by Maury Fredricks | May 4, 2022 | Automotive Design, Company Insights, Product Design, Themed Entertainment Design
Project Management insights…
We apply phased methodologies with milestone reviews to develop projects from research and ideation phase, into feasibility and through concept development. In many instances, our concepts are handed off to an internal Client team or supplier to further develop production release deliverables. The overall project timeline and costs can be compressed when the concept deliverables are robust, accurate and developed with production constraints in mind.
As many companies and technologies work to develop less siloed approaches to design and development the traditional phased approach still leaves much to be desired. We have focused our time and resources to develop a design team focused on bridging these silos to digest the key information from one phase and get a jump start on applying it in a fashion that is digestible to the next phase or team.
The ongoing pandemic has forced companies to reduce headcount to contain fixed costs. In addition, there has been a widely reported exodus of experienced talent entering early retirement. These two conditions have resulted in a significant talent exodus from core teams at a time when smart and seasoned project management is needed to develop innovative solutions.
To compound the challenges, inflation is eroding the buying power of corporations and increased competition demands reduced costs to develop products and services. We are, indeed, living in interesting times!
During a recent project review, we sparked a discussion about different ways to improve team performance. An initial comment led to an impromptu workshop about our role with Clients and different ways to improve team performance. We work as an extension of the Client design and engineering team, and we are all accountable for our deliverables. We win only when our clients win.
We identified several key features of a successful project that should be applied to all innovation initiatives with creative and technical teams. Here we go…
Take the time to write a well-defined project brief…
Work diligently with your cross-functional team to construct a clearly written design, engineering, or project brief. This key document will guide the team through the twisting journey traveled to take an idea through feasibility and proof of concept and physical property development.
Our experience with leading companies in diverse industries has shown that most teams rush through the design brief to start moving on the project. This is especially true of lean teams working with reduced headcount and erosion of experienced management.
Teams get stressed when unrealistic budgets and deadlines are shared with little planning or rationale for the demands. This leads to attrition and ultimately the challenges of recruiting new talent in a hyper competitive landscape.
We provide a guide on how to develop a well-defined project brief on our website. This can be found here: Fredricks Design Step by Step Guide to Building a Realistic RFP
Plan the work and work the plan…
After all members of the team have provided input to the brief and approved the document, an equal amount of energy and focus should be dedicated to the plan for key phases of the project.
In many cases, the early phases of the project are compressed to reflect a short timeline for ideation, feasibility, and concept development to make room for additional time and capital to complete production engineering and tooling.
It is our belief that if sufficient time is planned for the early phase of any project, the investment will be returned in later phases via reduced iterations, leaner design and an enhanced end-user experience. A lack of well-informed planning in early stages of development begins an uphill battle that leads to increased iterations due to unexpected feedback from production and engineering teams. This effect snowballs throughout the program forcing delays in timing and headaches for all parties involved.
Team growth and flexibility…
CEOs and leadership teams are now beginning to consider options for growth. Do we recruit and hire for our core team, engage with external resources, or pursue a hybrid model blending incremental growth to the internal team while working with flexible resources?
We have found success through turbulent times in the hybrid model. Our core design and engineering team is lean, and we engage with proven, flexible resources to scale up for sold projects.
We have also forged a strong partnership with Prefix Companies to offer turn-key solutions from sketch through manufacturing, assembly test and installation of vehicles, rides, animated props, and furniture. This flexible offering provides our clients with a wide range of services scaled to the unique requirements of each project. We are liberated to identify the best materials, processes, and methodologies for each project.
We welcome your comments on this article. Please visit us at www.fredricks.com and download any of our content offers. We look forward to working together when the time is right!
Best wishes for future success on all of your projects!
Mobile +1 616-402-2300
by Maury Fredricks | Apr 19, 2022 | Automotive Design, Company Insights, Fredricks Design Review, Furniture Design, Product Design, Themed Entertainment Design
Work as a collaborative team to reduce iterations and improve project flow.
Our work with marketing, design and engineering teams over the past several decades has been an interesting and challenging journey. We have been lucky in our work with diverse teams in different industries.
