Living in the new normal

The way we live and the way we go about our work, day to day has slowly eroded the quality of life for many and undeniably had a negative impact on the environment. In our last news article we touched on what a post-lockdown world could be like if everyone takes the time now to consider where their priorities should lie both at a personal and at a professional level.

After much discussion between all of us this is how we have embraced the new normal. The biggest change for us has been the relocation of some of our staff as a result of social distancing measures. There were some teething issues to do with the UKs inability to balance upload and download speeds in rural areas but we soon had everyone adapting to a new way of working.

In the office we have made changes including staggered breaktimes, availability of PPE and become more aware of not gathering around the printers etc. For those that work from home there has been an improvement in the work/life balance and with the assistance of modern technology, it is possible to liaise between those who need to come into the office and those who can work from home to maintain what is essentially a normal working week. With clients based across the UK and overseas, we were already geared up for remote conferencing and real time on-screen CAD viewing to discuss projects so it is unlikely clients will note any difference.

We think it is important to talk about what we have done because providing guidance and support to our clients, is a large part of our work as product designers. If we can practice what we preach and show resilience as a business, offer sustainable alternatives, cost saving measures and a more beneficial way of working, we can encourage these businesses to look at their own work priorities. We hope this would inspire them to look at how they too can embrace the new normal.

What else can we learn about the new normal as product designers and how do we respond?

The designer and the client have a responsibility to be mindful of the end use of the products they collaborate to design. With many goods in shorter supply and retailers also in lockdown, many consumers have utilised their right to repair and shown great intuition to fix what they have. Unfortunately for many years the right to repair has not been something manufacturers have wanted to support and the opportunity to repair products is limited mostly by having no spare parts available. If there was a mindset to create products that are intuitive to fix this would help combat our ‘throw away society’.

Now is a great time to open discussions and champion this approach. We believe this is a crucial role for Product Designers and manufacturers to address on a global scale.

If you are about to embark on a new product development and would like more information about how you could benefit from our insight, please contact us today.

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Is there a better way?

Over the weekend a video clip was released on the BBC of a Cornwall-based artist, spending his lockdown time collecting plastic rubbish from his local beach. He had collected over 50 million pieces and his joy at doing so was evident. This is just one of many hundreds of positive stories featuring the lives of individuals and communities shared during the covid19 lockdown. Paradoxically what appears to be emerging from our time in a global quarantine is an awareness of nature and our environments and at the same time exposes the true cost of how the human race treats our planet and each other.

In Boris Johnson’s recent public address, his words resonated with a clear “carry on and get back to work” message. However, we question should we really be hurrying back to how life was before the coronavirus or actually using these unprecedented times to re-evaluate how we live and how we work and find a better way for both?

On home soil, with 20% of the UK workforce temporarily furloughed and another 45% remote working, school closures and the country essentially ‘shut down’ the undeniable ‘life pressures’ the modern day world has created have all but vanished. Many now find themselves with more time to appreciate time at home with their families and exercise in traffic-free streets. To rediscover nature in our surroundings and breathe in clearer air.

A number of employers and employees have realised, maybe for the first time, that remote and flexible working actually benefits both. That long distance commutes and business travel abroad take their toll on our free time and our planet. When faced with an inability to make these journeys, we have adapted to a new way of working, using remote technology and conferencing for the large part. There would be a strong case for investing in this type of infrastructure and implementing this into every business post-lockdown.

Maybe now is as good a time as any to ask ourselves to compare our lives 6 weeks ago to what they are now. What are we seeing? What positives can we take from this? How can we apply these to how we live and how we work going forward? Is there a better way? The good news is that being in lockdown has meant working families and both employers and employees have had the time to talk together which will lead to open discussions that will ultimately benefit all.
To be clear, the outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic won’t be positive for everybody. There will be many losses to life and to the business economy. But what it has done is provided us with the opportunity on a global scale to learn lessons and rewrite the rules of how we operate on a day to day basis both personally and professionally.

We can all create something great together if we take the time to stop and think about where our priorities lie.

