How to reduce product costs and increase profits

Last week I had a discussion with a client about increasing their profitability without constantly generating new product solutions each year.  After all, product development can be expensive and carries a lot of risk and overheads . We discussed various options, with the bulk of the discussion focusing on methods by which unit costs could be reduced.  I wanted to share the key themes of that conversation as they may resonate with other business owners.

If you are a manufacturer that builds product on a large scale, reducing your unit cost can have a huge influence on your bottom line.  Make it for less, sell it for the same, if not more. It sounds simple doesn’t it? We think it is and here’s a couple of hints and tips.

 

Supplier relationships:

Start viewing your suppliers as partners and as an extension of your team, rather than another business that is trying to make money from you.

Instead of bluntly asking for a unit cost reduction, open a dialogue with them to see how both parties can work together to get costs down.  Prices might be artificially high if manufacturing processes are unnecessarily complex or if material selections aren’t justified and are over specified.  Get a better understanding of the problems that your suppliers go through to make the components that go into your products and help them fix them.

 

Ask questions like:

  • ‘The lead time on component X is too long, can we look at the manufacturing process together to see how we can improve it?’
  • ‘Component Y’s reject rate looks abnormally high, what is the cause and how can we reduce it?’
  • ‘If we modified the tooling for component Z could we save 50g of plastic on the part volume?’
  • ‘Could we use our 3D printer to make assembly jigs for you and speed up production?’
  • ‘If the packaging was changed could we fit more products on a pallet?’

 

They will in turn be able to pass on these savings to you in the form of reduced prices, shorter lead times and higher quality standards without having to reduce their own margin.  This way both businesses win and stronger links are made between your teams which will benefit every product development cycle. Get right down into the detail as small differences can make massive savings during mass production.

 

Rationalise Product features:

First generation products are often launched with features and components that turn out to be redundant or don’t offer the value that was originally intended.  These features might be adding cost to your product unnecessarily whilst at the same time providing no benefit to the end user.

A good way to check this is to make a table of all the key features of the product that you feel add benefit to the consumer.  Then rank them in order of most important to least important, giving them a score out of 10 (10 being high). If you have a complex product, you might have 50+ features at the end of the exercise.  If you can, add a cost for each feature so you can quickly see the financial impact of removing it. It would be best to have a selection of representatives from procurement, engineering, sales and production so that you cover your core departments.  

If you are the owner of the business, try and sit this one out and empower your team to do the activity.  They’ll be more open without you there, especially if your a SME as it’s likely you created the first generation product.  

Create an environment where you and your team can have an objective discussion about the features.  If one of your team was responsible for a particular feature, don’t let them feel like their idea was wrong, more that it was right at the time but now things have evolved.  See this as an opportunity to let everyone have their say and to promote a culture of continuous improvement within your business.

If you sell your products on Amazon, go through all the reviews and see what consumers are saying about your product.  Ultimately it is their opinion that counts the most so let go of your ego. Cross reference their opinions with your ranking table and see if there are any correlations.  If you rank something as being super important, but consumers don’t know it’s there or are having a negative experience with it, consider making a change to that feature or remove it all together.

Do the math and scale it up, would it be worth investing in the development to take out those features? If so then start the process sooner rather than later so you can start to see the financial benefit.

 

Points to consider…

A must though is you do not reduce your product quality as a result of reducing cost, as this will impact your brand’s reputation.  Consumers are savvy and news of poor quality quickly spreads. So whatever you choose to do, make sure that you don’t lose what made your product so successful in the first place, as that is worth more than saving a few pennies.

 

Always make a prototype to test out the changes too, especially if the changes are extensive.

 

 

 

Sustainable Design

Making a stand for sustainable design

I previously wrote an article about some of the ‘less bad’ sustainable design practices that companies can explore when transitioning into a more ethical approach to creating products. As designers and engineers we have the potential to make a difference and we are making our stand.  We have a responsibility to educate our clients so that they can make better decisions regarding their brand’s perception to their customers.  If we don’t change how we create products then the issues we are seeing are going to get worse, not better.  Leaving the planet worse off for future generations.

