FORGE Design & Engineering on Blog

FORGE Design & Engineering on Blog

Jul 20, 2018

Forge Announces Manufacturing Alliance

Forge Announces Manufacturing Alliance August 8, 2018 Oxford, Conn. & Avon, Conn. – Forge Design & Engineering has completed discussions to form an alliance with a marketing and manufacturing consortium of premier Chinese manufacturers. With this development Forge can now provide pilot production runs at its recently expanded Connecticut facility and high volume overseas manufacturing to U.S. clients, leveraging the strengths and advantages of each in production planning. The alliance comprises over 25 manufacturing facilities around Hangzhou, China, a hub for small to medium factories close to Shanghai and Ningbo, among the largest ports in China. This operational and production partnership is managed stateside with logistics, sourcing, manufacturing and QA/QC experts integrated into Forge’s product development team. The manufacturer base has been carefully selected and vetted to include a broad range of production technologies and processes used in the manufacture of consumer, electronic, medical and industrial products. The founders of Forge –  Ed Gilchrest, Chief Engineering Officer, and Frank von Holzhausen, Chief Design Officer have assembled teams of researchers, designers, engineers and manufacturing experts to help clients bring insights-driven and production-proven innovations to market quickly and efficiently. “The alliance broadens our depth and range of capabilities, providing expanded services to our clients, from small design or engineering initiatives to integrated, multidisciplinary solutions,” stated von Holzhausen. Gilchrest added “This dovetails perfectly with our expanded Connecticut production and assembly space for low-to-medium volume manufacturing. Now with high volume manufacturing partners, Forge can offer clients a full range of options to better plan for strategic, timing and efficiency issues as well as production complexity.” About Forge Design & Engineering Forge dynamically links consumer & end-user research, design, engineering and manufacturing to create complete, market-ready products leveraging insights, the latest technologies, materials, and production processes. This functional integration mitigates time-consuming handoffs to multiple resources at critical stage gates minimizing risks to product viability and time-to-market. For More: Ed Gilchrest Co-Founder & Chief Engineering Officer 203.702.4010 Frank von Holzhausen Co-Founder & Chief Design Officer 860.678.1570

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Jun 27, 2018

Innovation Unwound: Paths to “Faster, Cheaper, Better.”

Innovation Unwound:  Paths to “Faster, Cheaper, Better.” June 27, 2018 From our Innovation Unwound series…thoughts on reaching New Product Development’s Holy Grail “Faster. Cheaper. Better” In today’s new product development environment Faster and Cheaper are near givens while Better is less about incremental improvements and has become more about disruptive innovation.  In a relatively short period of time we have gone from “pick one” to charging the development team to achieve all three within ever tightening constraints. Compounding the challenge – product development objectives can quite easily be at odds with one another: cost cutting risks diminishing returns and commoditization. Speed-to-market can burden quality, and Better, as in truly innovative, can easily fall victim to external events, shifting budgets, even company culture and end up with incremental improvements, but not the game-changing promise of true innovation. Solutions: While no single answer can possibly cover the range of company-specific objectives, obstacles and processes, there are a few tactics to consider: Rapid Iteration comprises not only rapid prototyping and 3D printing but also a comprehensive project management approach – tightly synchronized research schedules to keep development on track and aligned with the intended user base; a holistic, inclusive project team with key stakeholders – e.g. engineering, marketing, manufacturing, involved early and often to minimize or eliminate costly backtracking. What do you already know: Some projects come with little or no research, others with boxfuls. Another knowledge stream to investigate: research conducted by other internal teams that may have touched upon your area. A review by your team or outside eyes may provide surprising insights that could enhance the focus of your research and/or design strategy. Product Platform Strategy: Many of us became aware of this approach in the auto industry. Brands sharing platforms (e.g. Buick / Chevy, Ford / Lincoln etc.) is now a strategy well entrenched in many categories. Developing multiple products from a core architecture creates opportunities to address user segments and channel partners strategically. With care not to dilute your brand this can be an effective strategy to meet the needs of your consumer segments and your customers – i.e. retailers. When said and done, you’ll have more products to market faster with the heavy design and engineering lifting done, cheaper thru common parts and assembly efficiencies, better, if you can-through whatever means available- understand and remain focused on user needs. Next in Innovation Unwound: “The Art of the Data”