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Crowdfunding

In last week’s article, we focused on the difficulties of attracting investment if you are a private inventor. As we demonstrated, a certain amount of time, resource and capital has to be undertaken before any investor would even begin to take a pitch from you seriously. As a result of this, many small start-ups are seeking alternative ways to bring a product idea to life.

One new approach that’s been steadily growing in popularity is crowdfunding. Through the emergence of websites like Crowdcube and Seedrs ,crowdfunding is revolutionising the way businesses and projects are being funded, allowing small start-ups to use the power of the internet, social media and engagement to recruit and raise funds through a large number of small investors or lenders.

Nowadays, crowdfunding sites are heavily regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) making them a safer proposition to many new investors who might have been discouraged by the risks in the past. There are also notable tax relief benefits of up to 50% available to investors through Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes (SEIS) and Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS), making crowdfunding investments very attractive and potentially lucrative. Within crowdfunding itself, there are three models for raising funds which are equity-based, loan based and reward based, allowing a lot of flexibility to the start-up and the investor.

For private inventors, crowdfunding is seemingly a great way of getting traction for your idea and delivering your finished product into the hands of your target market. The flexibility of crowdfunding means that it is possible for private inventors to recruit more than just financial investment in the form of hard cash. For example, some “investors” with design or technology expertise will offer time in kind and lend valuable advice if the inventor was to run in to a hitch involving something such as manufacturing during the product development stage.

However, the golden rule of any New Product Development (NPD) is to protect your idea with intellectual property. With crowdfunding it would be easy to fall foul of the copy cats so the trick is to provide enough information to entice the investors, but not to divulge so much that it puts your product in jeopardy before it’s even entered the marketplace.

Crucial to this is ensuring you have developed a robust intellectual property strategy. You should make sure that you’ve filed all necessary patent, design and/or trademark applications before you go public on a crowdfunding site. It is also crucial that you have worked out your timings, to make sure that you have enough funding to see you through the various stages in intellectual property filings and product development. If you postpone developing an IP strategy, patent protection (for example) is unavailable and you run the risk of losing the rights to your own invention.

You also must know the exact detail and terms of your product offering, even if this means delaying going public until all the details have been ironed out. It is easy to get whipped up in the excitement of the moment but it’s important to keep your feet firmly on the ground. Seeking advice from an IP Attorney and having supporting illustrations for your new product provided by an experience Product Designer will help to secure your legal position.

The expertise of a Pleasure Product Design Consultancy like Sated Design could be a clever move during the early stages of your New Product Development (NPD), however as a full service agency we can step in at any time up to the point of manufacture to assist you on your journey. Contact us today.

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Private Inventor home truths

At some stage or another many of us will have an idea for a new product; a product which we believe will become the next great invention. This is very exciting but it is easy to be swept up in the excitement of being a private inventor and to count those chickens before they hatch.

Over the years we have talked to many private inventors and we always dread the calls from those inventors who have spent their precious resources only to end up with artistic CAD drawings of their product and a big cost milestone in their patent application. Sadly, this type of call often comes at a time when the private inventor has run out of money, out of time to secure investment and now face losing the exclusive rights to their own invention.

How does this happen?

Many private inventors cannot fund the entire process of bringing a product to the market and they require investment. Investment is not easy to secure. There are some companies who offer ‘help’ to private inventors by offering artistic CAD drawings and a patent application. The danger is to think that having a pretty picture with a patent application will be enough to get an investor on board. Is this really enough? An investor is looking at investment as a business risk; so they need to be convinced that their risk is manageable and there will be enough reward in taking that risk. So, what does an investor really look for when making their decision to invest?

• The investor will undertake due diligence using their own professional IP resource to establish if the intellectual property the inventor has is adequate (relevant, robust, defendable) and is worth maintaining.

• The investor will want properly researched and presented facts and figures to demonstrate the size of the potential market for the invention, and its competitive landscape. This will include a competitor’s analysis and a patent landscape, ideally with a freedom to operate analysis.

• The investor will want to know the costs of developing the invention into a manufactured product. Development can involve considerable expenditure in prototypes, tooling, testing, compliance and approvals.