There are common challenges and goals for all teams working on concepts for innovative products and services. Whatever business you are in, there are a few fundamentals for application in the planning and execution of your projects.
The Design Brief is the project roadmap.
Every project begins with a design brief including constraints on time, budget, and performance metrics. These guidelines, of course, are established after an agreement is reached on the design or project brief with key stakeholders. The problem statement, resources, assignments and measurable goals must be included in the brief. A well-written brief will help guide the team from research through production release and market launch.
by Maury Fredricks | Dec 6, 2021 | Company Insights, Events, Product Design
Northwestern University Design Thinking Communication Fall Term 2021
I traveled to Northwestern University in Evanston on Saturday, December 4, 2021 to attend the final team presentations for a sponsored project. The skies were clear with minimal traffic as I made my way “around the horn” of Lake Michigan and northbound through Chicago on Lake Shore Drive. The conditions were ideal for my homecoming to campus following almost two years of hybrid and/or remote collaboration resultant from the pandemic.
We embarked on the sponsored project in August 2021 with a ten-week timeline for the three teams to develop solutions to this problem statement…
K-6 Study at Home Solutions
Young students are challenged with study at home and organization of homework, electronics, and artwork supplies. Quick packing, unpacking and organization of a wide range of materials and electronics is repetitive and wastes time and energy. Research, sketch, mockup and develop a concept including a working prototype for a compact, flexible, modular storage solution that provides organization, power charging and ease of use.
We developed Freddy Furniture USA – Kids Study from Home Desks as a flexible desking solution engineered to ergonomic standards for K-6 students.
Conor Fredricks, our lead industrial designer and I presented an overview of the problem statement and a deck illustrating our process and methodologies to help guide end-user interviews, research and ideation over the first few weeks of the class. Our interaction with the teams and professors Ignatius Aloysuis and Tirdad Kiamanesh was via Zoom and a simple camera setup in the classroom at Northwestern. Although it was not an ideal setup, we made it work and the teams launched into the front-end exploratory work to develop divergent ideas.
Our second design review was hosted during week 6 of the term. We were blown away with the diversity of ideas presented by the three teams and the body of work developed. The teams were made up of freshman engineering students and most of the team members had never worked together on projects. We provided feedback to the teams and answered a few questions. From there, the teams went back to work to complete the deliverables for final presentations on December 4, 2021.
I was absolutely blown away by the presentations and deliverables developed by our teams. The deliverables included prototypes,
posters, a written final report and, most importantly, stand up presentations. The skills and team cooperation will go forward with all of our students for future application in educational, professional and personal endeavors.
As I drove south towards Chicago and home, I reflected on my two wonderful years at the Ford Building, my classmates, Green Team members and our excellent professors. I was lucky to attend Northwestern and now, humbled and honored to teach at McCormick.
There has been a lot written lately about the “great resignation” underway across most industries. My brief visit to Northwestern University left me feeling positive about the future of innovation and higher education in America. We are a country of innovators and “can do” entrepreneurs. Innovation is a team- based activity and creativity is alive and doing well in Evanston, Illinois! Go Northwestern and Go USA!
Investment in our students and their education
Fredricks Design will continue our mission to help guide young design and engineering talent both in and out of the classroom. These sponsored or “live” projects bring a level of real-world experience that offers insights on how products are developed in the real world. This experience is extremely valuable in molding students into successful designer and engineers in the next phase of their careers and Fredricks is more than happy to do our part.
Please contact us for additional information and case studies. We would love a chance to collaborate with your team!
by Maury Fredricks | Dec 18, 2020 | Company Insights, Furniture Design, Product Design
2020 has been a year of challenges, opportunities and many lessons learned.
This past year will stand as one of the most challenging years in memory. Lives have been disrupted, families have suffered staggering emotional and economic devastation, and we have lost almost a full year of formative education for our young students. Food lines stretch far into the distance and the lines for COVID testing and now, vaccinations are almost as long. Wow, what a tough year!
Are we working on the right problems?
