General Electric (GE) is unquestionably one of the biggest firms in the US, ranking 13th overall in the 2017 Fortune 500 for Gross Revenue. Outside of their powerhouse subsidiaries, however, one noteworthy subdivision has recently garnered positive attention: their open crowdsourcing platform, GE Fuse, which was launched in late 2016.
First, some background…
One year ago, engineers at GE were faced with a problem––they were in desperate need of a more expedient way to extract data from their production process. The issue was that any GE-manufactured part had to undergo a rigorous quality control process, passing through a computed tomography scanner for any defects or flaws. The resulting size of these data files was enormous (approximately 80 gigabytes), and with multiple inspection points required for even the simplest of parts, this processing period was lengthy and inefficient.
Enter GE Fuse.
Only eight weeks after issuing this challenge to the public, GE Fuse selected three winners and began implementing their combined solutions into the manufacturing process. In just two months, crowdsourcing had yielded a resolution that had plagued the GE production line for years.
According to their newsroom, as part of the company’s transition to a digital industrial business, GE Fuse is fundamental in revolutionizing the maintenance and manufacturing of ultra-effective, industry-related components.
So what makes GE Fuse different?
GE’s crowd-engineering platform is intrinsically connected to a range of micro-factories that can rapidly design and prototype solutions. This somewhat radical approach is meant to enhance the technology and product development cycle through a harmonious fusion of manufacturing and innovation.
GE Fuse forms part of a more comprehensive team within GE, aptly named Genius Link. This team was formulated to help the GE business as a whole find better ways to operate their business. GE Fuse welcomes people from across the globe to participate in this forum and work to resolve a range of technical challenges that hope to heighten overall efficiency throughout the wider GE business.
The results are already compelling. GE Fuse has been able to use their platform to solve critical business issues, such as redesigning a metal jet engine bracket and drive efficiency within their internal operations.
They’re not alone, either. Many large corporations are beginning to utilize crowdsourcing to tackle some of their biggest problems.
Starbucks crowdsourcing success
Although operating within an entirely different sector, Starbucks is undeniably a global powerhouse in their respective field. Their unique crowdsourcing platform, My Starbucks Idea, allows customers to submit product and service ideas directly to the company. In addition to submitting their own suggestions, users can also offer opinions on other contributors’ ideas.
Starbucks’s implementation of crowdsourcing has been regarded by many as a massive success, and some might argue this strategy may have helped secure the future viability of the organization. In the first year alone, some 70,000 ideas were suggested via the platform and it’s estimated that more than 300 of these were implemented within the business.
Starbucks also uses their crowdsourcing platform to gauge consumer interest before investing capital in new products or service ideas.
US Air Force crowdsourcing initiative drives innovation and reduces costs
Another successful application of crowdsourcing in the US has taken place in the US Air Force.
Also referred to as Airmen Powered by Innovation, this crowdsourcing campaign was launched in early 2014 to address issues with staff attrition from within the organization, as many talented pilots were leaving to work for private firms. The objective was to engage with serving airman to help enhance policies, reduce unnecessary costs, and refine the scope of assigned duties they must perform.
Again, the results were phenomenal. Almost 7,000 ideas were submitted in a mere 18-months, and nearly 200 of these suggestions were later implemented, resulting in $120 million saved.
This simple approach, essentially a listen-and-learn exercise, is helping improve squadron units nationwide and has allowed the airmen to put forward suggestions that benefit themselves and the organization as a whole. Their site now receives an average of 5,000 visits a day.
Three major benefits of crowdsourcing
While there is a multitude of reasons for companies (big and small) to consider crowdsourcing as part of their businesses strategy, three of the most commonly cited arguments include:
- Preserves internal resources by reducing costs
Crowdsourcing allows companies to outsource projects directly on a need-basis, allowing internal staff to be allocated as efficiently as possible. By utilizing external professionals from a crowdsourcing platform, companies not only preserve limited intеrnаl personnel, but also reduce financial overhead from new-hire costs, which often includes added expenditures such as training, benefits, and retirement plans.
- Direct engagement with consumers
Crоwdѕоurсіng іѕ аlѕо а grеаt wау tо engage with consumers. By providing a channel for a business to communicate directly with potential customers, crowdsourcing can serve as an opportunity to gauge and respond to feedback before investing in a development process. Products can be fine-tuned to match consumer need and save on manufacturing costs down the line.
If two heads are better than one, as the saying goes, then two thousand heads must surely be a force to be reckoned with. Crowdsourcing’s number one strength is in its numbers—wherever there are fresh eyes and fresh minds, innovation is bound to occur. By introducing a diverse scope of thinkers and tinkerers into an equation, companies can infuse new ideas and concepts into otherwise stagnant technical challenges.
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