Emerging consumer trends like Smart Technology, Resimercial, and Product Customization are transforming the ways consumer products are being bought, sold and used. Today’s consumers want trendy, high-quality products and they want them fast. They share their likes and dislikes, and purchase products from multiple channels including brick-and-mortar retail locations, mobile apps, social media, and eCommerce websites.
These emerging trends are causing consumer goods manufacturers to re-evaluate the way they do business. In order to compete, they will need a product development process that can manage the full product lifecycle from gathering customer requirements, through product design, simulation, and manufacturing. Many consumer goods companies operate on a global scale, where they may design in one company, manufacture in several locations, and distribute products globally. Using PLM software to manage the collaboration between the remote functions is no longer an option, but a necessity if these companies want to compete in the digital economy.
Giving Consumers What They Want
The customer is always right─a commandment for consumer goods manufacturing companies where customer desires drive the designs and features of the next bicycle, office chair, or powered lawn mower. Today, more than ever, consumer wants and needs are driving the global consumer goods markets. Consumers are more demanding and particular than ever. They want high-quality products that are environmentally friendly, customizable and affordable. If they like what they buy, they’ll share their accolades with their friends and family via social media. If they’re unhappy, they’ll share it with the world.
While there are many factors consumers consider when purchasing new products for their home or office, a few emerging trends appear to be having a greater impact on product development and manufacturing requirements.
Smart or Connected Technology
Consumers want products that are connected via technology. Smart devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home are everywhere. Not only do they allow ‘hands-free’ operation of smartphones and computers, they connect multiple devices throughout the home including lights, thermostats, security systems, and entertainment systems.
Another evolving industry is the mobile healthcare product used by healthcare providers to monitor and diagnose patients from remote distances. These smart technology products integrate enterprise applications, mobile apps and devices, and high-speed internet communications. Product design engineers have to consider how these new software-driven technologies influence the product development process.
New Workspace Trends Lead Towards Fully Customized Furniture
The mass adoption of mobile computing and wireless networking products have spawned a movement in the workplace. No longer do companies need to invest in ‘cubicle farms’ to house their employees to their hard-wired personal computers. Companies are tearing down the cubes and cork boards and creating collaborative workspaces with shared tables, comfortable work areas, and customized conference and meeting areas. Interior designers are also looking for more options in terms of materials, fabrics, and finishes. Living environments are also becoming popular with live plants interspersed into the workspace.
Furniture manufacturers are looking for ways to develop agile manufacturing methods in order to keep up with these ever-changing consumer demands.
A recent article posted on Huffpost.com discusses how resimercial─the trend of adding residential looks to commercial spaces is driving the demand for customization. Designers are looking for those ‘homey’ items that can make the workplace feel more personal. Anne Gibson, IIDA, LEED AP, Principal and Design Director for Gensler in Chicago, shed insight into how the term customization has evolved. “Ten years ago, ‘custom’ meant altering a standard product – asking for a new finish, modifying dimensions, or specifying a COM,” explains Gibson. “This kind of ‘custom’ was a small percentage of my work. Today, that level of alteration is the norm for every standard product and I am routinely using an obscure upholstery on a lounge chair with custom-trimmed throw pillows. And, now, a sizable percentage of the pieces I specify are entirely unique.” (source: Rising Demand for Custom Furniture).
So how do leaders of consumer goods manufacturers keep up with these growing trends?
While many organizations continue to use traditional product lifecycle management (PLM) software, innovative companies are embracing new technologies to streamline their product development processes. Cloud-based solutions can improve collaboration and data sharing among remote locations. Social media tools allow product managers to communicate and collaborate with their customers. Product designers can share realistic 3D prototypes using virtual reality (VR) tools and systems. Product engineers can use advanced simulation and testing tools to streamline their product development operations and increase their speed-to-market. These companies focus on breaking down departmental silos and look for better ways to leverage digital assets across the global enterprise.
Office Furniture Leader Improves Speed-to-Market
One company who found themselves dealing with this customization trend is Nowy Styl, a European leader in comprehensive furniture solutions and the third largest manufacturer of office furniture in Europe. With six brands and offices in 17 countries, Nowy Styl found themselves looking for their own solution to this demanding problem.
“Each of our customers have specific needs requiring individual analysis, space planning, and customized production and we pride ourselves on concepts that balance design and engineering,” said Tomasz Pardzik, CTO, Nowy Styl Group who implemented the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. “Dassault Systèmes’ industry solution experience helps our technical departments, personnel, partners and suppliers better communicate and monitor and detect issues early in the development process to optimize product quality.”
One of the key features of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is the ability to share ideas directly with the clients. “We are often using the virtual space to predefine and design the answers for our clients,” Pardzik said. “With the 3DS we can share our experience and knowledge directly with the clients.”
Putting Simulation to the Test
The sporting goods industry is always looking to improve performance. Bicycle manufacturers face the same pressures as the office furniture manufacturers, except in their case, customers want even more. “Lighter, stiffer, faster, and better ride quality are common goals,” says Jay Maas, analysis engineer with Trek Bicycles. “We couldn’t have stayed ahead of our competition without pushing our analyses to the next level.” With over 1,600 employees and 1.6 million bicycles sold each year, Trek is North America’s largest manufacturer of carbon bikes.
To improve their product’s performance they have turned to 3D simulation as part of their PLM solution to reduce the number of design iterations. Using the Abaqus finite element analysis (FEA) application from SIMULIA to test and predict stiffness values in the virtual world. According to Maas “Using simulation to predict that weight and stiffness ahead of time reduced the number of make-and-break cycles necessary to get where we needed to be.”
The My Product Portfolio Industry Solution from Dassault Systèmes
Integrating product marketing with design and manufacturing in a global consumer goods company can certainly be challenging without an integrated PLM solution. The My Product Portfolio solution from Dassault Systèmes allows consumer goods manufacturers to collaborate on a global basis to shorten product time-to-market and improve communications between product managers, design engineers, and manufacturing engineers to develop and build products with complex product configurations and change orders. It also helps engineers simulate and test products without the need for destructive testing and streamlines the manufacturing and machining processes.