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jerryking : standardization   6

Ikea dismantles tradition to seek inspiration from car industry
October 2, 2019 | Financial Times Richard Milne in Oslo.

Sometimes the complexity of their own companies can surprise top managers. Torbjorn Loof, chief executive of the owner of the Ikea brand, looks wide-eyed as he describes how the furniture retailer has nearly 100 different cabinets, sometimes with only 4-5 millimetres difference between models.

In storage solutions it has Pax wardrobes, Godmorgon bathroom cabinets, Metod in the kitchen and Besta in the living room — similar products but with subtly different heights or widths, making things difficult not just for the customer but also for Ikea itself.

So the world’s largest furniture retailer has looked to the car industry for inspiration. Platforms have dramatically changed the process of making cars — different models with vastly different pricing can be built on the same basic chassis. Changes are made between models on the things customers see — like the dashboard and entertainment systems — but much of the back-end that is invisible to drivers can be common.

Now Ikea is looking to bring platforms into home furnishing....Ikea is experimenting with city-centre and smaller shops as well as services such as home delivery and assembly. It is looking into renting out furniture instead of selling it, and smart home technology that brings it up against Silicon Valley.

Its platform initiative is one of its most important, albeit largely invisible to customers. Much still remains to be worked out such as just how much is common between different products — a dilemma recognisable from the car industry where Volkswagen faced complaints that there was little difference between VW and Skoda models except for the price.....standardisation should lead to lower prices for both it and customers. ....“How can we scale up in an efficient way? It’s difficult if we make each product uniquely. With platforms, it’s easier to adjust to new markets,” ...The new approach is not without risks though. Developing new platforms can be a costly business and in the car industry has often led to just as much complexity as before, particularly in companies like VW that are known for overengineering their vehicles, or confusion among consumers as to how big a difference there is between supposedly rival products.

Mr Loof is aware of the problem. “We need to define what makes sense to have on the platform and what not,” he says. “If you go too far you can arguably say you have decreased your range offer.”....for the furniture group, facing the same rapid changes in the retail landscape that have caused dozens of brands to fail, there is a feeling that it needs to do as much as it can even if it is likely to have failures on the way.
automotive_industry  CEOs  complexity  furniture  home_furnishing  Ikea  inspiration  platforms  retailers  risks  small_spaces  standardization  Torbjörn_Lööf 
october 2019 by jerryking
Everything still to play for with AI in its infancy
February 14, 2019 | Financial Times | by Richard Waters.

the future of AI in business up for grabs--this is a clearly a time for big bets.

Ginni Rometty,IBM CEO, describes Big Blue’s customers applications of powerful new tools, such as AI: “Random acts of digital”. They are taking a hit-and-miss approach to projects to extract business value out of their data. Customers tend to start with an isolated data set or use case — like streamlining interactions with a particular group of customers. They are not tied into a company’s deeper systems, data or workflow, limiting their impact. Andrew Moore, the new head of AI for Google’s cloud business, has a different way of describing it: “Artisanal AI”. It takes a lot of work to build AI systems that work well in particular situations. Expertise and experience to prepare a data set and “tune” the systems is vital, making the availability of specialised human brain power a key limiting factor.

The state of the art in how businesses are using artificial intelligence is just that: an art. The tools and techniques needed to build robust “production” systems for the new AI economy are still in development. To have a real effect at scale, a deeper level of standardisation and automation is needed. AI technology is at a rudimentary stage. Coming from completely different ends of the enterprise technology spectrum, the trajectories of Google and IBM highlight what is at stake — and the extent to which this field is still wide open.

Google comes from a world of “if you build it, they will come”. The rise of software as a service have brought a similar approach to business technology. However, beyond this “consumerisation” of IT, which has put easy-to-use tools into more workers’ hands, overhauling a company’s internal systems and processes takes a lot of heavy lifting. True enterprise software companies start from a different position. They try to develop a deep understanding of their customers’ problems and needs, then adapt their technology to make it useful.

