One of the conclusions of the trendsetting P3 Momentum conference was that the manufacturing sector is leaving behind the one-product-for-all concept. The keyword here is customization: consumers are increasingly connected to industry, through social networks, data analyses and direct interactions. And manufacturers must listen. Producing a thousand different products for a thousand customers used to be nightmarishly expensive and time-consuming. Now, making customized, “batch-size one” products is just as efficient as producing in bulk. And it’s happening now.
Sports brands Adidas and Nike are already exploring ways of making their production operations faster and more flexible.
Nike has partnered with outsourced-manufacturing specialists Flex on a new facility in Mexico, close to the American market. The Mexican operation is focused on customising shoes manufactured at a Nike-owned factory in China, allowing fans of the Swoosh brand to add some personal touches to their footwear. By “near-shoring” the customisation process, Nike can now deliver customised shoes to online shoppers in the United States within seven days of them clicking “Buy”.
Putting the “whoosh” in the Nike Swoosh
The US sportswear giant is also experimenting with ways of offering customers increased customisation. At Nike’s “Makers’ Experience” event, for example, customers in New York City were invited to design their own trainers and have them custom-manufactured in less than an hour.
Adidas, playing catch-up, is investing in the “Speedfactory” concept, in which experimental, highly automated production facilities are based in Europe and North America rather than Asia.
“Speedfactory” allows the iconic German brand to produce running shoes in a day or two, rather than the two or three months required by its traditional factories in China and Vietnam. The dramatic reduction in turnaround time allows Adidas to keep up with accelerating fashion cycles by quickly producing short runs of shoes in the markets where they’re actually sold.
Today’s proof-of-concept can very quickly become tomorrow’s industry standard, so at P3 we make it our business to stay on top of trends like customisation. We expect new manufacturing technologies like 3D printing, collaborative robotics, and AI-enabled supply-and-demand management to begin bringing “batch size one” production into the mainstream within five years, and are already laying the groundwork for greater customisation.
“We are working closely with our production customers to enable them to capture consumer demand for customised goods and services,” explains Tomáš Míček, Managing Director Czech Republic. “Combining warehousing and producing facilities is one interesting area, as is the demand for increased production flexibility and agility around automated micro-production sites.”