• The investor will want to know costs of branding, packaging, marketing, stock holding and distribution.

To put it simply, investors need to be presented with a properly designed and costed product supported by robust intellectual property.

At Sated Design we have a team of design and engineering experts who all share a passion for creating successful products. We are supported by Chartered UK Patent Attorneys from world class intellectual property firms. Our track record is proven by hundreds of products and thousands of component parts taken from the first sketch all the way through to manufacturing, sometimes in their millions.

If you have an idea for a great new pleasure product, contact us today.

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The Lockdown Lowdown – Part 3

Managing Director Chris Howsam shares his thoughts about the lockdown.

For many years I have maintained a fully functioning office at home complete with CAD and secure access to all our files and documents. I can’t remember when this was not the case as it has been driven by the needs of planning projects, dealing with admin and working with clients/suppliers in different time zones. Having video conferences at 3am to look at tooling in China or talking to clients in far flung places at 9pm is quite normal and part of the day to day challenge of delivering our product design services. The challenge of Coronavirus now means that a home office is crucial for many of us. In my case I am sharing my time between home and the office. Work that can be done at home is done there but work that needs to be hands on with parts must be done in the office. There are of course the usual items of post and parcels that need to be dealt with, many of them necessary to maintain the running of the business.

Within Sated Design we now have some staff working from home and some working in the office. By liaising between those who need to come into the office and those who can work at home we maintain a normal working week. Thank fully, the office space and workshops are large enough that we maintain social distancing. Unfortunately, we don’t have the same buzz in the office because of the reduction in conversation and bustle of people moving about it feels a little odd, almost like working on a weekend. Gadget and Gizmo (the office dogs) must think everyone is on holiday!

Everyone here has adopted to the new way of working without any drama and this set me thinking about what could happen once the lock down is over. I think there will be a need to redefine how many businesses operate. The changes imposed on us through Coronavirus and the lock down have added a different dynamic which will change the status quo.

Of course it will be impractical for some to work from home but there are many that could work in an office facility close to their home. The provision of more leased workspaces in residential areas and town centres created from vacant retail or office space would reduce travel costs and travel time for many. The concept of leased workspaces is not new because many business start-ups get off the ground in this way, but I see many people wanting to work nearer to home, especially after proving they can work remotely from a central office.

I believe there is something positive to be learned about how businesses are coping with lockdown and this could result in improvements to the work and life balance of many people. Do we go back to everything as it was or do we as employers and employees actively engage in discussion about what we have learnt about how we work and use it to define a better way?

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The Lockdown Lowdown – Part 2

These are very strange days indeed and like many workers I am bunkering down and experiencing the joys (and tribulations!) of working from home.

Some years ago I worked full time from home, so in a lot of ways going back to that style of working has been easy to pick up again. However, the biggest difference between then and now is that we’ve since had two kids, bringing with them much joy, happiness and a significant amount of chaos!

The main challenges facing our household when it comes to working from home during this lockdown revolve around space and time management. I needed a quiet place to set up my workstation. We have a desk in the living room, which would have been great except for the fact that it’s in a communal area and I wouldn’t get a moments peace with a pair of under-fives running around. In the end I set up a makeshift workstation in the main bedroom. It’s rather cramped and far from being the perfect solution, but at least I can close the door and concentrate properly on my work.

The other problem we have is scheduling our days so that both I and my partner can work on our respective jobs. For me as a product designer it’s relatively simple as I’m able to sit down and log on quite flexibly. My wife however is a yoga teacher and while her in-person studio classes have been cancelled, she continues to teach some lessons by livestreaming and posting pre-recorded sessions on-line. Her livestream classes are at a set time each week, so in order to have a peaceful environment in which to teach, I use our allotted daily hour of exercise time to take the kids out and get some fresh air.

Communication and flexibility between everybody at home and the team at Sated Design has been very important to make sure we all know what we can contribute, and when. This way we can all have an opportunity to continue our work sensibly, even whilst under a lot of additional pressures.