Very early on during the first Michigan work from home phase, our team met virtually to openly discuss economic conditions and an almost continuous stream of announcements for furloughs and layoffs with our Clients. These announcements impacted us deeply, since many of the people affected were longtime friends and trusted Clients. It was a helpless feeling and we found ourselves seeking things to work on that might help solve everyday problems in our “new normal”. Little did we realize at the time that the problems would continue to grow in complexity and impact to our business and families.
We set up brainstorming workshops to explore different problems that we could help solve. The world did not need another mask company (at least at the time) and we did not know much about the design of protective equipment or ventilators. Our team quickly developed a portfolio of different ideas for a number of applications and environments. Being designers and engineers, we launched into sketching and ideation before we caught ourselves and filtered our priorities down to a few products. A little business discipline is always helpful with creative and technical teams!
We are a family business in our second generation of leadership and management. We are also grandparents of healthy granddaughters, with the two oldest kids now in kindergarten and the first grade. We are blessed. Even with our resources, we watched our grand kids and their parents struggle with home schooling, limited social interaction with classmates and the daily stream of Zoom classes. All of this while working at tables and sitting on chairs designed for adults. There was clutter everywhere and the daily grind was exhausting.
Let’s do it for the kids!
We decided to research kids desks and chairs to see what was out there in the marketplace. Most of the products were cheaply made offshore with little consideration for durability, ergonomic fit or workmanship. At the other end of the spectrum, we found high-end desks and limited seating options. Our team ran the opportunity through our filter to determine the business opportunity to sell our products at scale.
Our next step was to write a detailed design brief including these key guidelines for development, marketing and distribution of the products:
- Validation of the problem statement and gather voice of the customer via workshops and interviews. Workshops were not easy to conduct during a pandemic, but we got it done safely.
- Develop desks and seating solutions that will grow with your children and provide many years of durable use to improve home study and organization of study and art supplies
- Design and build in Michigan and or the USA with direct-to-consumer distribution to maintain reasonable pricing.
- Apply lean thinking to minimize the number of components and leverage modularity for different applications
- Specify high quality earth friendly materials and minimize waste
- Develop business models and fair pricing for our products
- Reduce the number of suppliers to one for our products, whenever possible
Our team workflow resulted in compressed timelines…
Applying our development process, we moved quickly from research, sketches and ideation, mockups and prototypes into concept development and production launch. Our cross-functional team concurrently worked on marketing, design and engineering and supply chain interaction to compress our timeline to about 90 days from research to product in a box ready for distribution though our website This included three rounds of prototypes, workshops, patent work and branding. This compressed timing was made possible through our direct interaction with parents, kids and educators. We were able to make informed decisions on the fly and translate our findings to our turn-key local supplier.
Our work product and solutions…
Out of our countless brainstorming sessions, concepts and in-home observational research Freddy Furniture USA was born. Our desk systems are made to deliver a focused work environment that is designed specifically for children aged K-6. The height adjustable work surfaces help deliver an ergonomically correct workspace that helps keep kids stay engaged for longer periods of time. In our early observations we saw kids drawn to early marker board concepts, so we packaged as many as we could fit into our desk systems. This includes two reversible work surfaces that are removable so your child can bring them wherever they want to go. We kept construction as simple as possible to allow for quick assembly and robust products flat packed for shipping. It has truly been a pleasure to see these products help kids drained by the day-to-day strain of our current situation and we want to share this experience with as many people as possible. Our kids deserve it.
Our first products are only the beginning…
All of this work has been completed with a focus on young students, their parents and caregivers. We invested in this problem and accelerated the development of our first products with a goal of improving home study. If all goes to plan, we will continue to work on additional kids’ products for study, artwork, and play. Please visit us at freddyfurnitureUSA.com to learn more about our products. Thanks for your interest! Read the original article on our LinkedIn page here.
by Maury Fredricks | Apr 22, 2019 | Product Design
Manufacturing companies frequently run into roadblocks when developing new products. It’s never easy to create something that’s brand new and totally innovative, no matter if you are a mid-sized company just breaking into the industry or a well-established manufacturer with years of successful product development behind you. Open innovation and collaborative product design are key ways to help your company break through these roadblocks and develop a product that’s both innovative and profitable.
