Thanks for that introduction and the kind words from Jim. Using industrial design - my message is simple don’t do it.I am sure the vast majority of you here have never heard of Titan Enterprises even if you do use flow measurement systems and that is exactly the point of this talk. We have been in business for 28 years and since year one I have never give a presentation on the company or its strategy, this is also a direct result of our recent change in philosophy. I started in this business out of sloth as I was offered a job just 5 doors from home I could get up at 8:55, go home for lunch and finish work by 5:00, the ideal job for an 18 year old. Obviously it did not work out like that but by the time I realised it was too late I was hooked. Twelve years later I left after the death of the man I now consider my mentor Sandy Wemyss and I joined another company for 3 months. Titan was a direct result of me being made redundant and given the choice of job hunting or starting our own company, and being a stubborn; some stay stupid individual the risky route looked good to me. My first comment to my encouraging wife was “no-one will want mechanical flow meters; the future is in non-invasive technology like the ultrasonic devices”. All I knew was miniature turbines so that is where we started.
We had no money so I did the logo, please don’t laugh this was 1981, I even did 3 versions of it so that it could be scaled. All of our products were function dictating form and as such were a very unattractive bunch. Again the literature was home grown as we could not afford a photographer and any photographs that were used were taken by me and then carefully cut out with a scalpel and where required touched up with a 6B pencil.
Looking back at this lot it is a miracle that we got going at all. Having said that we did make a stonking great big loss in the first year and it was only my insistence that if the bank let us continue we could turn this loss into a profit for both them and us. The only philosophy we had at that time was “let’s do it differently but a little better” and not compete with the big boys head on. We used up-to-date engineering plastics and the most chemically resistant materials we could as standard, this was as much to reduce inventory and tooling as being clever, the least number of components we had to stock the better so these bits had to cover the widest possible number of applications.Having expanded the range over the next 20 years to include ever more versions of the mini-turbine and introducing positive displacement meters we reached the point where 95% of our business was OEMs and distributors and our customer base was varied and loyal.
I started again considering non-intrusive metering and approached several erudite institutes including Cranfield University. As luck would have it they had a theory that would make small bore ultrasonic metering a viable possibility and of the technologies on offer this one looked the most likely candidate to me. This was my first foray into the unknown and a giant step for me the control freak as we started a government assisted TCS scheme. My problem was I have no knowledge of ultrasound behaviour, electronics or software and I was having, for the first time, to completely trust other people. The basic principles offered a meter that would have 20:1 flow range and ±2% accuracy, a very acceptable meter we thought. Over the next 7 years this beast just got better and better and we ended up with a product with a 200:1 flow range and as of this week a linearity approaching ±0.5% over the whole range. This is an exceptional level of performance that would give us a world leading product which we had to capitalise on using the quickest and most effective method. The company had to look professional and the product must have the wow factor.Enter the South West Design Programme team and Design Adviser Kathryn Hughes and apparently even more loss of control with a firm push to take me outside my comfort zone. Be assured ladies and gentlemen these people can be sadistic.
If I remember correctly the green blob represented our “Vision” and the orange blob the strategy. Obviously the boundaries became blurred and the original post-it notes were frequently and quite frankly sometime arbitrarily moved from one side to the other. This brainstorming session resulted in a more structured 13 page proposal giving clear guidelines and targets the basis of which were:- “• Design the enclosures or housing for a new product so the look and feel is distinctive, true to the brand and clearly identifiable as a ‘range of products’ whilst creating the smallest possible enclosure size. The brand and communications project is to:• Rebrand Titan Enterprises, and• Brand and launch a technically innovative new product into existing and new markets.” All of this obviously means more discomfort for me. It appears I was becoming a bit of a masochist and unknown to me more was to come. A list was prepared of proposed suitable partner companies, hopefully one company covering all aspects of our requirements. Eight companies in all put in presentations and between us we selected KinnearDuffort to do the brand identity and industrial design and Charter Solutions to take Kinnear’s product “feel” and the new company identity on to the market place. Kinnear took the brief and started with the brand/company identities whilst working on the meter look. Several designs for each were presented.