Our first action has been to create a set of guidelines that we must stick to when working with our clients in the development of new products.  The guide serves to remind us that plastic has become an easy way out and pushes us to consider alternative materials and manufacturing processes.

We can’t change the world by thinking as we did previously, we need to reinvent ourselves.

 

NPD plastic usage guidelines

1 – When considering the design of a component is there another solution before resorting to plastic?

Plastic is a wonder material for designers, allowing us to create bold, forms and textures with a choice of mechanical properties.  It is often wrongly assumed at the start of a project that a particular product will be constructed a certain way, because that’s how it’s always been done.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Let’s challenge ourselves to be different and better at the same time.


2 – If plastic has to be used, can it be recycled easily at the end of the product’s life?

It’s our responsibility to make sure that the products we create are designed to be easily and efficiently disassembled, repaired if required and most definitely recycled.  We can’t control what happens to a product in the real world at the end of it’s life, but we can at least make sure we have made it easy to recoup the resources that went into making it.


3 – Don’t blend plastics, they will never return to their original compound.

Over moulding is the industry standard method for adding grip, texture and contrasting colours to plastic mouldings.  However, once the chemical bond has been established between the two polymers, they will never revert back to their original compounds.  It’s unethical to promote these kind of manufacturing processes, so let’s draw our line in the sand.


4 – If plastic cannot be avoided, can we form a stronger emotional bond between the product and the user so that they are less likely to throw it away?

Every product invokes an emotional response with the user, no matter how simple it may be.  Let’s make sure we are designing great product experiences that promote continued usage over the lifetime of the product.  Turn single use, into multi use.

Moving away from decades of standard practice is going to be tough and education will be critical in getting more business leaders aligned with sustainable design principles.

We are making steps to bring about change, what are you doing?

 

 

Life as a product designer

Life as a designer

So it’s the middle of May and I’m almost at the end of my third month as an Industrial Designer at North Product Design. Here’s how the experience has been so far.

Getting the opportunity to work at a design consultancy, where you can be designing a varying range of exciting, challenging and innovative products on a day to day basis, was something that I strive to achieve. Taking the leap to move to a new city to pursue a career that I’m passionate about was daunting for me, but I can safely say now that after almost 3 months at my new job, it was a decision that I’m glad I had the guts to make.

These first few months have been filled with exciting opportunities and plenty of chances to learn new skills with the team. The varying array of projects has kept me on my toes. One day i’ll be soldering together prototype circuits, and the next i’ll be creating graphics for brochures used in product packaging. I’ve got stuck in with projects, getting the chance to show my ideas with pen and paper, get hands on creating prototypes and 3D prints, making 3D models for manufacture, meeting and presenting to clients and a whole lot more. Shifting from project to project, working on product graphics in the morning and wiring up a circuit in the afternoon, is a constant at NPD, and is something that I really enjoy about the job.

Having a creative and passionate team around me at NPD has been really positive. Being able to bounce ideas off other creatives and get feedback on designs really helps me develop my processes. Learning, shadowing and being mentored by the other designers has given me valuable insight and experience which is helping me develop in all areas of the job. The team, including the office dogs, have welcomed me into the studio and made the usual nervousness of starting a new job, disappear.

I’ve been lucky to get hands on with most projects, creating prototypes and even life-size working prototypes. Chances to go on site visits and trips to meet clients have proven valuable and given me the opportunity to practice client relations and an excuse to venture out of the studio environment for some Manchester air. Being new to the city also proved a great way to bond with the NPD team, venturing out for food at lunchtimes, taking the office dogs on walks, and going on hunts into town for supplies for projects.

I’m really looking forward to what the future will hold at NPD with all the exciting and innovative projects that we are currently working on.

