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3 Ways Your Manufacturers Can Impact Innovation

manufacturing innovation

3 Ways Your Manufacturers Can Impact Innovation

When COVID-19 hit, most industries were forced to adapt and make significant changes. The beauty industry was no exception. Before the pandemic, for example, many cosmetic consumers shopped for their beauty products in brick-and-mortar stores. Now, a lot of beauty purchases are made online. We have also seen the shift to a minimalist approach to beauty, focusing on skin health and wellness as a beauty regimen in lieu of a heavy makeup look with searches such as “minimalist makeup looks” and “foundation with sunscreen” trending still today.

All of these changes necessitate innovation. What many beauty brands forget, however, is that innovation and industry disruption begin with the manufacturer. If you are trying to innovate in the beauty space right now, it’s crucial for you to partner with a manufacturer that can help you develop new ideas based on changes in consumer demographics and behavior. Most importantly, your manufacturer should be able to respond to new trends with speed and agility — getting products to market despite supply-chain issues.

It can be easy to limit the involvement of your manufacturer based on preconceived notions. If you want to outperform competitors in the beauty industry, however, you need to shift your perspective and see them as a key industry partner that can help your brand innovate and adapt.

How Manufacturers Help Beauty Brands Innovate

If there is one key takeaway from how the pandemic has impacted the beauty industry, it is that today’s beauty buyers are more educated than ever before about the beauty products they consume and what they want from the companies they engage with. Gone are the days when customers purchased products for the sake of “looking great.” Modern consumers want to feel good about their purchases from the inside out, and they want products that make them look and feel their best. This is part of the reason we have seen so many beauty brands zeroing in on clean beauty.

One of the most important lessons you can learn as a beauty brand is that your manufacturer can either make or break your ability to effectively innovate. Manufacturers that have worked in the beauty industry for a long time can help brands identify new trends and produce products that align with those trends. Also, manufacturers can help brands keep a pulse on industry influencers and the conversations consumers are having that can inform the direction of your next move. Manufacturers touch more products across all brands, making them a great source of knowledge.

Considering the fact that innovation and newness represent 20-25% of all new growth each year, it’s crucial to partner with your manufacturer to drive innovation. Innovation builds revenue, improves brand recognition, and positions your brand to outperform competitors in a saturated market. If you don’t partner with your manufacturer in innovation, you risk falling behind in the market or, even worse, disappearing completely.

How to Choose an Innovative Beauty Manufacturer

If you are hoping to work with a manufacturer to innovate in today’s beauty marketplace, it can be difficult to know which qualities to prioritize in your search. After all, you need a manufacturer that is a good fit for your brand and can help you distribute products quickly to respond to consumer trends.

Here are some of the most important qualities to look for in your manufacturing partner:

  1. The manufacturer focuses on research and development.

If you are struggling to find new ways to innovate, you need a manufacturer that understands market research to identify opportunities for your brand. Manufacturers can help you with white space mapping to figure out customer needs that are not being met and help you develop products with those needs in mind. If your brand is not in a position to create new products, your manufacturer may be able to help you find ways to add innovation to your existing portfolio. Also, if you have seen a decline in business recently and want to uncover new ways to reach customers, your manufacturer can use custom formulation to innovate your brand’s collection and find the best way to move forward.

  1. The manufacturer prioritizes speed to launch.

How quickly your brand can respond to shifting trends largely depends on your manufacturer’s ability to help you create new products. If new trends develop and your brand can’t distribute a product to meet that trend, you will miss the innovation window. A true manufacturing partner can help equip your team with the tools to help you respond to trends, adapt your products, innovate, and create game-changing products that people will love.

  1. The manufacturer works outside of the “comfort zone” and stays open to new trends.

Your manufacturing partner should never be afraid to move outside of your brand’s comfort zone to discover new trends. In fact, one way to ensure that your brand stays relevant for a long time is to innovate when possible, especially if you have market research to support changes. Importantly, innovation doesn’t require you to create new products all the time. Rather, you can innovate by adding value to consumers through improved digital experiences, improving product packaging, or re-imagining a current product.

If you are hoping to reach more of your audience or find new ways to engage your customers in the beauty industry, start with your manufacturing partner. A manufacturer can help you innovate in new ways or find existing opportunities to disrupt the beauty industry. Once you find the right beauty manufacturer, your brand will be able to discover new trends, improve your products, and outperform competitors in a rapidly changing space.

Mark Wuttke is Chief Growth Officer at Cosmetic Solutions; founding Alumni Advisory Board member of the Global Wellness Summit; founding Beauty Initiative Chair of the Global Wellness Institute; founding editorial advisory board member of Organic Spa Magazine; and mentor and regular industry leadership speaker at Florida Gulf Coast University and Cornell University.



Last mile delivery is the most expensive part of the delivery chain, often representing more than 50 percent of the overall cost. This is mainly because it is the least productive and automated step. As such, many are seeking to bring automation into the last mile. In recent years, many companies around the world have been innovating to utilize autonomous mobile robots, drones, and autonomous vehicle technology.

