Neocon 2019 Review

Neocon 2019 Review

Neocon celebrated 30 years at the Merchandise Mart last weekend, June 10-12, 2019. The annual event coincided with a pivotal time in the furniture market. The market is flat or below the baseline for the overall GDP and innovation is lacking in even the newest offerings. Seemingly, it’s all been done before.

Many of the showrooms exhibited loose offerings of casual and transitional space furnishings. There were no “stars” of the show and more of the same from previous years.

All companies, large, medium and small need to listen to their design leadership and then push back on strategy, new products and 30 years of best of neoconenhancements for existing product offerings. The voice of product and seating design was turned down to a whisper at the show. Design, marketing, engineering, finance, and manufacturing should all have an equal place and voice on big decisions. But, it was evident that everyone was in a risk management mode; few, if any bold design moves were shown in the spaces I explored. The balance of all functional areas in a company is easy to talk about but tough to apply given the pace of competition and pricing pressures in the market.

Over the next few weeks, leadership teams will shake off the fatigue from the show, recharge with brief vacations and then get back to work. Step one should be a collective, long look in the mirror and open exploration of real-world problems. We don’t need another sectional or coffee table to decorate our offices or universities. We do need to continually focus on ergonomics, user interface, privacy, collaboration and…well, the list goes on.

“Are we working on the right problems?”

Restructuring the Furniture Industry For Today’s Market

furniture on display It’s a great time to be a consumer of products, goods, and services. We have all been spoiled by content at our fingertips and next day (or next hour) delivery of almost anything we can imagine or desire. Amazon and DoorDash are here to stay.

This means that all furniture brands need to focus on ease of order, personalization of products or specials, accelerated delivery, quick set up and immediate support for questions about products. To raise the bar even further, order quantities should be one or a few units.

The large players in the market are set up to push big orders through the system and old habits will take a long time to change. Small, innovative companies do not have the capital to invest in advanced concepts or compete for big accounts. This leaves the mid-sized companies in a great position to take market share while partnering with innovative, agile startups.

Taking Notes from History

We experience this set of circumstances in the “new mobility” space. Global OEMs and large Tier One suppliers are partnering with boutique design and engineering firms to move quickly from research into ideation and through concept development before committing big money to manufacturing plants and fixed labor costs.

furniture at neoconThe furniture market can be compared to the movie industry where old school studios owned the resources and were vertically integrated. This allowed the studio almost total control of the process and investments. The entertainment industry is known for cost overruns and weak performance at the box office. Something has been changing. Streaming content services and almost unlimited bandwidth have provided power to the consumer of digital content, movies, music, and apps. The furniture market can learn from this history and apply key lessons to pivot to offer the customer choice, short delivery times and excellent support.

Lastly, vertical markets are continuing to converge. The built environment (vehicle, office, university or patient room), user interface and human factors will continue to be key areas of focus for any marketing, design and engineering team. Any business of any scale needs to deliver excellent solutions to the consumer at the right price point.

Interested in learning more about Fredricks Design’s ideas for the future of the furniture industry? Please contact us to arrange a detailed discussion about our industry insights. We would love to learn more about your upcoming projects in the office, healthcare, and educational environments.

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Fredricks Design Updates: Themed Attraction Trends

Fredricks Design Updates: Themed Attraction Trends

Themed attractions are consistently trending towards immersive, captivating experiences that take park guests out of the everyday and transport them to another world. From The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to new, immersive Jurassic Park attractions, guests are looking to be entertained and thrilled all at once. As the industry embraces and invests in emerging technologies, we’re able to create better, more immersive attractions that entertain and delight. Here’s a look at some of today’s themed attraction trends making rides and experiences more immersive and entertaining:

Dark Rides

Dark rides have been around since the late 1900s, when they were called “old mill” rides and passengers would sit in a small boat as they were transported through wooden canal systems. In 1928, the first single-rail dark ride (The Pretzel, by Leon Cassidy) was patented, and since then new technological advances in video quality, sound, and capabilities of the attraction properties themselves have taken these rides to the next level.

Dark rides have a unique ability to remove guests entirely from the natural world and take them somewhere completely new with immersive features like lighting, video, and even actors and live performers moving throughout the experience.

This new dark ride by California’s Legacy Entertainment will be the world’s first dark ride to integrate both live performers and stunt shows. Produced for the Trans Studio Bali theme park in Indonesia, this ride will feature all the aspects of dark rides guests love — attractive, immersive video and an exceptional original music score by Benoit Jutras — plus additional features like motion base vehicles, and most notably, live stunt performers and actors that will make the ride, called Road Rage, one of a kind.

This new trend of dark rides offering both a ride and a show is one furthering the immersive entertainment aspects of themed attractions, and we’re excited to see where it goes.

Multisensory Experiences

Audio and visual technologies have been used for years to transport guests to another world. New trends in themed attraction development are now incorporating all of the senses, taking themed attractions to the next level. Incorporating touch, smell, and sound with dark ride technology, new sensory experience attractions are gaining much popularity.