The Value of a Prototype

The value of a prototype

We are lucky to work with exciting new start ups and established brands and one thing we have learnt over the years is that the most critical aspect of the development process is prototyping.  We encourage our team and clients to prototype as much as possible throughout the project.  It doesn’t have to be expensive either and in most cases, a few pieces of cardboard, a glue gun and a little imagination can be all you need to quickly test and validate your ideas.

The first visual representation of a new design is often conceived on a piece of paper, a white board, or sometimes a napkin in a restaurant is all you have to get your idea down.  These initial ideas are the seeds for bigger and better things, however a sketch could never tell you what it feels like to hold the product, to feel the texture and emotional response that is incurred when you see the product for the first time.  A prototype allows you to check that the reality is how you imagined it to be and to figure out how you can improve and expand on your idea.

On a component level, product handles are a good example of an area that must be tested as it’s essential to make sure that the user experience fits with the application.  If the handle is too small, uncomfortable or the wrong shape, it is likely that the user will have a negative experience with the product and possibly not use it correctly, in some cases this misuse could be unsafe (Such as the handle of a fire extinguisher or stretcher)

How do I make a prototype?

Prototypes can take many different forms and technology enhancements have brought down the cost of making more advanced incarnations of your idea.  The quality of the prototype should be influenced by the stage of development and the context of the aspect you need to test.  If you need to quickly show an idea to a colleague, but it doesn’t have to function to a high standard, then cardboard, blue foam and a glue gun are probably your best option.  These can easily be manipulated using simple hand tools and offer you a low cost method to visualise your idea in 3D.  If it turns out that it didn’t work, or your colleague didn’t like the idea, then all you have risked is your time and the relatively low cost of the materials.  As it’s quick, you can learn from the feedback and make a second, third and forth model until you get it right.  Iteration is the key theme here and you want to make as many mistakes here as possible before investing into more expensive processes and materials.

There comes a point in the process where a more advanced prototype is needed and this usually means that we need to transition into a virtual 3D model.  The data from the model can then be used to either 3D print the components using processes such as Fuse deposition modelling (FDM) Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Stereolithography apparatus (SLA) or machine them from solid plastic or metal.  The choice of these advanced prototyping methods depends on the size of the part, required material properties, geometry, quantity and the budget you have available.  Either way, these processes are driven by the creation of a 3D model using software such as Solidworks.  Our advice is to select the lowest cost method that allows you to gain valuable insight.

For more details on your prototyping requirement contact our team.

Sustainable Product Design – weight saving

The future of sustainable product design is in our hands

This three part series will look at how you can integrate sustainable product design principles into your product development and by doing so become more profitable.  In this post we are going to look at material selection and waste saving, two of the most easy ways in which your products can have a smaller environmental impact, especially if you have a high volume of sales.Sustainable Product Design

In our previous post on this subject, thoughts on sustainable product design, we discussed how most attempts at sustainable product design fall into the ‘less bad’ category, in which the approach is not fully sustainable, but instead measures are taken to select less environmentally damaging materials and to use less of them.  Whilst not perfect, this is often the first step that a designer must take in their re-education.  Weight saving, as a train of thought, falls into this category.

For companies that mass manufacture large numbers of the same products, the positive effect of weight saving is almost instantaneous.  Financially, the effect will be seen in increased profit margins (assuming that the selling price remains the same) and environmentally, there is less reliance on petro chemicals and lower energy consumption.  Try to set your business ambitious targets for weight saving and you might be surprised at what can be achieved.

In a recent project we were able to reduce the plastic content in a particular component by 16% compared to the previous version, resulting in a total monthly saving of 1.8 tonnes of plastic.  The business expects to produce the component for the next 5 years and so the total volume of plastic saved could be up to 108 tonnes!

This is just one part, for one business.  Imagine if every company adopted this way of thinking?

Weight saving on its own only reduces environmental impact, material selection is more advantageous from a sustainable design view and this is where a lot of research is being applied, particularly on the creation of bio plastics.  Being sustainable doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you need to revert to using bamboo on all your products, it just requires a more rational and sometimes scientific approach to material selection.

