Archive for the ‘manufacturing’ Category

Snowflakemobile! LEGO Block Cars?

November 18, 2008

I’ve been following the story behind a new car being developed by Tata Motors in India called the Nano.  It is one of those stories that you follow with equal parts fascination and fear, and it is very much worth following whatever your reaction.  The short story is that this car is being developed as an alternative to the use of small motorcycles and mopeds for transporting multiple people.  If you’ve traveled to many other countries as I’ve been fortunate enough to, you may have witnessed the same scene that inspired the Nano when you’ve seen three to six people, often a whole family, riding on a single moped as they dart and weave their way through traffic on their way to work, school and home. 

I’ll leave you to read more about the car and the story behind it as a quick search will turn up plenty.  The July 2008 Wired magazine has an article for example called “The $3000, 33-Hoprsepower, Snap-Together ride to the Future” that will provide you with a good overview and insight.  Basic specs for the four door version include:

  • about 10 feet long and 5 feet wide.
  • 623cc two-cylinder 33 HP rear engine
  • capable of 65 miles an hour
  • projected cost new, 120,000 rupees, including road tax and delivery in India, = ~ $2500-3000

As interesting and scary as the whole concept of providing four wheels for the masses of the world is, what has caught my attention of late is the focus on cost  and other reductions which they are taking to a whole new level.  For example they are looking into reducing shipping volume and costs by shipping the cars in a snap together kit form which would be assembled at the destination.  Right now this is very UNsnowflake like in that these cars are in many ways the epitome of mass production and sameness.  However as they develop this LEGO block approach to car manufacturing and start to design for snap together modularity, it is easy to imagine how quickly this would morph into a mashup model that would enable each person to quite literally design their own car, have it shipped to them and and assemble their own snowflakemobile.

Want to try your hand at designing your own Nano?  Head over to this “design your own Nano” site to get an idea how this might work when the choices were much more in number and detail so you could truly create your own Snowflakemobile!

Snowflake Your Next Car?

October 25, 2008

Over the years of speaking about mass customization and personalization I’ve often covered how this applies to manufacturing, and being a bit of a car nut I have often used the automotive industry for specific examples and scenarios.  However one form of manufacturing has been very challenging for achieving full mass personalization is parts which require molds to create thing like body panels, metal castings and fiberglass parts.  It was only a matter of time before these barriers fell and so it was with great delight that I recently read about some of the innovative thinking and work that the designers at BMW have been doing for automotive body panels.

Taking a refreshing new approach to design which they call GINA, Geometry and functions In n Adaptations, BMW Group recently unveiled the GINA Light Visionary prototype.  I’ll let Chris Bangle, Director of Design, BMW Group explain this new philosophy and show you the prototype in this video .

Personally I found the whole video to be mesmerizing to both my eyes and my mind as I watched the shapes of the car shift transform as the functionality of the body panels changed with such things as doors opening, seats emerging from beneath, aerodynamic shapes changing to match speed, and opening up a single slit to reveal the engine compartment or lights.

I hope the video and the thinking has a similar effect on you as you imagine these new vistas the Snowflake Effect is transporting us to.  As you are enjoying this mental joy ride, listen to the way Chris describes the bigger picture of what this change of perspective has lead to for his team and BMW.  I particularly liked his closing comments:

“Emotion is really the added value to this.  … achieve a higher emotional plane out of this”

“the level of humanistic content we can bring in …. GINA should be about the human in the loop, the human way of doing things.”

and my favorite of all:

“context over dogma, that’s it”

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.  It is an inspiring example of the power of the Snowflake Effect and shows how the transformation from mass production to mass personalization is happening before our very eyes.