Right now, Disney’s Avatar: Flight of Passage ride may be the most notable multisensory attraction in a park, though BBC and Sega’s collaboration, Orbi, an experimental natural history theme park in Japan, offers another impressive multisensory experience. Orbi invites visitors to step into 12 different natural zones that look, smell, feel, and sound like the real thing, from Yellowstone to the polar ice caps.

Multisensory experiences are just finding a foothold in themed attraction, but when they deliver an exceptional, realistic experience like these examples, they’re sure to keep growing, resulting in longer guest stays at the park and repeat visitors.

Personalized Experiences

In an increasingly impersonal world, personalized experiences in themed attractions are gaining popularity. While this technology is still developing, the idea of personalizing a guest’s experience in a themed attraction or at a park has certainly taken hold.

At the National Comedy Center, for example, guests are offered an RFID bracelet to scan. With the bracelet, they are able to tell a kiosk what types of things make them laugh. From that point on, their entire visitor experience is personalized for their sense of humor.

This type of personalized experience is what today’s consumers are looking for, and we won’t be surprised to see themed attractions take on the concept of personalization to offer guests a unique, one-of-a-kind experience, every time.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has been in development for quite some time, but it only continues to improve themed attraction experiences for guests. VR has the unique ability to totally transform a guest’s experience, and it offers the immersive ride qualities that today’s consumers are looking for.

The versatility of VR ensures that themed attraction parks can recreate old experiences, or reprogram an attraction space for a new experience, with a significantly smaller investment. As VR technology improves, the themed attraction experience also improves.

Though VR still presents some tricky development aspects — motion and images must be timed perfectly to ensure guest comfort — it’s a themed attraction trend we know will be sticking around for quite some time.

There’s a lot happening in the world of themed attraction, and we’re always excited to learn about design and technology trends making rides and attractions more entertaining and immersive.

Fredricks Design is a leader in themed ride and animated prop development, and we’d love to help you develop concepts and properties that complete and enhance the immersive qualities of your ride’s experience. For more information about our work and past themed attraction projects, give us a call.

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How Collaborative Product Design Boosts Manufacturing Profitability

How Collaborative Product Design Boosts Manufacturing Profitability

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.

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How Autonomous Vehicles are Changing the Automotive Design Game

How Autonomous Vehicles are Changing the Automotive Design Game

Autonomous vehicles are changing the automotive design game. When there’s no need for a driver’s seat, a steering wheel, or even windows to the outdoors, automotive design can be transformed. With no driver, vehicles become rolling offices, commuter spas, and even delivery bots transporting goods right to your front door. Let’s take a look at three of the ways autonomous vehicles are changing how we think about automotive design:

Designed From the Inside Out

With no need to consider a traditional driver’s seat, with high visibility or access to controls and steering, automotive design is ostensibly freed up. New, autonomous vehicles aren’t tied to traditional design concepts. Instead of designing with exterior constraints in mind, vehicles can be created in any shape or size, opening up design options to truly focus on the interior first.

Designers now have the capability to consider the user. Whether the focus is to deliver a space to relax on the way to work, hold meetings on the go, or even get work done on a morning commute, autonomous technology is now allowing designers to build vehicles from the inside out, rather than the other way around.

Designed for Moving Goods, Not People

When we think of autonomous vehicles, it’s easy to think of self-driving cars. But autonomous vehicle technology has a much broader application. Our roads are full of vehicles that transport food, packages, and other goods. Autonomous vehicle design has the potential to revolutionize the way we get groceries, the way we receive mail and packages, and so much more. There are already companies making waves in the autonomous delivery markets, and trends like these are sure to change the way we see and design transportation vehicles.

For example, delivery vehicles have the opportunity to become much smaller, as they have no need for a human driver. They need only fit the goods to be delivered, saving space on the road, and the energy it would’ve taken to power a much larger vehicle.

Shuttles, Buses, and Taxis

Before autonomous technology, transit vehicles needed to be large to maximize capacity, while minimizing the number of operators. Trams and buses could only be deployed when there was a driver to direct them. With autonomous vehicle technology, rideshare vehicles aren’t dependent on a driver. They can be deployed whenever a user requests a ride.

This opens up a wealth of design possibilities, from making vehicles smaller and more streamlined to again designing from the inside out, with the user in mind. Rideshare vehicles designed for commuters can feature tables, workspaces, and more, without the extra space that would’ve been necessary for a driver.

The future of automotive and autonomous vehicle design is exciting. From developing new ridesharing vehicles to grocery delivery applications, there is much to be discovered. Fredricks Design is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle design, and we would love to help you develop your next project. For unexpected design solutions that deliver on form and function, give us a call.

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When To Start Preparing For CES

When To Start Preparing For CES

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!

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The Guide To Solving Design and Engineering Team Roadblocks

This guide outlines three steps to help your design and engineering teams breakthrough innovation challenges.

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