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Jan 11, 2018

Innovation Unwound: Not Just Research, The Right Research

Innovation Unwound:  Not Just Research, The Right Research January 11, 2018 Market research to assess opportunities, identify and quantify markets and segments, how and where items are purchased etc. help focus product design, determine price points, set promotional strategies and much more. But alone they produce nothing to commercialize. Bridging the gap to winning product ideas typically springs from interaction with users through interviews, observations, groups, in combination or singularly. But, oft times the “R” budget in new product R&D is skewed towards Market Research. “Insights” would be shared with design and engineering with a disproportionate (or entire) research budget used up without insights to be gained by eyes-on/hands-on research directly with users. Failing to engage potential users early in the process pushes a designer’s perspective and an engineer’s focus on functionality and manufacturability to later in the development cycle. Opportunities for innovation may be missed, intractable manufacturing problems can erupt and product ideas that look good on paper may find a lackluster market response. Solution: As you develop or review product development plans look closely for a balance between profiling the market and direct interactions with users in your priority segment(s).  Arm’s length analysis of market data may seem to confirm pre-conceived product ideas but can lead to pursuing less than optimum directions. Given the costs associated with innovation, R&D, and commercialization, investment in the right mix of research increases the likelihood of success and can be a welcome hedge against a costly failure. A well-considered research approach utilizing freshly-mined data and the perspective and interpretive capabilities of ethnographic researchers, designers and engineers will more likely unearth potential innovation opportunities that address needs of the users in your well-profiled segments. Phil Hallstedt Director, Business Development & Healthcare Phil can be reached at

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Sep 28, 2017

Well-Worn Innovation

Well-Worn Innovation September 28, 2017 Who would have guessed twenty years ago that we could in fact wear our heart on our sleeves? A report by Transparency Market Research projects the global wearable healthcare devices market to reach nearly $11 billion by 2023.* Driving these projections: advances in self-diagnostics, data reporting and self-medicating options are occurring in an environment where cost and care-sharing continues its inexorable shift from providers, insurers and employers to individuals. No longer a passive piece in the healthcare continuum, we are increasingly the “end-user” of healthcare devices and called upon to facilitate the collection and reporting of healthcare info from our wrists, abdomen, chest, sleeves… The current generation of wearables and associated apps exhibit improved usability, data collection and communication protocols bringing things closer to the doorstep of providing users action steps to correct, remedy, stop/start, contact their healthcare provider and untold others not yet conceived. Ultimately consumers will drive the acceptance and use of wearables. Data access and security, cost, reliability and accuracy are of course critical factors. Equally important – a highly considered and tested experiential design, as a poor user experience could lead to abandonment or inaccurate data reporting.  Nipping at the heels of the category itself are increasingly sophisticated and robust health & fitness phone apps that continue to absorb basic functionalities from off and on-body monitoring devices. Both the Apple Health and Google Fit apps are capable of providing basic fitness tracking data from relatively new iPhones or Androids which may drive some users to send dedicated devices into storage.  Wearables continue to grow – albeit at a decelerating pace Earlier this year Fitbit reported 23.7 million active users and 50.2 million registered device users, up 37% and 73%, respectively.  Strong numbers taken individually, but device registrations outpaced active users by a wide margin. While this only suggests a decrease in user engagement one can’t avoid the thought that disruptive platform shifts have not yet run their course. But it is clear consumer, health care professionals and investor energy remains behind wearables and wearables technology. In the rush to become relevant marketers & manufacturers must resist shortcuts and nowhere is this more important than in the currently unregulated world of wearable health & fitness monitoring devices. In healthcare the consequences of insufficient or misdirected research, poor design, inadequate testing or substandard manufacturing can have far-reaching, negative effects. Engage the resources available to you that can help steer the right course and get your product to market functioning and performing as envisioned. Frank von Holzhausen Co-founder/Chief Design Officer *“Global Wearable Medical Devices Market: Spiraling Demand for Portable and High-end Devices”, June 2017, Transparency Market Research Learn more here about working with Forge Design & Engineering