Difficulties arise though because once you have given someone something, it’s very hard to take it away without negative sentiment.  Single use plastic straws are a great example of this.  On the one hand they have been proven to reduce tooth decay, but given the publicity surrounding ocean plastics and damage to wildlife, consumers are starting to ask questions to retailers, leading to some phasing them out all together to avoid negative press, but what is the middle ground?  A straw for life?

A simple tip is to use the same type of plastic throughout your product, this makes them much more easy to recycle and sort at the end of their life.  It also makes the disassembly of the product more profitable for the recycling company which will drive  investment.

The problem is that plastic allows a designer to create forms and details that just aren’t possible with other manufacturing processes, particularly when cost is the driving factor.  We have got to be asking harder questions of ourselves and to stop taking the easy option as the power to change the world is in our hands.

North Product Design are an innovative product design company with a long history of sustainable product design.  If you would like to discuss product weight savings or indeed anything about your product design ideas please get in touch.

Why target costs are essential

There is a certain romance involved in designing and creating something new. However the anticipation of success and potential rewards can be addictive and often clouds rational thinking during the product development process. This results in products that may look and feel great, but aren’t as profitable as the business needs them to be.

From our experience the starting point to work out costs should start with the eventual selling price and the biggest question you need to ask yourself is ‘What is a consumer willing to pay for my product?’

It’s a difficult question to answer and there are a number of different factors that can influence this. Is your product unique? Does it have some revolutionary technology? By purchasing your product will the consumer save money in other areas? What are the competition selling their product for? Does your brand have a solid reputation? These are just some of the questions that need to be considered at the start of your project so that you can inform your development team and build a business case for the investment.

Let’s take a typical example of a consumer electronic device that has features that are disruptive to its market sector. The product offers genuine consumer benefit and your initial market research, in conjunction with your brand’s reputation has indicated that a consumer would pay £80 for the product. Knowing this figure is critical as it allows you to then work backwards and generate your business case.

In this example let’s assume that you will sell your product through standard retail channels. High street store chains will typically look for a margin of 40-50% and the rate will vary from one retailer to another. If 50%, they will want to purchase your product at a wholesale price of £40 (80/0.5)

In order to generate a profit for your business, pay your overheads for marketing, staffing, offices etc we also recommend that you aim for a margin of 50% when selling wholesale. In product development, and business in general there are always unexpected costs that are incurred, if your gross margin is much less than 50% you may run into financial difficulties later down the line. A caveat to this is obviously volume of sales and if your volume is expected to be high then you can generally make a smaller gross margin but still run a successful business. Fluctuations in exchange rates can also make a huge difference from one day to the next so aiming for a higher margin will help to absorb issues like this.

So using the example of 50% gross margin at wholesale, this would leave you with a target unit cost of £20 (40/0.5) this figure then becomes the maximum unit cost that your development team are allowed to use when creating the product, along with your anticipated sales volumes and has a big influence on the materials and components that can be used, the manufacturing processes that should be utilised and the overall complexity of the product itself, right down to the type of cardboard that should be specified for the packaging. Obvious the £20 figure is the maximum and all efforts should be made to reduce the unit cost further so that your margin is increased.

Now let’s say that you have calculated that to pay for your development, tooling and first batch of stock is going to cost £75k. To recoup this investment and bearing in mind that at your wholesale price you generate £40, you would need to sell a minimum of 1875 units. This doesn’t take into account the costs of running your business, marketing etc and so that actual figure would be higher, but this gives you some indication of whether or not the product business case is viable. Further calculations would be needed to ensure you have the cash flow to make it work.

Selling the product direct to the consumer and maintaining your £20 manufacturing cost would obviously generate a much higher margin although it might be harder to initially generate the sales volumes that retail can offer.

For the purpose of making the article easier to follow we have used whole numbers however the context of calculating margins and unit costs remains the same.

