"User manufacturing refers to a public available software, manufacturing, and distribution infrastructure that enables creative users and customers to design, build, and sell own creations to a larger public – without the traditional investments in setting up a business. User manufacturing supplements – or substitutes – mass customization strategies which many companies have implemented. It also may become the most efficient strategy to serve the long tail of variants in many industries.
User manufacturing is enabled by three main technologies: (1) Easy-to-operate design software that allows users to transfer their ideas into a design. (2) Design repositories where users upload, search, and share designs with other users. This allows a community of loosely connected users to develop a large range of applications. (3) Easy-to-access flexible manufacturing technology. New rapid manufacturing technologies ("fabbing") finally deliver the dream of translating any 3-D data files into physical products -- even in you living room. Combining this technology with recent web technologies can open a radical new way to provide custom products along the entire "long tail" of demand.
User manufacturing builds on the notion that users are not just able to configure a good within the given solution space (mass customization), but also to develop such a solution space by their own and utilize it by producing custom products. As a result, customers are becoming not only co-designers, but also manufacturers, using an infrastructure provided by some specialized companies." (http://mass-customization.blogs.com/mass_customization_open_i/2007/11/webinar-the-nex.html)
"Consider Spreadshirt, one of the world's largest producers of graphic t-shirts. This company just allows everyone to create an own assortment of designs, and then sell this assortments in highly targeted retail outlets, online and offline, to a small market segment the user knows best. Thus, Spreadshirt does not have to predict the long tail of heterogeneity of fashion products, but just focuses on allowing users to create and sell this assortment by their own." (http://mass-customization.blogs.com/mass_customization_open_i/2007/11/webinar-the-nex.html)
Perhaps the most advanced user manufacturing example so far.
- Details at http://mass-customization.blogs.com/mass_customization_open_i/2008/12/demandmade-launches-yerziescom-extending-apparel-customization-beyond-screen-printing-by-providing-u.html;
- Interview with founder Scott Killian at http://mass-customization.blogs.com/mass_customization_open_i/2008/12/interview-scott-killian-cofounder-of-yerzies-demandmade-and-fanbuz.html