Every growing and even some established door and window manufacturers and their suppliers are constantly striving to develop new products and / or services, they say. These new products are often developed at the manufacturer’s facility by a team that includes sales, marketing, distribution and production staff. Some companies have new product development teams while others have a new product development manager. Regular meetings are held to decide which products deserve new tools / purchases and ultimately go to market.
The process usually starts with the sales team requesting a product that they see on a competing product and without which they will be in an unfavorable competition. This is not really the development of a new product in its true sense, but “copy product development”. Generally speaking, there are no patent infringements, and all of a sudden, new “copied” products are part of the market that every manufacturer has. There has been no increase in margin or sales for the manufacturer or any other players in the distribution chain, and in fact a new “copy” product is soon a problem.
Some companies are becoming more inventive and really starting the process of new products where they should start – in the market. Does this mean that people with new product development titles and engineers should go the route? No way. But in most companies in this business, fenestrations need to be diverted.
As everyone sits down to write a great novel or make a great meal, they are also required to be influenced by factors outside their office or kitchen. These factors may not be experienced by surfing the web or talking on the phone with field contacts (sales people). They must be seen, scented, evaluated, tried, tried again and finally established as something that will truly make a difference and provide a competitor to the manufacturer and their customers. Sustainable competitive advantage places the company as “most popular” in markets that serve at least 6 months until copy innovators do theirs. Manufacturers can make it difficult and extend the copying process by making the entry fee into the copier higher.
More and more genuine innovators are conducting market research at workplaces, consumer homes, and retailers to find out what the market wants, needs and is willing to pay. Simplification and installation is one place where the window and door industry is beginning to understand the concept, and in some cases, it is making huge dividends. Some window and door manufacturers even incorporate their products into new buildings. Some are even installed in conversion or replacement programs. What’s the matter? Fewer product warranty claims since the installation is “factory installed”, window packaging is removed from the workplace, reducing waste bills. These services are not factory developed. They have been developed through field observations known as ethnographic studies, focus groups and one-on-one discussions and are finely tuned by a process called triangulation.
Ethnographic research is the same thing as the late Diane Fossi when she watched the great apes. Teams involving a qualitative researcher, a new product development person and an engineer / production person conduct between 12 and 16 field observations. One may ask … “do I need an external qualitative researcher?” An external researcher does not represent an effort bias. If only business people are involved, the whole process is likely to be compromised.
The following ideas and products are tested through focus groups and multiple one-on-one discussions. This may need to be repeated several times to achieve the right product for that competitive advantage. The immediate reaction of most company leaders is that the process is too expensive. But wait! How many new products failed and how much money was spent on those in marketing and production efforts?
It’s a trick. Conducting several tests to discover and find where the competitive advantage is.