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Aug 14, 2017

Ideation: Magic by Design

Ideation: Magic by Design August 29, 2017 Ideation holds a somewhat mysterious “black arts” place in the product development lexicon. Once the door closes on what was a well-kept conference room later opens to reveal a blizzard of scribbled notes and easel sheets peppering walls, tables, floors and ceilings (yes, really!). It’s easy to assume that all the magic actually occurred during that relatively short time span, thereby leading to the perception of superhuman powers of creativity at work. While some of that may be true, the “magic” is mostly the result of a well-considered process, meticulous preparation and experienced hands keeping the action headed in a direction aligned with project objectives. Ideation, as is the case with innovation, has many definitions but at its core it is a process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas. What is much less in doubt is that ideation forms the backbone of the design and innovation process. Practitioners ranging from focused ideation/innovation experts to large product-development firms imbue ideation with their own wrinkles to create a proprietary aspect to the process. But the essence remains as a generative process to help solve problems, “disrupt” the current climate with revolutionary ideas and anything in between. “How do they do that?”   Ideation with little connection to what comes before and what follows likely will not realize its full potential. And since we are all in the business of business, there are objectives to meet at the far end of the process. The notion of an “electric” ideation session – and they can be just that – that is flush with ideas without some level of immersion into the context of the challenge, the product and end-user is certainly romantic, but rarely realized. The level to which the process reaches depends on allocated time and budget. But typically ideation includes audits of the market, the aisle, or other environments where the product is made, sold and used. While the term audit sounds like a rigid and straight-forward gathering of data, an audit also should reflect the perspective of those on the team – designers, researchers and marketers who would be sensitive to anomalies and opportunities. Not to be ignored are audits, interviews or observations of others within a product’s “Community of Interest” – that is those whose actions will impact the product in some way, such as in production and distribution, and those who will be impacted by the product, such as the purchaser and the end-user. The Chrysalis At this point a team would have the proper foundation to construct a basic hypothesis rendered through words, images or simple sketches. These would serve as stimuli in some form of consumer/end-user interaction, such as one-on-one inter-views or small focus groups perhaps coupled with shop-alongs or other similar activities. Interview verbatims or summations, video, audio and team insights derived from these efforts form the fertile ground for ideation. Now that the stage is set, it’s time to prepare the actors. Up to this point client activity has been largely passive – providing background, downloading relevant prior research, reviewing stimuli, helping gain access to people and places – but a successful session depends on active involvement and contributions from all. To help bring previous activities into focus, all may be tasked with specific responsibilities. Some may be asked to develop a brand “collage” consisting of whatever words, pictures or drawings best describe the participant’s emotions and perceptions around the challenge or the brand. Others can set out on activities to help focus conscious and subconscious thought. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination and experience of the ideation leader and research designers. But are there guarantees? There are none, other than that a well-designed process and ably run session will generate ideas – lots of them. While there is no session script per se, there does need to be structure and a guiding hand to keep a level of directional control. The leader needs to be open to excursions off the mainline but facile enough to shunt some ideas off to mid- or long-term tracks while pushing the team to reach further with others. Merlin Had an Assistant A bit of magic and a bit of mystery? That perception will live on, but behind the curtain is where successful ideation is defined and realized. A well-designed and well-run ideation process invariably produces potential solutions much further down the continuum toward real, manufacturable products and market success. Ideation to Innovation: Scotts Miracle-Gro Gro-Ables story here… Frank von Holzhausen Co-founder/Chief Design Officer Learn more here about Ideation and working with Forge Design & Engineering

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Jun 19, 2017

Skip the Skype: Let In-Person Be Your Default Meeting Format

Skip the Skype: Let In-Person Be Your Default Meeting Format June 19, 2017 Cultural references can be tricky but a recent article around a long held belief of mine compels me to comment. In its April 1 issue, Fortune magazine featured the “World’s Greatest Leaders” with the top spot bestowed upon Theo Epstein, the Chicago Cub’s President of Baseball Operations. Yes, the Theo Epstein of the strategic 5 year plan to erase 108 years of championship frustration and who in the 5th year of that plan succeeded in dramatic fashion. The selection panel focused on three qualities, among them the ability to: “Bring followers physically together. Research shows that when groups meet in person, face-to-face, they trust each other more, become better problem solvers, and are markedly more creative.” In Epstein’s case, his directive and driving principle upon taking the reins in Chicago was to acquire players of character.  A successful search for such players would not be determined by algorithms but instead by meeting with them – in person – to establish a connection and a relationship between individuals and between individuals and the organization. As a consultant who is called upon by clients to deliver and foster progress and innovation, I have always taken opportunities to meet clients in person – and these are not limited to just the “major” presentations. When assessing travel costs versus a skype call, video or teleconference be sure to include the “soft costs” of lost opportunities for collaboration, relationship building and information exchanges that are not likely to occur electronically. At the very worst, the client will appreciate the interest and intent while the upside is chock full of positives and possibilities. In the vernacular of the day – this practice may be tough to monetize but it is easy to understand the potential impact of an in-person client meeting. Frank von Holzhausen Co-founder/Chief Design Officer

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May 12, 2017

The Hardware Show – Pre-Show Optimism Well-Placed?