IBM, by contrast, already knows a lot about its customers’ businesses, and has a huge services operation to handle complex IT implementations. It has also been working on this for a while. Its most notable attempt to push AI into the business mainstream is IBM Watson. Watson, however, turned out to be a great demonstration of a set of AI capabilities, rather than a coherent strategy for making AI usable.

IBM has been working hard recently to make up for lost time. Its latest adaptation of the technology, announced this week, is Watson Anywhere — a way to run its AI on the computing clouds of different companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google, meaning customers can apply it to their data wherever they are stored. 
IBM’s campaign to make itself more relevant to its customers in the cloud-first world that is emerging. Rather than compete head-on with the new super-clouds, IBM is hoping to become the digital Switzerland. 

This is a message that should resonate deeply. Big users of IT have always been wary of being locked into buying from dominant suppliers. Also, for many companies, Amazon and Google have come to look like potential competitors as they push out from the worlds of online shopping and advertising.....IBM faces searching questions about its ability to execute — as the hit-and-miss implementation of Watson demonstrates. Operating seamlessly in the new world of multi-clouds presents a deep engineering challenge.
artificial_intelligence  artisan_hobbies_&_crafts  automation  big_bets  brainpower  cloud_computing  contra-Amazon  cultural_change  data  digital_strategies  early-stage  economies_of_scale  Google  hit-and-miss  IBM  IBM_Watson  internal_systems  randomness  Richard_Waters  SaaS  standardization  value_extraction 
february 2019 by jerryking
No barrier’s too big for Brazilian hair-care pioneer
Mar. 20 2015 | The Globe and Mail | STEPHANIE NOLEN.

The barrier-breaking Leila Velez: By bringing fast-food standardization and Disney’s customer-service model to her hair-care business serving Brazil’s black and mixed-race women, the bootstraps entrepreneur has taken Beleza Natural from one tiny storefront to a chain of 29 locations – and her ambitions don't stop there.
Stephanie_Nolen  personal_care_products  personal_grooming  Brazilian  gazelles  women  trailblazers  Afro-Brazilians  hair  standardization  entrepreneur 
march 2015 by jerryking
What Greece Makes, the World Might Take - NYTimes.com
By ADAM DAVIDSON
Published: July 3, 2012

In the last decade or so, companies in the United States, France, Denmark and elsewhere flouted the feta ruling and invested in their own food-science research and manufacturing equipment. They subsequently turned the salty, crumbly cheese into spreadable, grillable, fat-free and shelf-stable forms. In Italy and Spain, small olive-oil producers merged into globally competitive conglomerates and replaced presses with more efficient centrifugal technology. The two countries now provide nearly all the world’s supply. And the Greeks, despite their numerous inherent advantages, remain in the least profitable part of the supply chain, exporting raw materials at slim margins.

Tassos Chronopoulos, owner of Tassos, a Greek food importer based outside Chicago, says that the country’s disorganized agricultural business all but disqualified itself from partaking in the fancy-food craze of the past few decades. Greek growers never banded together to establish uniform quality standards and trade rules.
agribusiness  agriculture  cheese  competitiveness_of_nations  conglomerates  dairy  Denmark  disorganization  disunity  economic_development  farming  food  food_science  foodies  foodservice  France  gourmet  Greece  Greek  innovation  olive-oil  quality  quality_control  rules_of_the_game  standardization  technical_standards  supply_chains  value_chains 
july 2012 by jerryking
Create Your Own 'Big Bang' - WSJ.com
APRIL 6, 2004 | Wall Street Journal | By STEPHEN H. GOLDSTEIN.
How to spark and build a business ecosystem? following three approaches,
recently proven to be good starting points:

* Court a king. to win Wal-Mart over are standing at the head of the
line now.
* Advocate an ecosystem.
* Create a standard. In embryonic or fragmented markets, the way standards get set can be critical to the pace of market adoption and individual companies can usually play a role
in steering and setting standards.
growth  embryonic  start_ups  strategy  ecosystems  big_bang  measurements  standardization  technical_standards  jump-start  platforms  fragmented_markets  customer_adoption  market_risk  new_categories  howto  think_threes  category_killers  Play_Bigger 
january 2010 by jerryking

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