I wanted a product name to try to set some sort of industry standard as in “what we need is a sonic Hedgehog” which is what my friends in the pub wanted to call our new meter but Sega seemed a little big to take on although it is memorable. The name we all liked from a list of around 40 and the best for the flowmeter was “Pulsite” and we could find no use for this anywhere else. Our trade-mark attorney had a different opinion and advised against it as we wanted to get started straight away so the name should be unchallengeable in both Europe and the US. We shifted this name and design to a display instrument we will be offering to the market in the next few weeks thinking it is a less prestigious product and less important if the brand falls to the wayside. After much further deliberations (which I am sure I drove Kinnear’s patient staff to distraction) we selected Atrato which has the distinction of being the fastest flowing river in the world. My advice to anyone not wishing to call their new baby the “X437B MkII” would be to choose the product name at the outset of the project definitely not wait until the product is nearly there. There brief was to design a meter that would be a “cross over” device that would be acceptable to laboratory technicians, medical institutions and process control engineers. Of the graphic representations presented several would be perfect for individual market sectors so a further iteration concentrated on just 3 options on which the current design was based. Having chosen the basic design the graphics and mechanical engineering were combined. It was my intention at this stage to take over the final engineering design but as these guys had gone so far and I was up to ears in the final details of the beast itself we asked them to take the product through to full production specification. At each stage of this process Kinnear presented us with a power point demonstration showing the thoughts behind the final designs and giving us various choices of which direction to continue.
I do not know the internal workings of a design agency, and please pardon my analogy, but as a liquid handling man I imagine it rather like a vortex with all the loose stuff on the surface of the water, everything from loose ideas and concepts to a want list all floating about and as these are drawn into the centre they get tumbled around and tossed about by the various disciplines within the vortex sharing information and progress with an occasional prod from a senior design authority to ensure that it does not all spin out of control. Finally the product drops out of the bottom all shiny and hopefully perfect. In this mix, KD brought together a project team with user-centred design experts which led to the final version with a USB port, the mountings adapted for different environments, the carry pack/kit - and this all that adds more value to what the end-user gets and puts us streets ahead of the competition. After the project was complete and paid for Kinnear still helped with a lot of hand holding on practical issues. These included, among other things - graphic details and troubleshooting the production tooling.
Alongside all of this activity I was still trying to nail the final software functionality, calibration issues and some troublesome practical issues like getting an acceptable laser weld on a 1mm bore 316 stainless steel tube and should we use a single straight 75mm length of tube or a 330mm coiled tube either works but should we push the specification further. I made the decision to fix the design and leave further developments for after the launch which would also give us further options to extend the publicity window further. We will release other versions over the year, higher and lower flow rates, high pressure units and high temperature versions. Meanwhile Charter Solutions had begun their operations and we going through more brain storming sessions on the final graphic concepts for the company look and feel, preparing press releases, technical literature and website design. More power point presentations and decisions for me. A nice Gant-chart for the whole publicity and literature generation cycle which Charter have stuck to despite my being late with various aspects. Our publicity material was rubbish even I recognised that and we had no brochure at all just on-line downloadable data sheets.
Charter gave us a new identity and design signature to take forward.We attended the Medtec exhibition at the NEC 3 weeks ago which I stopped doing around 20 years ago as being too much effort for too little return but I was assured that the pre and post event publicity was worthwhile. Interviews with various sections of the technical and local press and lots of discussions about what Titan has achieved and how we should be proud of it and shout from the rooftops. Believe it or not this is very alien to me my view is that to date we have been very lucky and why should I go outside my comfort zone any more. If you enter atratoflowmeter in Google you will get over 2000 results, we have had press releases published in some 100 journals, we quoting the meters daily and we are ahead of our first months predicted sales. Our whole perspective has shifted and we are now more aware of the company image and design values. As I said at the start “Industrial design don’t do it”
Don’t do it if you are not prepared to go outside, perhaps way outside, your comfort zone.Don’t do it if you are not prepared to trust outside organisations.Don’t do it if you are 100% certain that your internal team can offer the same quality of result. But. Do it if you want a cathartic look at your business, products and company values.Do it if you can bring yourself to accept (in my experience) very professional outside help.And finally do it even if you fully trust your internal design team as an unbiased external perspective is highly likely to raise issues and offer improvements to your product and design process.
Transcript of "Trevor Forster Presentation - Profit from Design"
Profit from design<br />Trevor Forster Titan Enterprises Ltd.<br />