I’m always intrigued when I hear about a small or medium business that takes conventional wisdom and turns it upside-down, inside-out or both. Local Motors is a perfect example.
When I think about cars the first thing that comes to my mind is big especially in America. Big factories, big showrooms, big adventures played out on big open roads beneath a big blue sky. Contrary to this Local Motors shrinks the paradigm, taking a scaled-down approach to manufacturing cars for specific people in specific places. True to its name, the focus of Local Motors’ business model is decidedly local – so much so that the buyers do most of the assembly themselves.
Here’s how it works. Local Motors runs design competitions, challenging an online community of designers to come up with innovative solutions to specific challenges. Recently Local Motors challenged designers to create a commuter car for drivers in Manhattan that included the ability to carry four passengers and space for front-end battery charging. The winner: the Green Apple which is not only battery powered but also uses wind power to create its own energy. The manufacturing of Local Motors cars takes place in small, local micro-factories in production runs of less than 3,000 automobiles.
The process of translating those winning design concepts into cars is the responsibility of the small Local Motors staff. Using an HP Z600 Workstation, one engineer is able to manage a project from a two-dimensional design to production-ready specifications for cars built exactly for the people who will drive them. The system is easily expandable and provides the processing power necessary to assemble files and conduct detailed analysis. While the typical vehicle engineering paradigm is to divide the engineering work and delegate to a decentralized team, the computing power at Local Motors gives its engineers complete control over a project eliminating miscommunications that can lead to prototypes that are not production-worthy. And thanks to the deployment of the HP Z600 Workstation crashes are a thing of the past – always a good thing when it comes to cars.
Are there parts of your small or medium business that you’d like to completely reconfigure? Even if you’re not planning to rearrange the way your company works the ideas and inspiration found in the Local Motors story might serve as a key in the ignition.