Various autonomous robots and vehicles (sometimes called pods) are being developed around the world. These come in a variety of shapes and forms, reflecting the diversity and breadth of design and technology choices which must be made to create such products.

Drone Delivery: a Game Changer in Instant Fulfilment?

My new IDTechEx report, “Mobile Robots, Autonomous Vehicles, and Drones in Logistics, Warehousing, and Delivery 2020-2040,” covers the use of mobile robots, drones, and autonomous vehicles in delivery, warehousing and logistics—and suggests these could create a $1 billion market by 2030. That shows how far we have come since a previous IDTechEx report, “Mobile Robots and Drones in Material Handling and Logistics 2017-2037,” which analyzed the technologies that were then emerging in the last mile delivery space, including drones and autonomous mobile ground robots (or droids).

Several players, big and small, have entered the drone delivery game since then, but at the time of the 2017 report, the idea of drone delivery was sharply dividing commentator opinion, with some dismissing it as a mere publicity stunt.

Indeed, drone delivery must be viewed within the context of the emerging drone industry, which has grown to a more than $1.5 billion industry. In the ensuing years, consumer drones’ hardware platform became rapidly commoditized with prices falling.

The idea of drone delivery entered the mainstream media in late 2013. Around that time, drone delivery of e-commerce parcels was first demonstrated in parallel with drones successfully delivering medicine to remote areas. Since then numerous deliveries have been made, partnerships announced, and substantial sums invested.

Fleet Operation to Compensate for Poor Individual Drone Productivity?

Drone delivery faced critical challenges in 2017. Individual drones offer limited productivity compared to traditional means of delivery (e.g., consider a van delivering 150 parcels in an eight-hour shift). They can only carry small payloads and battery technology limits their flight duration, constraining them to around 30 minutes radius of their base while further lowering their productivity due to the downtime needed for re-charging/re-loading.

The limited productivity, in our view, is not a showstopper. This is because fleet operation can compensate for poor individual drone productivity. The unit cost of drones will be substantially lower than, say, a van, enabling the conversation of a few, highly-productive vehicles into many small drones with high productivity at the fleet level. This will require a further major reduction in hardware costs for commercial drones, but if the past is to be our guide, this will be inevitable.

Limited payload is also not a showstopper because, according to Amazon statistics, some 85 percent of packages weigh 5 pounds or fewer. Furthermore, the fall in delivery costs and time for customers is changing purchasing habits: frequent orders of small items is replacing that big infrequent order. This matches well to the strong points of drones.

The limited range is also not a showstopper even in suburban areas where customers do not live close to a distribution point. It will, however, mandate a gradual yet wholesale change in the location of warehouses with more placed closer to end customers or the use of large mobile drone carrier vans. The former is already happening in the background, while the latter has also been demonstrated at the proof-of-concept level.

Sidewalk Last-Mile Delivery Robots: a Billion-Dollar-Market by 2030?

Sidewalk robots are often designed to travel slowly at 4-6 km/hr (or 2.5-3.7 mph). This is to increase safety, to give robots more thinking time, to give remote teleoperators the chance to intervene, and to enable categorizing the robot as a personal device (vs. a vehicle), thus easing the legislative challenges.

However,  sidewalk robots are still far from being totally autonomous. First, they are often deployed in environments such as U.S. university campuses where there is little sidewalk traffic and where the sidewalks are well-structured. Many robots are also restricted to daylight and perception-free conditions. Critically, the suppliers also have remote teleoperator centers. The ratio of operators to robots will need to be kept to an absolute minimum if such businesses are to succeed.

There is still much work to do to improve the navigation technology. The robots will need to learn to operate in more complex and varied environments with minimal intervention. Furthermore, capital is also essential. The end markets are also highly competitive, imposing tough price constraints.

In general, we forecast a 200,000-unit fleet size until 2035 (accounting for replacement). The inflection point will not occur until around the 2025 period given the readiness level of the technology. This suggests both a large robot sales market and an even larger annual delivery services market provided asset utilization can be high (the services income could reach $1.6 billion by 2035 in a reasonable scenario).

Sidewalk Delivery Robots vs. Autonomous Delivery Vans

These robots, pods and vehicles are mainly designed from scratch to be unmanned. They are also almost always battery-powered and electrically-driven. This is for various reasons, including: (1) electronic drive gives better control of motion, especially when each wheel can be independently controlled; (2) the interface between the electronic control system and the electrical drive train is simpler, eliminating the need for complex by-wire systems found in autonomous ICE vehicles; and (3) their production process needs to handle vastly fewer parts, and as such could be taken on by smaller manufacturers.

Another key technology and business choice is where to navigate. Many robots are designed to travel on sidewalks and pedestrian pavements, while the van-looking pods and vehicles are often designed to be road-going. This choice of where to travel has determining consequences for the design, technology choice, target markets and business model.

Sidewalk robots are an interesting proposition. They come with various hardware choices. For example, some are few-wheeled while many are six-wheeled. Some include a single small-payload compartment, while others carry larger multi-item storage compartments. The key choice, however, is in what perception sensors to use.

