Radical approaches to manufacturing and product design

Driven by continued disruptions to the global supply chain, brands and retailers are bringing manufacturing and design processes closer to the consumer, both physically and digitally. To better meet consumer needs, companies are using new types of data to inform front-end R&D as well as operational decision-making. They are leveraging creative AI applications to streamline the design and design phases of products and are using 3D printing techniques to create a more efficient on-demand manufacturing model, moving efficiently from mass to bespoke. Additionally, production lines are reconfigured into smaller footprints, allowing factories to be located closer to the communities they serve. Together, these innovations help identify unmet needs in the marketplace, enable enhanced personalization at scale, and bring products closer to their end consumers. These new manufacturing techniques reduce transaction costs, give companies more control over production, and fuel more ethical and sustainable supply chains.

At the same time, companies are facing increased competition for consumer loyalty, which has led them to think about how they can provide consumers with a more personalized product experience. As a result, brands are adopting more agile processes in product development and production. Digital tools such as AI, AR and 3D printing can bring consumers into the production process as collaborators, which in turn creates new opportunities to gather insights, feedback and data. real time, thus closing the loop between needs and finished products. By giving consumers more control and confidence over their purchasing decisions, businesses can not only drive repeat sales, but reduce operational and environmental costs associated with unsold merchandise and returns.

To help companies consider new processes and initiatives to meet emerging consumer needs, the PSFK research team has identified 5 key trends shaping future product design and manufacturing. Developed through the lens of technological advancements, digital behaviors and sustainable business models, these trends highlight the innovative ways organizations are reimagining not only product design, but the end consumer experience as well.

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Consumers expect the retailers and brands they shop with to demonstrate responsible and sustainable practices.

Consumers demand that manufacturers take environmental measures such as sustainably sourcing components and ingredients or using a production process that reduces waste. In fact, 3 out of 5 US shoppers say they are influenced to purchase products from responsibly manufactured companies.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches to Manufacturing and Product Design, 2022

Consumers are willing to share data in exchange for a personalized product or experience, but many have yet to be convinced of the benefits.

While many people find what they are looking for when shopping, a significant portion need help finding the products that are physically right for them. Over 45% of US shoppers say they rarely or never find the perfect size, shape or fit.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches to Manufacturing and Product Design, 2022

Although shoppers are interested in custom-made, made-to-order products, there is a limit to the amount of personal information they are willing to share today. 57% of US shoppers say they would only share a small or moderate amount of data with brands and retailers in order to be offered the right size and shape products. 14% of buyers say they don’t want to share any data at all.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches to Manufacturing and Product Design, 2022

To improve the overall customer experience and respond to real-time shifts in demand, companies are adopting strategies that shorten supply chains and adapt production to reflect local customer needs.

While many US shoppers are happy that their products are made anywhere in North America (31%) (or even the world (15%)), a high proportion are looking for locally made products. 48% of US shoppers would prefer to buy from companies that manufacture their products within 100 miles of where they live.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches to Manufacturing and Product Design, 2022

As e-commerce grows, so does the environmental impact of deliveries. 43% of US shoppers are concerned or very concerned about the environmental impact of shipping and delivery of their online purchases. Only 7% say they are not concerned at all.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches to Manufacturing and Product Design, 2022

Norma A. Roth