For many, the idea of collaborative product design is an unknown. Inviting another team to help develop your project is a daunting thought for many, but when you actively incorporate another team of experts, you open your product up to a variety of new perspectives that help differentiate and make your product better than what’s already on the market. Innovative networking, especially with reputable, experienced product design and engineering firms, will help you produce better ideas. And better ideas mean better products and better profits.
Let’s take a look at a few of the ways that collaborating with a product design and engineering firm can boost your manufacturing profitability:
Leverage Multidisciplinary Expertise
While your team has highly-specific, relevant experience within your company and industry, a design and engineering partner will have more diverse experience in a variety of industries. The product differentiation that comes from this diverse experience is what will help set your product and your company apart as a leader in your market.
For example, the Fredricks Design team regularly partners with clients developing vehicles, seating, consumer products, and healthcare solutions. In any project we take on, we’re able to apply our experience in each of those industries to design and engineer a product that’s both innovative and functional. Collaborating with a product design and engineering firm offers your team an additional range of expertise that can be applied to develop a unique, innovative, and profitable product.
Expand Internal Capabilities Without Hiring New Team Members
New product development is a complex endeavor. Most often, companies turn to either a product development partner who can complete the feasibility process and who has the capacity to engineer and build products, or they hire on a new engineer for a short period of time to do the same work. We dive extensively into this choice in our article New Product Development Contractor Vs. Outsourced Development Team, but you might consider that partnering with a product design and engineering firm can expand your internal capabilities quickly and effectively, without the hassle of hiring a new, temporary team member.
When you partner with an experienced design and engineering studio, there’s no need for training or catching engineers up to speed. Rather, this collaborative approach offers all of the creative and design capabilities you need, while keeping your product moving swiftly to market without interruptions or delays.
Control Project Costs
Great product design conserves budget. A design and engineering studio understands this and works with their clients and partners during every product phase to develop innovative designs that meet budget constraints. When you work with a design and engineering firm, your contract will specify your budget and expense capabilities, ensuring your product development remains within those constraints. What’s more, a reputable design and engineering firm will have relationships with build sources and property fabricators and can work closely with all parties to develop and engineer a product that maximizes your company’s return on investment.
Reduce Time to Market
A key contributor to your product’s manufacturing profitability is how quickly you can move a quality product to market. Collaborating with a professional design and engineering studio offers a number of benefits that help reduce your product’s time to market. First and foremost, they’re able to apply relevant past experience to your product, which helps speed the development process along.
Additionally, you’ll have just one responsive point of contact throughout development, making it easy to communicate and make adjustments in real-time. Finally, a product design and engineering team has a deep understanding of the development process. They know how to overcome technical obstacles that could delay product introductions, and can help you address any obstacles before they become an issue, ensuring your product reaches the market on schedule.
Collaborative product design boosts manufacturing profitability by helping your company develop a new, innovative product that is differentiated from other products already on the market, that meets project cost budgets, and that moves to market swiftly. By partnering with a reputable design and engineering studio, you are able to leverage their multidisciplinary experience, expanding your team’s capabilities without the hassle of hiring temporary or contracted engineers.
If your manufacturing company is looking for assistance in developing a new, innovative product for your market, get in touch with Fredricks Design. We collaborate with manufacturing teams in a variety of industries to develop profitable products that stand out from the competition. Let us know what we can innovate for you.
by Maury Fredricks | Mar 7, 2019 | Product Design
Product showcase events — whether they’re a regional auto show or something as big as CES — are some of the most important events for any manufacturing company. If your team has been working long and hard to develop a new technology or product, an industry event is your chance to get people fired up and start moving some product.
Most often, the task of showcasing a product at such an event comes down to the marketing team. The marketing team is responsible for developing and sending out an RFP, and collaborating with the selected product design and engineering studio to develop a showcase property that puts your product in its best light.
