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Case Study: Benedetti International

Case study written by Darragh Murphy.

Suggested citation:
Murphy, D. (2007). DME Case Study: Benedetti. DME Library.

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Case Study: Benedetti International

  1. 1. dme_design management europe design management europe Benedetti UK Why should first aid boxes be square? Why should they be green? Why haven’t we invented a neat way of dispensing cling film? These questions are the hallmark of an inquisitive mind, combine that with a passion for design and a shrewd business sense and you have a serial entrepreneur and a walking advertisement for design in business. Giovanni Benedetti is chairman of Benedetti International, a mother company for Wallace Cameron Ltd and Wrap Film Systems Ltd, two companies that firmly place their survival and success on design and innovation. When he bought Wallace Cameron in 2001 its turnover was £2million, today it is £37million with an 85% share of the UK market and a growing export rate. Similarly with Wrap Film Systems Ltd. It was bought a few years ago and increased its turnover immensely. In fact, Mr Benedetti has an impressive history of company acquisitions, builds and buyouts - twelve in total, ranging from freight logistics and industrial cleaning to paper systems and launderettes. It is not by accident Benedetti has enjoyed this success. Design and innovation, especially radical innovation where it did not seem possible, are the core values he has applied to all of these businesses. “What gives the company value is design and innovation, it makes it unique and it takes market share from the big boys. Then they want to buy the company. . . I attribute design 100 per cent to that success, without that we’re nothing. “ - Giovanni Benedetti, Chairman of Benedetti International
  2. 2. dme_design management europe Benedetti enjoys being the underdog and exploits the advantages of being a medium sized business in order to gain market share from the large companies. Their design capabilities coupled with continuing innovation and new products are winning them large contracts from large buyers in commodity markets dominated by the big players. Their success is going against the declining trend of Scottish manufacturing and beating cheap Chinese imports to win large lucrative contracts. The Wallace Cameron range of first aid kits take up 95% of the catalogue market, 85% of the UK market and export is growing year by year. The Products Characteristic of the Benedetti approach to design are the radical improvements his products have made to conventional and inadequate predecessors. The Millennium Award winning Adulto first aid kit is a refreshing revision of a tired product and addresses the changing priorities to Health and Safety in the work place. Its contents and the manner in which they are dispensed have been carefully considered to improve treatment and supply. Simple changes such as the transparent casing to view contents and bright colours to improve visibility all offer a different and better product. Other features, including pilferproof plasters, which prevent plaster theft, indicate a high level of attention given to the product and its function. Dedicated packaging of the medical supplies with simple instructions improves treatment as well as creating a systems approach to generate future supply sales. Subsequent developments of the Adulto First Aid box have been tailored systems for different environments; offices, factories, laboratories and workshops. Opportunities are found in everyday problems and the Benedetti Cling Film dispenser is another example of this approach to capitalising on the shortfalls of their competitors. After years of frustration with inadequate cardboard boxes featuring a useless serrated cutting edge, the Benedetti Cling Film disposable dispenser instantly begs forgiveness for the minutes and meals lost in the past to the cling film box. dme_design management europe page 2 | 6 To cut and dispense a sheet of Cling film from the roll you simply need to pull the film to length, close the lid and with a satisfactory pushing action it cuts the sheet free from the role with a clean, straight, tangle free edge. The clever part of the design is the bi-polymer extrusion with a soft element that grips the film in place for cutting. These products are selling because people want them, they want something better, different and are willing to pay for it. Benedetti’s products are always addressing what the customer wants and what the customers didn’t know they
  3. 3. wanted. Always challenging the convention is Benedetti’s form of innovation. New products open doors for their sales team and change attitudes in the company. Change and design is not about making money, it is about survival, especially in today’s economy. Motivating change Having the staff is in an established company, experiencing the benefits of change and innovation; motivating and pulling them out of the old routine is the first challenge for a new owner. Benedetti laid out the plan clearly for everyone at the start; “We’re not going around the earth we are going to the moon. We may not get there but certainly we are going to be in orbit, we’re not staying here. I am not interested in 5% or 10% better, if there is not 50% better I am wasting my time and effort . . . our dispensers are not going to look like any other dispenser”. Straight talking and passion is a motivating force and can rub off onto the employees, if he doesn’t believe in it then the staff won’t. Centralised Design in Benedetti International Benedetti has placed the design department next to his office, a clear indication of the importance it has been given in the company’s strategy. In operational companies innovation is difficult because staff are busy running the company; it leaves innovation distant from central management and never gets done. By centralising design, it allows the innovation process to be rapid, productive and everything that is started gets completed. For Benedetti dme_design management europe dme_design management europe page 3 | 6 “I’m running my business on innovation, that is what I do. I am the guy that keeps the engine boiling all the time.”