Navigation Technology Choices

Mobile robots come with various hardware choices, e.g., number of motor-controlled wheels, payload size and compartment design, battery size, etc. Almost all have HD cameras around the robot to give teleoperators the ability to intervene All also have IMUs and GPS and most have ultrasound sensors for near-field sensing.

A critical choice is whether to use lidar-only, stereo-vision-only, or hybrid. Lidar can give excellent 360deg ranging information with spatial resolution and a dense point cloud which enables good signal processing. Lidars, however, are expensive and can have near-field (a few cm) blindspot. Therefore, the choice to use lidars will represent a bet for the cost of lidar technology to dramatically fall.

Most robots deploying lidars use 16-channel RoboSense or Velodyne lidars. These are mechanical rotating lidars, giving surround viewing. The technology of lidars is evolving with the likes of MEMS or OPA emerging. These could enable cost reduction but will reduce FoV (field of view), thus mandating the use of more lidar units per robot.

We project that the cost of lidars is to significantly fall over the coming years. This has the potential to put such robots on the path towards business viability. The other challenge is near-field blindspots. This is not an issue with cars, but can be in a sidewalk, where many low-lying objects can reside closely to the robot. To resolve these, complementary sensors will be needed.

The other approach is to go lidar-free, using stereo camera as the main perception-for-navigation sensor. This will require the development of camera-based algorithms for localization, object detection, classification, semantic segmentation, and path planning.

No off-the-shelf software solution exists. Indeed, no labeled training dataset exists that would allow training lidar-based, camera-based or hybrid deep neutral networks (DNNs) for sidewalk navigation. The sidewalk environment is vastly different to that of the on-road vehicles. As such, companies will need to collect, calibrate, and meticulously label their own datasets. Furthermore, the datasets will require great diversity to accommodate different light, perception, and local conditions. Deployments in many sites even as pilot programs are essential in further improving the robots and can indeed represent a competitive advantage.

The robots are energy-constrained. As such, the number of on-board processors and GPUs should be kept to a minimum, and heavy-duty computational tasks such as 3D map-making and edge-extraction should be carried off-line in powerful services. This almost always happens when robots are deployed to a new environment: They are walked around to capture data, the data is sent to servers for processing so it can be converted into a suitable map, earmarking edges, many classes of fixed objects, drivable paths, and so on.

Long Road to Profitability Lies Ahead

In general, there is still much work to do to improve navigation technology. The robots will need to learn to operate in more complex and varied environments with minimal intervention. This requires extensive investment in software development. This ranges from gathering data, defining object classes, labeling the data, and training the DNNs in many environments and conditions. It also requires writing algorithms for the many challenges the robots encounter in their autonomous operation.

Furthermore, capital is also essential. The businesses are heavy on development costs, especially software costs. The end markets are also highly competitive, imposing tough price constraints. The hardware itself is likely to be commoditized and many will outsource manufacturing once they have settled on a suitable final design. The payback for many will be having a large fleet to offer robots as a delivery service.

Future Outlook: Significant Robot Sale and Delivery Services Opportunity

Sales and delivery firms are likely to have a long road ahead of them before they reach profitability. They should improve the robots to work in more scenarios beyond well-structured neighborhoods and campuses, to extend their operation to all-day and all-weather conditions, and to extend autonomous operation with little error to nearly all scenarios to drive down the remote operator-to-fleet size ratio.

The deployed fleet size will need to dramatically increase to expand income from delivery services and allow the amortization of the software development costs over many units sold.

We have analyzed all the key companies and technologies in this emerging field. We have also constructed a forecast model, considering how the productivity of last-mile mobile robots is likely to evolve over the years. We have developed various scenarios, assessing the current and future addressable market size in terms of total accumulated fleet size. Our fleet deployment forecasts and penetration rate forecasts are based upon on reasonable market and technology assessments and roadmaps.

Consequently, our forecasts suggest, that despite the upfront technology and market challenges, the market will grow and those who plant their seeds today will reap the benefits tomorrow.


Dr. Khasha Ghaffarzadeh is the research director at IDTechEx, where he has helped deliver more than 50 consulting projects across the world. The projects have covered custom market research, technology scouting, partnership/customer development, technology road mapping, product positioning, competitive analysis and investment due diligence.

His report “Mobile Robots, Autonomous Vehicles, and Drones in Logistics, Warehousing, and Delivery 2020-2040” covers the use of mobile robots, drones, and autonomous vehicles in delivery, warehousing and logistics. It provides a comprehensive analysis of all the key players, technologies and markets, covering automated as well as autonomous carts and robots, automated goods-to-person robots, autonomous and collaborative robots, delivery robots, mobile picking robots, autonomous material handling vehicles such as tuggers and forklifts, autonomous trucks, vans, and last mile delivery robots and drones. You can find the report here:

You can find his report “Mobile Robots and Drones in Material Handling and Logistics 2017-2037” here:

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