North Product Design are an innovative UK based product design company with strong experience across a variety of industry sectors including consumer electronics, medical products, sports equipment, safety equipment and mechanical engineering.

James Howlett joins the team

We’re really excited to welcome James Howlett to North Product Design and so that you could get to know him a little better we have asked him a few questions about his experiences in the design world so far.
I’m sure that you will all join me in wishing James the best of luck in his role as an industrial designer.
Stay tuned to see more of his work over the coming months….

 

Why did you become a designer?

I’ve always been practical and creative throughout my life, whether that was making Lego structures, or drawing in a sketchbook. I succeeded at school in the creative subjects like Graphic and Product Design and knew from then that this was an industry I wanted to be part of.

What is your best achievement or product?

It’s still early days in my career as a Product Designer but I have worked on some exciting and interesting products. During my previous job, I was lucky enough to design, prototype and manufacture over 100 race/gaming seat displays which were then installed in 12 different European countries.

What is your favourite brand and why?

Picking a favourite brand is a tricky one as there’s so many that I enjoy and that influence my life. I would have to say Bose is up there for me. I’ve always found the quality, shapes and feel of Bose products to be great and have taken inspiration from there designs. On the other hand, I also have a slight obsession with New Balance trainers and love their design.

Are there any upcoming trends in your particular field?

I’m keeping a close eye on VR (Virtual Reality). The avenues that VR could offer to designers are vast and it could change the way we design products, but also the way that customers experience products.

Do you have any advice for up and coming designers?

Teach yourself new things and make your set of skills different to others. Whether it’s a new technique of sketching or a different software, making yourself stand out from a crowd is important for a designer.

Whats your favourite part of the design process and why?

Making physical models has always been a stage of design process that I enjoy because it allows me to get hands on and practical. Seeing your design go from first prototype to final prototype, from the foam modelling stage to the final injection moulds.

Where is the best place you have worked and why?

At my last job, I worked as a designer creating retail displays. I developed my skills, learnt new software, and even used a CNC. It was my first job out of uni, and it gave me valuable experience and confidence to progress my career.

What is your favourite design tool?

I would have to say CAD is one of my favourite design tools. Being able to see your design in 3D and quickly make changes, and also being able to 3D print quick prototypes means CAD is at the top of my list. But don’t get me wrong, my other best friend is an A3 notepad and a fine-liner.

What are you most looking forward to at NPD?

Being able to use the skills I have and the skills I bring to collaborate with the designers at NPD to make exciting, innovate, and beautiful designed products for the clients we have.

 

Here are some examples of Jame’s previous work …

A few thoughts on sustainable product design

A few weeks ago an episode of the blue planet aired on TV, featuring the damaging effects of ocean plastic and the dicipline of sustainable product design has been put at the forefront of our industry. In order to achieve change, quite often brands need their customers to vote with their wallet and this change in attitude, as consumers are educated on pollution, is bringing about real change. Brands now need to be seen to be making a shift towards true sustainability to stay in favour and marketing executives are now taking every chance to highlight their products’ green credentials.

The 5p plastic bag levy that was brought into the UK for me was a late, but important step towards legislative action and whilst this was unfortunate for the companies who make the bags and their employees, these actions are necessary to force positive change, when we are unwilling to make those changes ourselves. I would have liked to have seen a complete ban on them all together, but progress is still progress. In recent weeks the U.K. government has outlined a 25 year plan for the environment, with the intention of eliminating unnecessary plastic waste all together. Again this is slow in my opinion and it’s encouraging to see that the CEO of Iceland has stated he is aiming to achieve this in just 5 years. In order to retain consumer loyalty, I expect we will see other big brands following suit.

As the sustainable mindset gains traction, some big questions are posed to product designers and previous ways of thinking have to be challenged. At the moment, sustainable design efforts can probably be categorised into 3 different categories; unsustainable, less bad and sustainable, with the majority of products falling into the first two categories. The ‘less bad’ category is often the first and necessary step that brands take in order to educate their customers and more importantly themselves. Reducing the amount of plastic used by weight and sourcing materials from recycled sources are often the two ‘less bad’ options that are initially employed by brands and product design companies, although both can fall far short of the mark, despite everyone’s best intentions.