This entire process starts with the RFP, which is why it’s so important to develop an effective RFP that proposes a clear, realistic timeline. We’ve written a complete Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Realistic RFP, so feel free to check that out for more in-depth information, but today we wanted to focus specifically on when you should send your request for a display property proposal.
The timeline is a crucial step of RFP development that many businesses and marketing teams miss, and it can make or break the success of your display property. When given adequate time, a product design and engineering firm can develop a property that makes a big impression. Without that time, however, your marketing team may struggle to make the impact you’d hoped for.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding when to send out your request for product showcase proposal or RFP:
When Is Your Event?
First and foremost — when do you absolutely need the product showcase property? The date of your show or event is the first place to start. And from our experience, if that’s the day you plan to have the property, you’re probably going to be late. If your show is in April, you might want to start thinking about what your RFP will look like before people leave in December for the holidays. That way you can ensure your RFP is sent out with plenty of time for development.
Depending on the size of your company, it can take weeks to write the RFP document, decide who you’re going to send it to, and then you’ll still have to wait for people to respond. No matter the size or scale of your project, you should start writing an RFP at least 12 weeks ahead of the event date, if not more. That may seem to overshoot the time required, but trust us, there are a lot of moving parts and the show creeps up on everyone.
What Is The Scale Of Your Project?
Think about the scale of the property you’re requesting. If your marketing department is responsible for developing and sending the RFP, along with spearheading property development, it’s worthwhile to talk to your engineering and design department first. Speak with the people who’ve spent the most time developing your product or technology, and ask them how long they’d estimate a showcase property taking.
Every product showcase proposal is different — some require the seamless integration of multiple technologies and products, while some function to display just one project. Your engineering department can help you get a better idea of the scale of your project. From there, you can adjust your timeline accordingly. If you need a large-scale project, consider extending your proposed timeline by a few weeks.
How Much Support Do You Need?
Every company works to develop product showcase properties differently. Some companies may want their own engineers and designers to have input and collaboration on the development of the new property. Other companies may hand the showcase project entirely over to a marketing department with little engineering support.
A marketing team that’s tasked with developing a display property on their own will need more technical support and should add a bit more time on to their RFP process to accommodate for that additional support.
A Few Additional Considerations For Your RFP Timeline
Production timelines can be slippery. The best way to keep them reasonable and on track is to plan ahead and consider any potential roadblocks that could occur. A few time drains that are often forgotten include:
The time it takes to review and complete the proposal process.
The process of sending out an RFP takes time. Not only does your team have to research relevant industrial design and engineering firms, but you have to wait for their responses and then choose a top candidate. From there, you’ll have to agree on a contract and set a new production timeline for completion of the project.
Depending on the size of your company, and the workload of the firm you hire, this can take anywhere from 2 weeks for a very small company to as much as 3 months for a large corporation. That’s a big chunk of time that could hurt your end product if it’s not considered when sending out your RFP.
Potential holidays that could cause an obstruction of development.
Holidays have a tendency to disrupt product development timelines. If your product showcase event is coming up directly after the holidays, or if you’re sending out your RFP just before the holiday season, you may need to pad in a bit of extra time to your RFP timeline. In the first situation, you risk a missed deadline if both teams haven’t considered missed time due to holidays. In the second, you may not get responses to your RFP if everyone’s out of the office.
Your Product Design And Engineering Firm Is Your Partner
In the end, it’s important to remember any product design and engineering studio you choose to develop your product showcase property is a partner. You should consider them not as an employee, but as a collaborator working with you to create the best product showcase property possible. You wouldn’t want to stretch your own team too thin working to create a property on an unrealistic timeline, and you shouldn’t hope to hold a product design partner to that unrealistic timeline either.
In the end, the best way to ensure you see quality responses from your RFPs is to start by setting a timeline that makes sense for the amount of work you need to be completed by the date of your event.
If you’re considering sending out an RFP for a display property, let us know. Not only do we regularly design and engineer display properties for a variety of industries, but we’d also be happy to help if you’re having trouble determining a timeline for your RFP. Leave us a message letting us know a little bit about your project; we’d love to help!