement platforms to directly engage consumers in product development and manufacturing.
Workshop topic 1: Consumer Participation
Connecting manufacturers and consumers
Most manufacturers of consumer products have no direct interactive relationship with consumers beyond perhaps a contact center and social media activity. This relationship tends to be mediated by retailers, marketing, market research and R&D. However, consumers’ expectations are changing rapidly. They want more transparency regarding sustainability. They want more personalized products and tailored customer service. Adding complexity to this relationship is they rely on multiple channels and information sources in their purchasing journey.
In this workshop we will explore how we can build more direct relationships between manufacturers and consumers so as to speed up product development, better personalize products and create more delightful customer experiences.
Workshop topic 2: Manufacturing as a Service
For most aspirant entrepreneurs, manufacturing is seen as the domain of large, well-capitalised corporations or super rich entrepreneurs like Elon Musk. Most bootstrapping entrepreneurs cannot build a new factory. However, new technologies and business models such as digital prototyping and 3D printing are rapidly making manufacturing more accessible. And with the uberisation of manufacturing, where established factories sell excess machine capacity and materials on open marketplaces, manufacturing can be in reach of practically anyone.
In this workshop, we will explore opportunities around manufacturing as a service. We will take the perspective of the entrepreneur the producer and the platform operator. What sorts of services and interfaces do entrepreneurs expect from MaaS platform? What do producers expect from MaaS platforms? What is the optimal business model What services are needed? Join us in a quest for answers!