By: Willis Whiteside, M.S., IDSA

Issue 100101 1st/2nd Quarter 2010

ReInvention of Design

The world of product manufacturing, marketing and sales is a big playing field. In the process of investing in new product development we all tend to want to dream big, with the million dollar idea! If someone would just recognize it and then back it with real money. Wonder why? The fact is because we now operate in a very tight economy and the essentials are more important than discretionary or pleasure products. This current environment of loss of U.S. manufacturing in combination with massive debt and constant reminders of trillions of dollars has distorted our enthusiasm and distorted or sense of the value of the dollar. It takes a lot of money to bring even a small – simple product to the market. But maybe not as much as you think especially if you consider the costs of industrial design, prototyping, tooling, minimum quantity orders, along with market testing, marketing and packaging, pronounced by extremely high advertising costs and rising utilities and overhead costs. Assemble any business plan and you will see the dollars jump very high, very quickly. The times and challenges could not be greater for an Inventor. The opportunity has arisen to bring a new light to the Reinvention of Design.

If you are an inventor looking to bring your patented product or device to the market, you can now rethink the old path of taking millions of dollars to do it. The first to the redesign of the invention rule is; think small to large – versus – large to massive. You ask, “Why won’t they lend me the money?” The unspoken laws of investment is most banks and investors invest or lend based on collateral and industry experience. On top of that most people who have the money to invest, only invest maybe 5 percent of their disposable income. That makes the world of invention investment a relatively small piece of the pie. In other words no one lends a half or more millions of dollars to someone who has never worked in the field or managed a profitable venture or company.

If you look in the local business section and do a little research you will find that most small to medium size companies operate on relatively small budgets. 250,000.00 – $ 500.000.00. Now capitalism is about making a profit and we know large companies use their buying and volume power to shop and purchase and manufacture product. Additionally operating in international countries who operate with slave labor rates and labor union corruption, capitalizing on the market and economies, creating market domination and large volume discounts. This is part of the reason it is so hard for start up products to compete. Now come down to size and think starting out of your garage. Unless you are selling your invention at least on the tens or hundreds level you are thinking to big and too far out.

The laws of the universe does not allow someone to start leading a large company unless they have led a smaller company. It is just the way the financial world works. Would you trust a stranger who has never worked a day in their life, in the industry with a million of your dollars. The old school says you need experience and millions of dollars to bring and invention to the market. You may eventually need hundreds of thousands with a well organized plan and efficient mode operation to create a business entity that operates with a profit. The truth is under the old school, it can take hundreds and thousands of sales and the organizational infrastructure to bring and keep an invention on the market, even to just warehouse, offer and sell that product can be expensive. The reality is it can be done at a far lesser level and still operate on a profit. Now we all know sales must hit a minimum level to cover a companies monthly operational costs. Sales will start slow and build. The key is to rethink the ways we look at bringing the invention to the market and how we invest and operate to do it. If we start small and build the business we are operating in the world and mindset of banks and investors who want to see experience and a planned effort which builds versus fly’s and dump’s.

Now most business invention ventures must start with a solid core “invention” product or technology to build a business to success. Old school thinking is try and sell the patent and or license the product to a large company for millions in royalties. In these times most large corporations companies do not provide, accept or sign non disclosure confidentiality agreement or respect inventors rights based on the internal development team and intellectual. Your only real protection is a patent which is very expensive and risky based on typically unproven sales. The way to overcome the large investor route is to think small and invest intelligently. If you have a great patent and product and then start small and build.

As Inventors ourselves in today’s competitive markets we see the opportunity to jump on the reinvention of design wagon and use the tools of technology and rapid prototyping to bring the product to the market, starting small and building your case . Advances in rapid prototyping now offer low cost soft tooling RTV and cast urethanes that can be sold on the market for test sales and prototype testing. These RTV tools can produce 25-50 units per tools which is plenty of test product for user interface testing and sales samples. Using RTV prototyping, the investment in high cost injection mold tolling and minimum quantities can be avoided to prove the larger investment business case.

The reinvention of design is based on the advances in more accessible, advanced and simplified 3D CAD modeling and rapid prototyping combined with CAD-CAE-CAM (computer-aided Design Engineering and Manufacturing) and FEA Finite Element Analysis predictive analysis work tools are no longer just available to large companies. It used to be architects and automotive industry had CAD and surface modeling and the manufacturing capabilities to bring product to market. Today we have all the tools right on our computer desktops within the reach of a button and locally manufactured.

Another path of design is the infomercial route where these telemarketing companies (Billy Mays, etc.) will take your idea and give you a very small royalty percentage based on television commercial sales success. If you have no intention of manufacturing and selling the invention this can be an option but be aware the competition is steep for invention submissions. If you elect to submit your invention to these companies the product typically must have a mass market appeal and very under $5.00 manufacturer cost selling for 19.95 plus s/h.
The design insight is know that the world of industrial design, product engineering and manufacturing all comes down to usually one computer CAD file and one person who oversees the final product. This knowledge helps us understand that the invention of design is much more affordable and within reach than we think. If you work with an Industrial Design firm like WhiteLight Design we will start small and work our way up the ladder with you so that the larger investment in your invention and market ramp up is a “Smart Investment”. We just need to think smaller and be smart in investing in consultants who think just like you!. There are many ways to bring a product to the market. You are now privy to the reinvention of design and invention of intelligence to think big but start small!

The empowerment slogan for the year: “I’ve learned it’s always better to have a small percentage of a big success, than a hundred percent of nothing.”  Art Linkletter

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