IOT: Powering the digital economy

The technology revolutionizing the way products are designed and manufactured

The technology revolutionizing the way products are designed and manufactured

From robots to cloud computing, innovation is transforming the way that goods are manufactured and continues to drive change.

As such, cosmetics giant L'Oreal is looking to embrace a technology that could revolutionize the way it makes its range of products: 3-D printing.

Stephane Lannuzel, operations chief digital officer at L'Oreal, told CNBC's Adam Shaw that the business was already using 3-D printing to make product prototypes. The next step, Lannuzel said, would be to use 3-D printing to actually make the products, although this is still some way off.

"3-D printing enables you to get some beautiful design, new shapes," he said in an interview broadcast earlier this week. "It's still not scalable, (and) too expensive to do with millions of products, but I'm sure that in the coming years it will mature, it will evolve and we will be able to do 3-D printing for products."

As consumers become "more and more demanding," Lannuzel said that there was a lot of excitement among the operations team when it came to looking at new technology and how it can be used.

Hal Watts is the CEO and co-founder of Unmade, a London based "fashion technology" company. The business has developed a platform that enables brands to offer consumers customizable clothing products that can be manufactured quickly. Unmade says that its system allows individual orders to be made for the same price and at the same speed as mass-produced products.

"For me, the very interesting thing is to see… how big customization becomes by itself… what percentage of products ultimately will be customized," Watts told CNBC. "Some retailers see this at 30 percent, but other people see it closer to 5 or 10 (percent). And then, really, I think, the interesting thing after that will be this idea of on demand, and how quickly that gets adopted by brands."

The notion of manufacturing on demand is an intriguing one. Watts painted a picture of a future in which a manufacturing location could be chosen based on where a consumer lives.

"Manufacturing is becoming more distributed because the benefits of centralizing it are being reduced as technology gets better," he said. "Therefore, it does become more and more interesting to actually manufacture near your customer."

If such a model, based on manufacturing bespoke products on demand, became widespread, the impact could be significant. "It means that we get access to a more unique product rather than all having to conform to a mass-produced product," Watts said. "The second side of it is really the elimination of waste in a big way, which is that you don't have stock of product that you might not sell, that might go to waste."

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.