This is a very interesting concept of the barriers to a company employing automation and ML in a commoditized industry where a massive CAPEX is just not realistic. I think the greatest opportunity is to separate automation from data collection, as building a massive library of training data to employ when they have a proven product they can afford to move on is essential. I really like your idea of radical change to a small, possibly mobile plant, but this certainly does not need to be exclusive of JBL, an internal entrepreneurial arm could accomplish this and serve as a proof of concept. It may also allow them to reduce shipping costs (which I assume are a major element of commodity costs) by reducing the carcass to the most efficient packaging size at a location closest to acquisition. I really enjoyed this article, it’s nice to see the efforts of a non-startup that doesn’t have massive amounts of cash to throw at innovation try to solve these issues incrementally for a change!
I think one of the very interesting things you bring up is that the value of ML to the construction industry is obvious and immediate, the ability and manner of collecting both training data and real time data to influence the process is the challenge. I think the front end of data collection is key in this instance, as schedules for laborers are heavily compressed, severely limiting the amount of time (or effort) available to enter data into the system. Outsourcing data entry to a 3rd party observer is expensive and less reliable than the person doing the actual work. I like the proposition you raised of leveraging computer vision to input data automatically, and the system of “bodycams” employed by police officers may be an option. The massive amounts of video would require huge computational power, however it may also be able to identify potential construction problems and defects which could be a great cost saver. Interesting article!
I think Under Armous is uniquely positioned to exploit this technology, as they have the current supply chain and logistical leverage with suppliers while maintaining the smaller player agility to make disruptive changes in the footwear market. I’m curious regarding the idea you presented of having a custom shoe built to your specifications, specifically I wonder if it is possible to customize only one part of the shoe (ie: sole) with the remaining portions of the shoe standard to size and width as they currently are. This may allow for smaller stores or production facilities locally to print the specified sole and then simply combine it with the remainder of the stock shoe in a small, controlled process.
While I believe the opportunity for a startup to disrupt the industry is clear, the ability of a semi-established brand like Under Armour to limit the impact of the required marketing spend would provide it a huge advantage, and it’s position relative to Nike, Adidas and others provides massive upside to entice them to pursue this.
This is an exciting opportunity for additive manufacturing as vending machines provide the double benefit of reducing labor costs as well as being produced at potentially a small enough scale to be readily viable for 3D printing. With printing available in a multitude of materials, companies like this may be able to forego sheet metal entirely with plastics or metals that are secure enough to handle the stress of being in a public area as well! Another bonus of using additive manufacturing to produce customized vending machines is the ability to integrate non-proprietary payment and data collection systems (like Square etc) to save on development costs for small companies!
Excellent article! I really appreciated you question at the end regarding the potentially changing landscape of crowdsourcing when/if there is a substantial change in the methods of data sharing and usage globally. Right now, Facebook and other social media platforms provide, as you mentioned, an ideal platform to collect massive amounts of collateral data beyond the scope of the immediate problem with millions of potential users. If the availability of this data were to change, do companies like PepsiCo and others have a plan for managing less data, reduced inbound marketing or a separate platform that may provide more data with fewer potential users? All great questions I’d love to hear more about!
Very interesting article! I’m intrigued by the nature of the competition rules and whether or not Amazon would own the Intellectual Property and solutions of the contest? I wonder if this competition could be detrimental to some of the companies/people competing as this has the potential to follow the normal Amazon model of utilizing the data of items hosted with them to develop their own products similar at a cheaper price. This could potentially be used as a means for competitors to gain a more detailed understanding of the way Amazon solves these complex problems as well as some of the ways they may move forward in the future. I also really enjoyed your question as to the validity of the current model of their warehouses and speculation of some possible alternatives to the conventional warehouse model, I’d love to hear more about these!