Over the past several decades, the team at Fredricks Design has worked with demanding design and engineering teams in diverse industries. While industry standards vary depending on the project, product, and intended use, the team has developed the capability to come up to speed and adapt to new projects quickly. Whether it be working with unique project teams or different cultures, we never fail to deliver excellent work under tight timelines and budgets. As our capabilities grew, Fredricks Design identified a fit in the themed attraction industry – specifically in rides, animated props, and special effects. Our deep experience in vehicle development, cockpits, interior systems, and seating for cars, trucks, and heavy equipment fit this industry’s needs well.
Entry Into The Themed Attraction Industry
Low volume production of custom build projects is a key requirement of success on entertainment projects. Rides and props are produced in quantities of less than ten units. The projects perform for decades under rigorous conditions. The team at Fredricks Design wanted to learn more about this industry, so we set about the hard work of presenting the firm and pursuing the first few projects.
Since that initial entrance into the entertainment industry, Fredricks Design has worked with prime vendors for entertainment brands. Our skills in design and studio engineering fit perfectly with concept development projects. Many Clients requested manufacturing capabilities for the outsourcing of turn-key “prime vendor” projects. After exploring several manufacturing suppliers, we had the good fortune to connect with Prefix Corporation based in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Like Fredricks, Prefix is a second-generation, family-run, and Michigan-based company. We began working on projects together, and by October 2018, we had framed and finalized a strategic partnership. This partnership allowed us to pursue and develop projects from concept development through fabrication, assembly testing, and installation of rides and animated props. Our partnership continues to thrive, and we are excited about the future for our Clients and diversified growth for our partnership and team.
We have learned many things over the past decade working in the Themed Attraction Industry. Our team has worked on multi-axis motion rides, animated props, advanced concepts, and full-scale mockups. Our portfolio of projects includes work with the largest and best-known entertainment brands in the world. We have also worked with innovative startups on projects from research, sketch, and concept development through production engineering deliverables. It’s been a wild ride and a wonderful adventure with fantastic friends! A big thanks to our Clients, partners, suppliers, and design and engineering team!
These are a few reasons we are driven to continue working in this unique and demanding industry:
- We grew up watching cartoons and animated movies. We feel humbled and thankful to help bring stories to life from sketch through the installation of the guest experience.
- Families and friends build lasting memories in the theme parks we help create.
- We work with some of the world’s most demanding creative and technical teams.
- We are challenged with performance and technical requirements to ensure the safety of park guests and protect the long-term investment of every project.
- Our engineering team adheres to rigorous technical and performance standards to ensure the function and long-term durability of the systems.
- We are challenged with tight budgets and timelines.
- Working as an extension of the Client’s creative and technical team, they task us with delivering complex rides and props. These will run for 18-hour days over years and decades with scheduled preventive maintenance.
Attendance At IAAPA
We are now preparing for the annual Themed Attraction industry event in Orlando. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is an opportunity to connect with friends, make new contacts, attend educational events, and tour the show floor to experience emerging technologies for future application.
Emerging and evolving themes for the industry will include the blend of VR and physical experiences. It will also host motion control technologies, character-based attractions, scaled rides for small footprints, and the application of advanced materials and assembly methodologies. Stay tuned for a recap of our insights from IAAPA in a future post.
Before attending the show, I will play in the golf event on Sunday, November 13, 2022. This special event will benefit the Give Kids The World Organization. Hosted right before IAAPA, the event speaks to the spirit of community and giving that thrives throughout the industry. It is an opportunity to relax, play golf, and reflect on why we love this industry!
Please reach out if you would like to connect at the show or set up a review of findings and insights. We are ready to help with your future projects, big, small, or medium in scale. Thanks for our past and future projects!
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
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.