Foundries model or some preferred to call it contract manufacturing, is a model of business that take others’ prints and build them into products. It has been a very successful model for the semiconductor chip manufacturing and the electronic manufacturing services industries due to demands of products with relatively complicated processes at relatively low volume. At the beginning of every foundry model development, many people were skeptical on the possibility and feasibility of handling such high complexity in process at such a low volume, but history has repeatedly proven that with the proper streamlining of the processes plus lots of brain works in controlling the complexity and variability of product design, foundry business can be the business model of choice.
Fast forward to the current digital age, what other products and/or services can be modeled as foundries? To answer this question, let look at what kind of digital lifestyle we will potentially have in the next 20 years. We are talking about autonomous driving, smart home and smart buildings, intelligent medical devices like pacemaker, implants, stents, and many smart wearables, hearables, devices supporting augmented/virtual reality, etc. All these items need to be personalized, and best of all should offer its own version of intelligent agents to interact directly with the users. At the backdrop will be the intelligence services collecting all this info to provide many types of management services beneficial either to the users, the operators or even government agencies.
So, to support manufacturing of all these products and services, we will need very complicated design blueprints including hardware, software, intelligence agent or even platform connection services. Also since these items are highly personalized, it also means that there will be lots of complexities involved in its “assembly” processes with each batch size probably at a very low volume. Based on this understanding, we can safely say that the foundry model may be the right one to produce all these intelligent products, except that this time around the foundry would encompass both the physical and the virtual aspects of the products.
Take an example, for machine building services, the primary process to build the machines is to define a flow to deliver the material, instruction sets, testing methodology and specs, software, interfaces and intelligence of the machines to the shop floor, and then use the resources within the shop floor to “assemble, test and commission” the machines. Therefore technically speaking we can have machine foundries that have very efficient and precise way of handling the flow and continuously churn out different types of machines. At the user end, there should be some design automation platform interface that helps the users turn their idea into this flow to streamline the process and control the complexity. So in the end ideally users will be able to submit their design, get a quote, execute an order and then just wait for the delivery of the machines after payment.
A similar concept can be applied to building of car and home where pre-fabricated modules can be “assembled” so you would be able to get your “own-designed” car and home with lots of intelligent services included, again from a car or home foundry. If you look further, you may realize that maybe everything would eventually turn to the foundry model with branding being an expert service to help users get their dream products and services.
So, what is your next big foundry idea that will rock the market?