For a look into what the future might hold for plastics, perhaps we should take a look at our past, before plastic was commonly used. Products were generally designed and built to last, with good quality materials that could be repaired locally. Products were designed to be mass produced and distributed, although the global supply chain that we are now accustomed to was not so developed. Made in the UK was the norm, not a rareity. Plastics have unfortunately become the go to, cost effective enabler for long distance logistics of both perishable and non perishable goods. If we were to take this material away, we would need to innovate in order to maintain the low costs that consumers demand. This is going to happen and who will be the winners and the losers is yet to be determined.

North Product Design is making a conscious effort to transition towards a sustainable future and we accept that a lot of our work to date has fallen into the ‘less bad’ grey area of sustainable design. In an effort to move this on, we are engaging with our clients on the subject and introducing sustainable principles into their business models so that their products have a positive impact on the environment. It’s important that as designers we make a stand for what we believe in as we have the ability to shape the world around us.

What are you going to do to make a difference?

New Product Launch – Zock!

The Zock metatarsal injury protector is the latest NPD product to be launched, soon it will be ready to buy online, but how did we go from an idea to the final product? Here is the story …

It all started with a ‘man with a plan’, a client reached out to us wanting to design the next best metatarsal injury prevention product. Coming from a medical background and having incurred the injury himself, he saw that there was a need for this product and so sought help.

In the initial stages of the project it was really important to understand what the product needed to be, what is the main goal? What problem are we trying to solve?
As this product would be in direct contact with the user’s foot, the experience between the user and the product was paramount. It was equally important to make sure the product was not only fit for purpose, but also tailored towards the needs of the end user.

 

In conjunction with the leading experts in the field of biomechanics and sports science at the ‘University of Central Lancashire’, we trialled and tested numerous forms and materials. A key design feature of the Zock is the surface pattern, this not only adds aesthetical interest but serves a much greater purpose. During the testing period we found that adding the surface texture enhanced the shock absorbing properties of the material, as there was a greater volume of material that could compress under force.

 

 

After making further refinements, we felt we were now at the stage where we were confident in the form, chosen material and the user experience of the product.
So how does the Zock work?

The user places the Zock on top of the foot, this is then covered by the user’s sock. One of the unique elements of the Zock is the material it is made from. The flexible yet durable material helps reduce the amount of impact directed onto the user’s foot, when hitting a ball or taking part in a similar exercise, where the user’s foot comes in contact with direct force.

 

 

The flexibility of the material also allows it to conform to the user’s foot, not only to guarantee the best fit but making it comfortable for the user to wear. To enhance the user experience further, the Zock shape allows it to target problem areas on both the inside and outside of the foot, when used on either side A or B. For users with smaller feet, the Zock can be cut easily without the need of a specialised tool, a pair of scissors is all you require! The integrated guidelines enable the user to easily resize the Zock.

 

 

It’s safe to say that with the Zock simplicity was a driving force behind the design, but often people mistake simple design with unconsidered design. We spent lots of time understanding the user requirements of this product, and although the outcome is simple, it is effective and more importantly it serves its purpose. The Zock has been tested to destruction, and approved that it will significantly reduce impact on the user’s foot.

After successfully designing the Zock, we were also asked to produce the packaging. It was essential to produce a high end brand, as the brand is just as important as the product itself. The packaging of a product is the first thing a user will come in contact with, and so it is important to not only make an impact, but also that the product and the brand are represented effectively. We were keen to create a premium brand style for the Zock, as the surface texture is an integral part of the product, this once a focal yet subtle element on the packaging. The large surface area on the back allowed us highlight the key features and user interaction through graphical elements.

