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iBUS – an integrated business model for customer driven custom product supply chains

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - iBUS (iBUS – an integrated business model for customer driven custom product supply chains)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2019-08-31

The overall objective of iBUS was to develop and demonstrate by 2019 an innovative integrated business model, for the sustainable supply and manufacture, within the EU of custom products. This integrated business model is demand driven, whereby products are customised and designed online by consumers or home-based designers, manufactured locally and sustainably to order, and meet product safety guidelines. The iBUS integrated business model captures, creates and delivers value to all stakeholders in the supply chain – consumers, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

While the concept of custom products produced via additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) techniques have been frequently mentioned in the popular press, in recent years there are only a few examples of successful business models in the sector.
Children’s toys in particular are mainly supplied by non-EU manufacturers with large volume, standard products. The primary opportunity for EU SMEs and individual designers to compete in this marketplace is to develop successful custom products that can be economically viable at low product quantities. The latent demand of customers to have a role in the product creation and customisation process for the products they buy remains unfulfilled within the EU.

EU SMEs and individual designers find it difficult to compete with large enterprises in that they do not have all of the new product development and market development resources that large firms possess. A lesser appreciated but important reason why EU SMEs and individual designers do not attempt more new product development is the associated financial risk. In particular the market demand risk acts a barrier to innovation for EU SMEs and individual designers. The iBUS platform has created a trusted collaboration between SMEs and individual designers that achieves equitable value sharing by representing and minimising the risks associated with market failure. This collaborative approach to new product development allows EU SMEs to develop and sell new products acting as a team which they could not do effectively on their own. This match of supply and demand between resources, competences and market knowledge creates a more certain path to market then the current innovation practices of EU SMEs.

The iBUS Consortium has delivered a new integrated business model, as well as an online iBUS platform, where consumers can customise and purchase toys that are compliant with the EN71 standard of the toy Safety Directive.

1. The ability to integrate the market place knowledge with collaborating EU SMEs to maximise the opportunity for new product success with equitable value and risk sharing.
2. The ability of customers to articulate their design needs for custom products does not match the product modelling expectations of additive manufacturing services. These services are currently under-utilised since their prospective customers do not have the skills necessary to represent their product requirements in a 3D form. The need for a Customised Product Design Virtual Environment has been confirmed.
2. The most common 3D product modelling tools are inflexible in their ability to represent surface colour configurations.
3. There is a keymarket need for additive manufacturing colour customisation. Most additive manufacturing 3D printing technologies are inflexible in their ability to print a variety of surface colours with some notable exceptions. The success of short run products based upon 3D printing technologies would be enhanced by the availability of superior 3D printing technologies that support surface colours.
4. In the case of custom products being sold to children under 14 years there are currently no EN71 compliant products that are 3D printed.
5. In order for EU SMEs to be able to meet the need for customised products it is essential that they are supported in the development and provision of an information system infrastructure suitable for this integrated business model that allows EU SMEs to collaborate within a trusted supply demand network.
The current Exploitable results from the iBUS Project are:
1. The specific methodology for toy safety evaluation and a method of deployment within the iBUS platform has been defined. It has been deisgned so that safety is supported by an innovative product design module. The creation of safe products which comply with the European Union (EU) legislative requirements is an essential and innovative deliverable of the iBUS consortium.
2. The iBUS consortium has developed and applied a methodology for evaluating the safety of additive manufacturing machines and technologies.
3. The feedback to the iBUS consortium (from industry experts) through dissemination activities is that the iBUS business model is applicable not only to the customised toy industry but for any consumable goods that are customised or produced in small limited batches.
4. The iBUS information infrastructure and cloud design is an exploitable result both for iBUS and any customisable consumer product. It supports a Data Driven deployment of Personalised and configurable products on web portal without requiring programming revisions of the website.
5. The iBUS consortium has developed and demonstrated an ability to use the web to design and build customised products that are entirely flexible in their surface colour configurations.
6. The iBUS consortium has mobilised and integrated their capabilities and their shared expertise to identify and solve the significant challenge of successfully selling custom products via the development of a High confidence quotation model for safe AM Toys
There is an unmet market need for customised innovative toys within the EU for safe products, specifically for children, which comply with EU safety regulations, such as the EU Toy Directive. This is especially important given the intensified competition from illegal, dangerous and fake products are making consumers, particularly parents of small children, wary of imported goods. There is an unmet market need for environmentally friendly eco-products, particularly where the relevant inputs can be sourced locally.
The iBUS consortium is providing an enabling infrastructure for EU based manufacturers to fulfil an unmet market need for the custom products within the EU. Its most innovative custom product portfolio will be in the domain of EN71 compliant children’s toys which has the potential to reduce significantly the 80% of EU children injured by non-EU manufactured toy products.
A large number of SME type enterprises will benefit from increased access to markets due to the iBUS project. Traditionally, retailers in the toy and furniture sectors tend to be large volume based outlets that control supply to the market. These retailers have margins ranging from the teens to above 50% of the retail price. Compared with typically a 6% manufacturing margin, there is a significant opportunity for toy and furniture manufacturers to increase their direct sales through internet and social media channels, particularly on low volume customised products.
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