Open Innovation Approach to Creating Novel Home Appliances

Published Oct-16-17

Breakthrough:
An affordable nugget ice maker for the home and other innovative home appliances.

Company:
GE Appliances, United States

The Story:

Open Innovation Approach to Creating Novel Home Appliances Companies looking to continually innovate can benefit from engaging with open innovation. Doing so can open the doors to different ways of thinking that can lead to new products and services and a greater competitive edge. One form of open innovation that is gaining a lot of traction among forward-thinking enterprises is co-creation. That is, innovating and working together with consumers, followers, and fans.

In 2014, GE Appliances launched FirstBuild, a public space and innovation hub where product ideas are crowdsourced. The facility is located at the University of Louisville campus and it's home to designers, scientists, engineers, students, start-ups, and amateur inventors who design, build, and sell innovative home appliances. And those who can't get to the premises can submit ideas online via FirstBuild's website.

These are voted on by community members and those that rise to the top are manufactured in small quantities at first, and if they take off larger volumes are produced. They may even get added to GE Appliance's product portfolio.

"The ideas can come from anywhere, the local community, independent inventors, home enthusiasts, students, our own First Build team of employees, even other GE Appliances employees," said Wayne Davis (commercial leader at FirstBuild) in an interview with CNN Money.

Money-Earning Potential

Innovators receive a financial prize for a winning concept and a royalty of sales. Community members are also able to market their innovations to other organizations including competitors of GE Appliances.

This entire open innovation process is quick and nimble. The aim is to rapidly prototype, manufacture and commercialize products with all of the work including manufacturing and engineering being carried out by the FirstBuild community.

New Products

Since FirstBuild's launch, there have been a number of noteworthy success stories. Among them is the Opal Nugget Ice Maker which makes chewable, crunchable nugget ice. This home appliance is also equipped with a sensor so that it knows when to start and stop making ice. The product started life as an idea posted on FirstBuild's web forum and attracted significant interest. So, a prototype was constructed in FirstBuild's micro-factory and a crowdfunding campaign netted investment dollars.

Other innovative appliances coming out of FirstBuild include a wall-mounted pyramid chimney hood and a talking laundry module that connects to GE washer and dryers. This novel product communicates with appliances and audibly announces the settings that have been selected. At the time of writing this article in September 2017, FirstBuild’s website says it has got 15 products on the shelf and ideated 454 prototypes.

Disruptive Innovations

Through this co-creation enterprise, GE Appliances increases its product range while giving innovators everywhere a chance to get their disruptive innovations made and sold to the general public. FirstBuild will also help sell and promote these new products through its own online store and in bricks and mortar shops.

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