 

An interview with Robert Malkin

In the second instalment of our interview series we hear from Robert Malkin, New Product Design Manager for Martech UK ltd. Robert has worked in the field of Luminaire design now for over 9 years and runs the internal design team.

Thanks Robert for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part!

Why did you become a designer?

I’ve always been creative from a young age, as a child I spent most of my time drawing and entering art competitions. Constructing Lego and meccano (I was always the kid that built it and displayed it with pride rather than played with it!) Excelling in Art and Graphic design through school and college leading on nicely to a degree in product design at the University of Huddersfield. A couple of years into my career I ended up in the lighting industry where I’ve been ever since! (The industry chose me!)

What is your best achievement or product?

In the first couple of years working for my current company Martech Uk Ltd we were just seeing the dawn of LED’s for use in general lighting and I was tasked with working on projects for our first major LED product ranges. One of these product ranges would be a 130mm diameter spotlight to eventually replace a compact fluorescent product which had been popular for several years. There were lots of challenges in this project, A Die cast heatsink, a number of injection moulded parts and I even had to design a custom screw fixing which had to be specially made on a lathe. Eight years later this is our top selling fitting month on month, year on year with over 180’000 of them leaving our factory doors.
A recent visit to China to see a Die Casting facility we work with opened my eyes when I saw how many jobs this one part alone had created. A complete facility and production line set up just to make this one part. This was quite a touching and humbling moment of realisation for me and is my best achievement.

What is your favourite brand and why?

A difficult question and hard to tie it down to one as there are so many different market sectors all with great examples of product design. Obviously, Apple products are a stand out and surely a popular answer, I also love the classic Braun products designed by Dieter Rams. I also enjoy following the trends in men’s fashion and graphic t-shirt design centred around typography by brands like P&Co based in London. I recently stumbled upon a motorcycle company from Birmingham called Mutt Motorcycles which inspired me to work towards earning a motorbike licence when I saw their modern classic designs. I think it’s great to see some really strong brands emerging in the Uk that have found a niche and become masters within it. Made in Britain still means something!

Are there any upcoming trends in your particular field?

Trends in lighting tend to follow new technologies, at the moment it’s all about connectivity and ‘the internet of things’ …Light fittings that are smart and can connect to other devices. Luminaires can now collect data on things like footfall in certain areas allowing retailers to better place advertisements, they can even send an advertisement direct to your phone to pop up with offers while in a store. As designers, it is our job to build light fittings that are a platform, future-proofed and able to make use of all these new technologies as they come out allowing us to launch products in shorter timescales.

Do you have any advice for up and coming designers?

We have quite a good relationship with the university’s close to us and bring graduate product designers in quite often. I remember being in their position, I see the frustrations when upcoming projects aren’t always as exciting as they may have expected. I think it’s easy to get disheartened when the reality is you might end up designing right angled brackets every day for the first year! It’s important to be patient, the real learning starts after the education. Find someone more experienced to learn off, listen and question everything! Get the experience, work hard and your time will come.

What’s your favourite part of the design process and why?

It has to be the early stages where you are investigating an idea, making models and doing some early bits of CAD work. Basically, the most creative part before it all gets serious about numbers, figures, costs and quantities.

Where is the best place you have worked and why?

Although I’ve worked at some great places I’ve now been in my current organisation for nine years so I’d have to say Martech, otherwise I wouldn’t still be here! Starting at the bottom and working my way up through a senior role to being the design manager, designing lots of products along the way. I now manage a team and concentrate my efforts into streamlining the design process and constantly improving the way we do things. There is nothing more important than the opportunity to progress, to learn and to constantly improve yourself, which is why I’m still here doing what I do.

Whats your favourite design tool?

We have a lot of tools at our disposal to help us do our job, I’m very tempted to say my ‘favourite’ is our new Eden260V 3D printer which I eventually convinced our directors to buy us (It’s pretty awesome) But it all starts with a pencil, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away in CAD and 3D design and become confined within its capabilities. I always encourage my team to start on paper with an open mind.