The Hardware Show – Pre-Show Optimism Well-Placed? May 12, 2017 Left for Las Vegas early this week with a degree of optimism that the pieces seemed to be in place to see a full and vibrant range of new products & innovations. Like many predictions the reality – as I perceived it – is a little more nuanced than a simple right or wrong. The Backyard, BBQ and Tailgating section was significantly expanded from years past mirroring the growth in Outdoor categories at large. New players, new cooking platforms and a consistent traffic flow generated a fair amount of energy.   Score one for the Optimist. Facing the New Product Area right inside the main entrance I was surprised at the small number on display. Optimist  – strike one. Working my way around the show over 2½ days I did take note of the increased presence of overseas manufacturers – by itself not surprising but along with that: the products are looking better and better and are reaching into more categories. Optimism – neutral, for now. New products that caught my eye include: Stanley branded electric pressure washers (by AR Blue Clean). A nice new form and a well-integrated hose reel. ProTouch Caulking System by Adhesive Technologies, been on the market for about a year. Makes a “no matter how much you prepare you’ll still end up with a mess” job a lot less difficult and messy. May mark my return to caulking jobs around the house. Kreg Tool’s Accu-Cut – allows a circ saw to cut as accurately as a table saw, and General Tool & Instruments Laser Tape. (full disclosure – we designed the product). Learned quite some time ago that when you hear statements like “Should have been done long ago”, “Why didn’t we think of this” as I did you’ve hit on a true innovation. As for the host city? Love it or hate it, what’s indisputable is the total and complete buy-in by local businesses, hotels, service workers – just about everybody – to the idea that visitors are guests and that impeccable service leads to good things for the city…like conventions returning year after year and drawing pro football and hockey teams to town. Frank von Holzhausen Co-founder/Chief Design Officer

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May 8, 2017

The Hardware Show – Do You Feel What I Do?

The Hardware Show – Do You Feel What I Do? May 8, 2017 I’ll be among the 20,000 or so descending upon Las Vegas this week to see what’s new at the Hardware Show. We’ve got a good number of shows under our belt, but this year’s seems to have a degree of anticipation around it that I haven’t felt in several years. Adding to the excitement is seeing work from our design team that will be on display, but we will be paying special attention to General Tools (Booth 6240). Our packaging work for their ToolSmart line of connected tools will be on display, as will some attention-worthy new products. If you’re also among the 20,000 I’d be happy to walk you over to the General Tools booth. Frank von Holzhausen Co-founder/Chief Design Officer

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Feb 23, 2017

Did you know its National Engineering Week?

Did you know its National Engineering Week? February 23, 2017 Since 1951 the National Society of Professional Engineers has sponsored EWeek in conjunction with leading academic institutions such as Georgia Tech, Purdue, Ohio St., dozens of engineering societies, corporations such as 3M, Boeing, Motorola and governmental agencies. The primary mission of EWeek is to promote math, science and technology literacy to our youth through a variety of programs and activities intended to attract and encourage a diverse engineering workforce for tomorrow. If you have future engineers in your life the website is an excellent resource for activities devoted to engaging students and promoting engineering’s vast opportunities and challenges that in the course of one generation have risen from the pages of technical publications to dinner table discussions. Here’s one link from the EWeek site listing E-related activities for all ages occurring in cities and towns across the U.S. 2017 EVents

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Jan 26, 2017

Aromatherapy…With a Twist

Aromatherapy…With a Twist January 26, 2017 When Coreena d’Alessandro first reached out to Forge, she was a passionate certified aromatherapist with an idea. In her vision, essential oils and the benefits of aromatherapy could be integrated into the life of the modern woman stylishly, effectively and subtly so as not to overpower. From that vision, the Cor Pendant emerged. As Coreena described what she wanted to achieve, she was very clear that there were certain values and considerations she would not compromise on.  The design, engineering, sourcing and production teams were sensitive to her needs and created a product and process that met all the objectives. First consideration: the pendants had to be made, assembled and fulfilled in the USA – Check! Forge vetted, sourced and manages parts and finishing vendors from Colorado, Rhode Island and Connecticut.  Final assembly is performed in Forge’s manufacturing facility in Oxford, CT. Second: Coreena wanted her pendants and wicks to be environmentally friendly and recyclable – Check! The replaceable wicks are indeed recyclable. Third: she wanted to be involved in the process, including approvals of the pendants’ aesthetic and functionality.  All Check! We have involved Coreena all along the way to preserve her passion and design inspiration in the final product. This beautiful aromatherapy jewelry piece hides a clever secret; a mechanism for releasing the scent of custom essential oil blends meant to enhance the wearer’s day. Eliminating the messy, complicated handling methods of competitive aromatherapy jewelry, Cor’s simple and elegant design encases a Cor Wick, infused with one of three essential oils developed by Coreena to deliver mood enhancing aromas. Cor has been featured and mentioned in a number of online reviews and independent blogs including “Would You Like To Experience My Aromatherapy Necklace?” by Anna Maltby of Refinery29 and was one of Cosmopolitan’s “30 Ways to Feel Calmer Every Day this Month” For more:  Cor Pendant Instagram @corpendant

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