Many companies do what they do, always have done, and don't see a reason to change it. But the world changes anyway - things happen.
When it manifests as a competing product on the market, hitting back with a better product is not such a leap of faith. But, when change is a need to be better than the rest, without waiting for the rest to show you how, others can help. Design can help. And of course, 3fD can help. It's not a case of giving design a hat and waiting for a rabbit. Design is a process. It's a team effort, it costs money and takes energy.
This is the reason so many companies resist. Spending money not knowing what you will get is uncomfortable. Not knowing, highlights the need for a vision. Having a vision fuels enthusiasm. It is low enthusiasm, dragged down by daily fire fighting, that leads to the stagnation. Change. If you start with "it will cost lots of money I can't afford it", then the cycle begins and ends in a moment. However, change has to happen, things have to move forward. So, small steps.
First step. Open the mind, engage a design company with broad experience, and spend a bit of another budget to look under the rock. Let them see the business, feel the struggle, and understand the journey so far.
Will it be worth it? First of all its not going to break the bank. Secondly, you need to know what your competitors will see if they do the same thing.
Typically, you will break your traditional mindset. You will be excited by how many more ways of seeing the world there are. Will it give the next big thing? Maybe. It will almost certainly create opportunity, vision and enthusiasm. From this point forward, design needs to talk commercial. Risk, reward, effort. The next steps from here define the budget.
But, before the clouds descend, develop a business plan. Quantify the future.
It is unacceptable to design without a commercial objective. We don't design to see how clever we are. We design products that the world needs, that are affordable - that make money. Too many times I have seen companies not engage in new product development because of cost, rather than predicted revenue. Equally, I have seen too many companies start with the premise, that by keeping everything as cheap as possible you can sell as cheap as possible. The latter are not successful companies they are survivors. Keeping ahead of the rat race by an overwhelming amount of aggression and stress.
For a product to be successful someone has to buy it. They will do so, only if the price-performance ratio is right. Good starting point; what is that price? what is that performance? Combine that information with how many could I sell, and we have the beginnings of how much the design and tooling budget can be. This is the right way to do things. If the budget is too small the ambitions for the product are probably too great.
Getting the balance right is important; especially if we are talking brand. Products need to communicate with the user. They need to reassure them that the purchase is worthwhile; to make the user delight in how all things are appropriate. Get this right, and brands are largely self-propelled. Users will always associate the good experiences with the brand; the brand that bothered to worry about how the customer felt.
This requires room in the design budget to get it right. It requires room in the tooling budget to make the difference possible.
The business case for the new product may be brilliant. The market may be clearly identified and waiting, but if the money isn't available what do you do?
If your business case is good. Your plan well considered. Risks identified, and planned for, then investors are not going to be impossible to find. The tendency at this point is to go DIY. After all, it can't be that difficult. You just need a felt tip fairy to make it look pretty and a Chinese factory to make it. For convenience, to make DIY sound like the right thing to do, you need to assume that experts are simply overpaid salesmen. Your belief that DIY is the best way forward needs to reign supreme. After all, who is going to challenge you? Experience is the only true master and sometimes that just has to be learnt.
I see so many companies get to this stage. If they could break through the cycle just once, they would succeed on a bigger scale. I have worked with companies that have been liberated years ago. They are able to repeat the exercise. To forward plan. Grow, and remain market leaders. Designing innovative products and getting them made, is my life. I have seen great companies do it well, and I have seen great designs make great companies. It pains me for a potentially great product to graze past the studio and to see a company fuck it up. Not for me, but for them. The lost opportunity.
Sitting with my 3fD hat on, I imagine a world through design. With my IKONYX manufacturing hat on, I ensure great ideas become great products.
Now, after years of experience, and a successful business, I may have found a way to change the way design is accessed. Imagine being able to break the cycle before fully paying for the process. Imagine having a design-and-build partner that had a reason not to let you fail.
And yet this does not solve the problem for everyone.
The need to protect an investment means contractual agreements, sales performance guarantees, and ownership issues. The problem lies with the term partner. It's no longer a case of customer and supplier. And for some, this is not a solution.
It's not a solution for many, because the problem is not a financial shortfall. They don't want the financial ties with the "supplier". But a design and build service is appealing. Why? Because one of the biggest reasons for business paralysis is the feeling that investment into an outside expert is going to result in a place you are not comfortable with. That the control will have gone. That you could end up needing to spend more and more money. Trying to get somewhere that justifies the beginning. So yes, a design and build, turnkey solution, for new product development is bloody interesting. A great design portfolio, an innovation track record, and ultimately the commitment to see the big idea right through to the end. Not just a boxed product, but a product that is guided through conformity testing, established supply chain networks, shipping, taxes, export rules and regulations, etcetera.
This is significant for both parties; customer and supplier. Design and manufacturing are inextricably linked, yet for the most situations, they remain separate. Linked only by the client who now owns all of the problems. Design is charged as a time-based business, and manufacturing a margin on sales. Combine the two, and design becomes part of the reason sales need to be as high as possible. Success for the bought in experts, is now, no longer a design award and a one-off paycheque. It is a profitable manufacturing pipeline. A portfolio that needs to be defended against competition by making the price-performance ratio the best it can be. Not just for that moment in time but always. In fact, if the relationship is so good, 'they' will proactively work to get you more innovative products into the market place.
The turnkey solution is cheaper too. When there is skin in the game through manufacturing numbers, design costs can be capped. Even tooling. This allows client budgets to be more confidently anticipated. Importantly, it aligns both parties for the need to succeed.
Negotiate your terms. Pay as you go and have ownership. Keep control, and know that the turnkey solution will give you trouble-free access to boosting your business with design.