If working from home is new for you then the best advice I can give you is to treat it as you would a regular working day – have a routine, get up, get dressed etc. Set clear working times to prevent the boundaries of work and home life from blurring. If you’re able to safely, go out for a short walk before you log in can help create a divide between your personal and professional time. Do some exercise after work to help you decompress. Try to create a dedicated work area at a desk or in a spare room if you have the space. Check in with your colleagues regularly and invite them to do likewise, preferably by video if possible so you can see each other’s faces and lessen the sense of isolation. Above all, communicate with people around you to work through challenges you may face individually.

Working from home is a compromise but as a positive I do get to see my children for lunch every day and that is a very special time. And who knows, once all this is over, maybe all our ways of working will never be the same again!

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The Lockdown Lowdown-Part 1

In these current unprecedented times, many working professionals now find themselves having to juggle home working with caring for their families. So how is it possible to ensure you are fulfilling your obligations to your employer as well as those in your care? Sated Design’s Marketing Manager Holly Hollis shares her experiences so far in her role as a home worker, educator and carer.

I am a single parent, raising two young children with cystic fibrosis (CF) – a genetic condition which is life limiting. I’m no stranger to complications. CF has a habit of throwing curveballs when you least expect it and never allowing you to take anything for granted. The respiratory symptoms caused by the Coronavirus could be catastrophic to my children and so (along with 1.5 million others in the UK) they have been placed in a 12 week isolation for their own safety and protection.

As I type we are 19 days in. Since we entered our isolation here at home, many across the globe have lost their lives. Many businesses in all sectors have had no choice but to shut up shop and every school has closed its doors. No one yet knows when this will end.

It’s a very challenging time for everyone – but for home workers the biggest challenge is managing to run your home, care for your children and provide the dedication and support expected by your employer. My role in Marketing means at this critical time, it’s more important than ever that I bang the drum and make some noise for Sated Design. If we keep a presence, it not only reassures our clients that we’re still in business but it also shows potential clients how resilient we can be.

The difficulty is that at the same time I am having to be a full time mum and dad, co-ordinate a care plan, oversee and support their education and still continue to run a home. Fortunately this is where digital marketing is a great help – you can pick up where you left off at any time of the day. My working week has become 24/7 as circumstances allow but the flexible nature of it means this can be managed around the needs of my children.

They have anxiety about the change in routine. They haven’t seen their father now, apart from a wave over the gate, since this all began. They miss their friends. They are scared for those they know. My approach has been to keep them busy. Whether it be drawing a rainbow for a neighbour to put in her window, making a new tortoise house out of an old cardboard box, or planting up a new vegetable patch in our garden we are making memories. In amongst all the devastation this pandemic has caused there are still reasons to feel positive and grateful.

It’s not easy. In fact it’s proving to be the greatest challenge of my life to date. But it is achievable and employers like Sated Design should take a small bow for doing all they can to help those like me who face these challenges.

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Keep calm and carry on innovating

In amongst all the doom and gloom being reported at the minute there are some incredible stories. Some of the UK’s leading engineers and manufacturers are retooling, innovating, collaborating and donating vital resources to support the coronavirus crisis. From small family run gin distilleries, making sanitiser to a large corporations building ventilators, there are so many shining examples of this happening across the UK and they have a vital part to play.

In the last two weeks, the Government has called out to designers and manufacturers from all disciplines for help. Sated Design has registered and we await instructions for how we can support the national effort against coronavirus. It’s extremely humbling to see that even in these unprecented times we can innovate, diversify and find ways to secure our businesses, our population and our economy.

At Sated Design we are focussing on supporting work in progress as there are still commitments to deliver on, however we are heartened to have received a number of new enquiries for our product design service.

Director Chris Howsam says “Some businesses are already thinking ahead and planning for what happens when the lockdown is lifted. We are supporting these businesses in any way we can so as soon as this is over, we can be the first out of the blocks”.

Pre-planning will make the difference when it comes to securing the future of your business. If you have a great idea for a pleasure product and would like a little help to guide you through the journey of making it a reality, take this opportunity and contact us today.