  4. 4. dme_design management europe dme_design management europe page 4 | 6 it allows a ‘hands-on feel’ to keep on top of design developments. He sees his role as a design leader rather than design manager, as he puts it, “It is as much knowing what you don’t want as what you want.” The in-house design team is large, with thirteen members from several design disciplines - production engineering, industrial design, graphic design, web design and two design managers, working on both Wallace Cameron and Wrap Film Systems products. Designers are recruited straight from University to bring fresh ideas and an open mind to what can be done. Their ‘anything is possible’ attitude is valued in the company. Equipped with the latest software, and even their own rapid prototyping facilities, the design department represents an annual investment of £500,000 per year, or 1.3% of turnover. Having design as a fixed overhead allows Benedetti to keep ideas moving and work on them until they become what he wants. The busier he keeps the design department the more cost effective it is and the more new products are released. It is this hands-on approach to design and innovation that suits his style of management, not monthly review meetings with an external consultancy. The innovation design process With such a considerable design capability at their disposal Benedetti International can approach new ideas and products with confidence. The informal new product development process used by them encourages new ideas and team thinking. Often it will start with Benedetti identifying problems that the company can address and market opportunities that they can profit from profit from. He will then collect a team of ten or eleven sales and operational staff and designers to spend a day discussing and sketching ideas on the briefs he has compiled. The best ideas are then compiled and given to the design team to turn into presentable concepts. Once completed the paper concepts are presented to the team again for feedback. The concepts are shortlisted, features can be swapped and modified, and everyone in the team contributes to the process. The team may want to revise the brief again until they feel it is right and repeat the process. The advantage of having design as a fixed overhead affords this approach to design development. With a consultancy the costs go up with every change and there is less control over the quality of the output. Benedetti has the final say in what goes forward for design development. He has not ring-fenced a budget for design, but if he thinks it is a good idea then he will want it made – a good idea will make money. Once the final design is approved by Giovanni it is handed down to the operational units for production. The batch manufacture and market testing is by passed for mass production. The justification for this is that it saves time and money, they don’t have time to wait two years for a perception when they know what the customers and the market wants, as Benedetti says, “We have 14 guys here, are you telling me they can’t decide what is good for their market?” Market research and feedback is conducted after the product is made, as asking customers
  5. 5. dme_design management europe dme_design management europe page 5 | 6 what they think of a product is more useful than asking them what they would want. Surveys are also used to improve products. The Wrap Film disposable dispenser had a 90% positive feedback from TESCO customers. The innovation design process at Benedetti International has a logical structure which facilitates the input of many experts at the start which can improve the development stages further down the process. The informal nature of the process works to encourage ideas and with the current design capability they can manage six or seven full product development programmes at one time. Benedetti’s strength, particularly in problem solving, is that he never gives up. Even though it may not seem achievable he knows there is always a solution and will persist until they find it. It is his drive that brings projects to completion, especially when designers are faced with a brick wall. “We have three gates but we don’t like it too structured, sitting down, discussing and progressing it is a lot more freer and gives the opportunity to come up with more ideas. It opens projects out more.” Sheena Jack, Design Manager, Benedetti International PLC Value added design service The design department is not alienated from the rest of the company’s activities. Instead it supports them. The quality of service and sales is enhanced by the expertise and originality they can provide. For example, in a recent bid for a catalogue contract the Benedetti International sales team furnished their prices in the format of the catalogue page with full layout, images, prices and index. The catalogue company was already impressed with their
  6. 6. dme_design management europe dme_design management europe page 6 | 6 product but their ‘catalogue page’ pitch convinced them to take the risk with a new supplier. In the first year their single page outsold other pages by four times, this was largely due to the quality of the product but it was also due to their ability to design and improve the layout of the page allowing customers to easily understand the new product. The following year they were asked to supply and design the entire catalogue. Benedetti International claim to know their products better than anyone else and they certainly know how to market them. This is an excellent example of providing design as a value added service. Consultancy Benedetti has turned his expertise and internal design and innovation values into a successful business consultancy service. Board members of large businesses take his advice seriously because they see him as a businessman with an impressive track record. Unlike the majority of design consultants he will define his own brief for the company and present complete solutions; product, packaging and marketing on a royalty only basis. This gives him the flexibility to make the ideas work rather than negotiate further time and funds when required. He uses the design capability at his company as a valuable resource tool to develop and present ideas to his clients. Recently his staff completed a television advertisement concept for a client as they recognised it as an innovative marketing strategy. This was beyond the expectations of the client who was now able to visualise where the product was going. Current products for which they are providing advice include baby monitors, food packaging, paper systems, an environmental shopping bag and campaign and pallet systems. Conclusion Giovanni Benedetti’s total reliance on Design and Innovation for business growth is based on positive experience and the view that the world needs a lot of improvement. Although the success of Benedetti International is largely based around the qualities of one man there are many aspects of this case study that can be transferred to other companies: Design as a fixed overhead of the business rather than a performance indicator activity, thereby allowing more ideas to be generated, explore them further and achieve exactly what they want. Centralising design in the management of the business allows control of its output and therefore the future of the business. Using design as a value added activity to support marketing, sales and service. Including representatives of all sections of the business in the idea definition and generation stages of the process, which allows concepts to be thought through fully and ease the development process later on. Use design as a business tool/communicator Darragh Murphy, 28th August 2007