by Michael Plishka, Consumer Goods, Consumer Packaged Goods & Retail Industry Solutions Experience Senior Manger, Dassault Systèmes
When your business depends on the whims of the consumer, it’s imperative to keep individuals at the center of your product-design mindset. Whether you make furniture, clothing, appliances, sports equipment, toys—or whatever hot new item people suddenly decide they want—today’s consumer is no longer satisfied with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. They want customization, personalization, the freedom to choose how their purchase will look and feel to them alone. The more responsive you can be to those needs, the more successful you will be in meeting them—or even anticipating the “next best thing” and innovating ahead of your competition.
Computer modeling and simulation have risen to this challenge with powerful software, high-performance hardware, and ease-of-use tools that enable design engineers to create products and services that are more consumer-centric. Manufacturers who don’t take advantage of these resources risk falling behind in the time-cost-quality race that determines marketplace winners.
How things have—and haven’t—changed in product design
In the past, when the consumer was picking something “off the rack”—anything from a pair of shoes to a pair of contact lenses—they’d have to be content with a set range of sizes from which to find the closest-possible fit. But today’s advancements in simulation, material science, and production technology enable us to work that process in reverse. We can start from the consumer standpoint: what are their individual desires in terms of comfort, durability, experience and so on?—and then tailor the design, the materials, even the manufacturing process to hit that mark more accurately.
Now, despite the many improvements in the ways consumer goods can be created these days, human beings themselves haven’t changed much at all. Our judgement of what we experience remains founded on the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Not every consumer purchase decision involves all of these simultaneously, but in most cases it’s more than one sense that’s in play when people evaluate a product and decide whether to buy it. So as you use the latest product development tools, it simply makes sense to consider the senses—whether you’re starting a new design or updating an existing one.
Consumers are the start of your process
How do you accomplish this? By embedding the fundamental physics of the senses into your design processes from the very start. How will your product look, sound, feel or otherwise perform when the consumer interacts with it? How can you optimize its shape and color for beauty, its noise-output for volume, its texture for comfort, its heft for quality, its surface finish for tactile pleasure—and more?
And don’t forget the packaging that your product comes in: How can you reduce consumer frustration over rigid plastic shells they must fight through to get to just a simple flashlight, for example? How can you respond to their concerns about the environmental consequences of excess packaging and environmental waste? Are there opportunities to reduce both package and product weight so you can be both “greener” and save on shipping costs? And then how will your products stand up to the rigors of multi-item-in-one-box delivery from online ordering sites? What about product life? Consumers may be okay with a cell phone lasting just a few years so they can upgrade. But why do modern washing machines have a dramatically shorter lifespan than those manufactured 25 years ago?
These are complex questions to ask, and to answer—but they must be addressed for success in today’s human-centric marketplace where consumer experience rules.
Integrating test data with human perception
Within a laboratory or a factory-line setting, you may already be employing measurement tools that monitor relevant processes: ruler, camera, color meter, microphone, pH testing, chromatography, strength testing, etc.—whatever resources you are currently using to assess and refine product performance. These may help you begin to mimic and quantify what the consumer may be feeling as they use your product. But you need to go further now, to truly integrate this data with human perception. The solutions you are looking for have to reflect reality as closely as possible.
This is where a collaborative digital platform can play a key role. Dassault Systèmes’ portfolio of realistic simulation capabilities is the broadest and most powerful in the industry, with multiphysics expertise that extends from shape, visualization and rendering (sight) to acoustics (hearing), to chemistry (taste and smell) to the full scope of physical properties (touch).
Our highly accurate virtual tools provide you with solids and structures (from protons to products), fluids, mechanisms, durability, fatigue, electromagnetics, shape optimization, process automation and more—all of which can help you explore the possibilities of design and performance before you even have a prototype and optimize your products to better match your target audience.
A platform for consumer-driven design
Whether your company creates furniture, hand-tools, sports equipment, watches, shoes, or other consumer products, the digital twins on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform can provide you with a powerful arsenal of resources for anticipating human sensing and reaction as you innovate in the face of ever-changing consumer demand. In much the same way that the human brain automatically integrates the five senses as you go about your daily life, our platform integrates and manages whatever capabilities you need to realize your consumer-centric product design and development goals.