Green innovation: how Local Motors is revolutionalising the way cars and bikes are designed, manufactured and sold
Alan Moore, Guardian Sustainable Business
22nd May 2013
Local Motors shares its innovations and lets customers be part of the car-building process, while keeping it local.
Last year, I spoke at Shanghai’s Radical Design Week about the transformational design of business. I talked about car manufacturing and how, with state of the art 3D fabrication tools, a networked participatory culture and rapid innovation, the car company Local Motors claims to build cars five times faster at one hundred times less the capital cost of conventional manufacturers.
Local Motors is perhaps one of the most comprehensive examples of a revolutionary approach to the design, engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing of cars. But don’t worry if you are not in the automotive industry, the Local Motors story is one about the firms of the future.
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Designing high performance organisations
Companies today can change their shape, capability and performance by rethinking and redesigning core processes. In the case of Local Motors, its factories (the Local Motors micro-factory was rated by Jalopnik as one of the world’s top 10 most impressive car factories), R&D, sales, marketing and production represents a design system that is an industrial ecology, rather than a series of boxes and silos. Moreover it is much less costly to set up, run and maintain, which enables the company to invest its energies into high quality design and production.
An open networked innovation platform
Local Motors runs competitions to find innovations. For its first vehicle competition, 44,000 designs were submitted and 3,600 innovators shared their knowledge and insights. No one company can hire that many people and there was no cash prize. So, what inspired so many people to participate?
Through its open participatory platform called The Forge, Local Motors has collaborated in automotive innovation with DARPA, the US military research agency, co-designing and building a fully functional prototype of a combat support vehicle in three and a half months. Even large car manufacturers have turned to Local Motors, such as BMW, which is currently running an urban driving experience challenge.
So Local Motors becomes more than just a car manufacturing company – it’s an automotive innovation platform and a true community. Local Motors attracts innovators because it is creating and releasing social and intellectual capital into a common pool. This open innovation platform is counter intuitive to many assumptions about how businesses are run, and how intellectual products are created and protected.
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