Frog Design Case Study
1) Frog’s activities are streamlined to deliver options and ideas to clients quickly and effectively. Their use of models has allowed them to spend less money and time sharing their design ideas with clients. The models cost less to construct than a fully functioning prototype. The models can also be changed and reworked based on input from clients, design staff, and engineering. Customers are better able to interact with Frog design, and the discover phase is geared to help understand the customer’s needs and wants. This helps reduce product development time. That translates to innovative products reaching the market quicker than competitors. In the technology industry where product life cycles are very short, the early introduction of an innovative product can mean capturing the market.
2) Involving customers early in the design and development process can help the firm meet customer requirements. A great product that costs more than the customer is willing to spend will not sell. A neat idea that never comes to the market can never be a winning product. Products that fail to meet customer demands for performance or expectations will have to be heavily discounted to sell. Customer interactions early in the development process can help eliminate some of the mentioned consequences of bad product development. A fire engine designed by a hybrid auto manufacturer will not be a good engine without the input from the men that actually operate the equipment. Their input and ideas come from years of use and adaptations of other engines.
The disadvantage of involving the customer early in the design phase of product development is that the product won’t serve the needs of the most lucrative customers. Using lead users—users who face the product needs before the general marketplace—can be a better solution for foreseeing the future market. Innovative products sometimes have no earlier models to improve on. The Apple iPod was a new idea in music media players. It would have been difficult to involve customers, because they did not know they even wanted the product yet.
3) Frog Design uses CAD and models to show clients ideas for new products. Instead of building prototypes to be accepted or rejected by the client, a CAD model can be built with an inexpensive computer set-up and engineer. Dimensions and calculations are managed by the system as are many of the details for the model. The best part is that the client can suggest changes to some of the model’s features and view real-time updates to the model. The what if scenarios become answerable. The CAD models minimize design time and eliminate unused physical prototypes. Physical models can be constructed from the CAD design that gives the client the ability to touch part of the design and get a feel for how the product will be experienced by customers.
4) Frog’s approach to design is very suitable for high-tech consumer gadgets. The process can be used in other industries as well. It is most applicable in places where design is important in the customer buying decision. They are very skilled in working with the outsourced suppliers of their clients and merging the idea and design into a finished product.
Frog’s design prowess would be less valuable to a business that sold a commodity. For example, a copper supplier typically competes on price and delivery options. Great design is nice, but customers don’t expect it and are not willing to pay for it. A dairy farmer that sells milk to a co-op has little need for Frog’s expertise. Yet, the same dairy farmer may hire expert designers to make his operation more efficient or friendly to the environment.
5) Frog’s approach might not be as successful in a vertically integrated company. The departments within such an organization tend to be very protective of their responsibilities. They also have a deeper understanding of the organization and how it functions. Frog comes in as more of a consultant in its design services. Their rapid product development and outsourcing does not sit well with vertically integrated companies. Too often, employees become concerned for their own security at the expense of the company. These companies also tend to have substantial capital investments in property and equipment that have limited flexibility.
Many of the innovative designs generated by Frog could require a large capital investment in new equipment or retooling for a product that is unproven. Outsourcing allows firms to focus on new product designs and marketing instead of the actual manufacturing. A beef processor might have seen the trend toward more chicken, but the equipment and plant required for processing chicken is very different from beef. Entering a new market can quickly become cost prohibitive. Frog’s product development can be difficult to succeed when accompanied by the constraints of a vertically integrated company.