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Thinking beyond the ETO Show

We were extremely disappointed to learn of the postponement of this year’s ETO Show, which should have taken place this week. Tradeshows like these provide a great opportunity to network and take the pulse of the current marketplace. There are a number of brand new exhibitors which we were really looking forward to meeting. Never mind, let’s look forward to later in the year.

We are definitely ‘glasses half full’ kind of people and perhaps this current global situation as a result of the Covid-19 could actually pave the way for some really exciting New Product Development (NPD) in the adult toy marketplace.

Reported just this week is a growth of 13% in adult toy sales over the last fortnight as people begin a period of self isolation. The demand is there and we are certain there will be many of you out there with their heads full of new ideas for brilliant new adult toys or pleasure products.

Consider this: The current restrictions on flights, exhibitions and even possibly day to day working conditions will mean home working and time away from the office for reflection. Ask yourself, where do you want your business to be when these restrictions are lifted and how can you be ahead of the game?

Perhaps you’ve had an idea kicking around for ages but time has never allowed you to take it any further. Now is as good a time as any to take the bull by the horns and make it a reality!

This is where Sated Design can help you.

Our design process methods can get you to the point of manufacture so you are poised and ready to hit “GO” once the manufacturing industry is showing signs of recovery. We have a comprehensive range of in-house capabilities including 3D printing, CNC machining, model making and silicone casting, meaning that all prototyping can be done right here in our office. We are able to use CAD to create parts and assemblies ready to provide to manufacturers for quotation and production.

We don’t even need to physically meet up either. Our remote conferencing facilities mean we can discuss projects virtually and do on screen reviews.

Pre-planning will make the difference when it comes to securing the future of your business. If you have a great idea and would like a little help to guide you through the journey of making it a desirable reality, get in touch today.

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The potential of Industry 4.0

Much like SexTech, the manufacturing industry is on the cusp of its latest revolution. Industry 4.0 takes what was started in Industry 3.0 with the adoption of computers and automation and enhances it with networks of smart and autonomous technology that will collect large amounts of data. Through Industry 4.0 it is now becoming possible for these data systems to communicate important information about maintenance, performance and other product insights without any human interaction whatsoever. The consensus from industry experts is that the potential effects of these “conversations” on our manufacturers are huge and will ultimately result in quicker and more efficient, productive operations which will ultimately save them time and money.

The potential of Industry 4.0 is being realised by those organisations who are already adopting these smart technologies. You would not be on your own in assuming that Industry 4.0 is only realised by large corporations but the reality is that smaller enterprises will benefit too. For example, data stored in connected devices like the cloud could allow them access to technology they wouldn’t be able to have on their own.

Moving a few steps back from the point of manufacture, Industry 4.0 has the potential to impact on the entire design for manufacture process. As the Internet of Things (IoT) is realised, valuable data that can be shared on how products are used by the end users (the consumers) will influence how these products are designed and manufactured in the future. This data will be crucial for the early, embryonic stage of product design and New Product Development (NPD). It will be especially relevant to the development of adult toys and pleasure products where this data will be fully accessible through the Internet of Systems (IoS) including apps.

Industry 4.0 is still evolving. For the manufacturing industry the benefits of introducing smart machines into factories are clear. However, on a slightly less positive note, the presence of extensive data will add complexity to Intellectual Property and Design Rights. More concerningly the personal nature of the data recorded from the end users of adult pleasure products will need to be carefully managed to guard against potential data leaks. The laws of how this data will be stored and who it can be shared with will need to be carefully considered and agreed upon before Industry 4.0 becomes too firmly established in product design and manufacturing.

Paradoxically, the data potential of Industry 4.0, if made accessible, could be the catalyst to revolutionising how we operate and share best practices globally. Faced with all this new and informative data relating to performance and efficiency, wouldn’t it be great news for our planet if we were all able to learn from each other and tackle our climate change crisis collectively?

It goes without saying that sharing best practice and knowledge will help to increase efficiency of manufacturing on a global scale and as a result reduce the environmental, welfare and social impacts on our planet.

If you have a great idea for a new pleasure product and would like a little help to guide you through the journey of making it a desirable reality, get in touch today – we may just be able to help.

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