Richard Dickson, COO Mattel
I was listening to the Mattel 1st Quarter Earnings Call when my ears perked up. Richard Dickson, COO was speaking and he said something about 3D Printing. I sharpened my attention and heard him say the following:
First, in an important commitment to our future, we are pleased to announce an exclusive partnership with Autodesk, the world leader in 3D design software. 3D printing is quickly moving from the exotic to the everyday, thanks to the growth of the Maker movement and consumer accessible print outlets. That’s why we are focusing strategically on the design and software side to drive future leadership and growth. We want Mattel to be at the forefront as 3D printing becomes an important component of the toy industry. And through this partnership, Mattel’s 3D printing apps activated by Autodesk will soon deepen brand experiences for kids, parents and collectors alike by offering them the opportunity to customize their favorite toys.
This is a bold move by Mattel and I like it. Others and I have, for some time, been predicting that 3D Printing will be a game changer for traditional manufacturing. You can easily imagine a time when a child’s bedroom will serve as a mini-factory or when retailers will print out toys on demand. It happened to the book industry and it happened to the music industry as well. The toy industry is not in a special class that is protected from change.
That is why I think Mattel’s announcement says a great deal about themselves as a company and about how they see the future of toys and play. It says to me that the company’s leadership is willing to get in front of technology now instead of following later. It also says that they are hedging their bets on how children will be playing and consuming play in the not too distant future.
It is a step towards balancing existing hard manufacturing against a potential future in which their fans will print out toys in the comfort of their family room, bedroom, school room or almost anywhere but a factory in a far away place. A time when children will want to participate in creating the toys they love by customizing them.
Mattel, however, is not the only one moving forward with 3D Printing. The Walt Disney Company is on the case with a breakthrough. That story in my next posting.