Modular Design – ease your work !
Last year in November I’ve been to a Convention of the WFSGI in Leipzig at the Porsche Production and Experience Centre. The topic was about how to embrace design to manufacturing and therefore I was quite curious about the outcome. We all have learned for many years how beautifully design goes together with production in the car industry and how harsh but also crystal clear the targets are for design teams in terms of following functionality, targeted prices and design language.
Now as I am in fashion business things are a bit different here. We tend to explain a lot of unorganised work and processes and product variations with the fact that fashion is an emotional business, that it is very much about contemporary knowledge and gut feelings. I do agree on a lot of that because if we would focus on only few products and then produce them for about 3 years – OK, in different fabrics and colours – we and our customers would feel of course a bit bored. As much as men like to dress practically and formal – we are no sheep 🙂
What I learned more deeply in Leipzig was the idea about design focus and modular design. Porsche Consulting Group explained quite practically in a game with LEGO bricks ( see my former post about Google Ara ) and later in their presentation via a merging example for ski boot brands how rapidly a reduction of complexity can ease our life, yet still keep the customer experience alive and vivid.
So I went home, thrilled by the ideas of reducing complexity in my job range and started to look for improvement areas. Of course it is not so complicated to find some, there is always room for improvement and so the teams concentrated first on the development and making of suits. To give you one example just think of shoulder pads. As a consumer you may have never thought about that detail in your suit before but believe me, you can spend hours of discussions with passionate tailors and pattern designers to define the right mixture of components for the very best feeling.
And yes, that is part of our industry – to strive for the very best in customer experience – it’s worth to discuss and try out various samples. But my “clash with the Porsche Guys” made me think deeper and more rational about reduction of complexity and how we can improve our products and production by simply following some rules of simplicity:
Does the item of inspection pay on the brand awareness ?
If not, standardise it, if yes, keep it or even stress it for more appearance.
Does the item change the customer’s feelings about the product, say the comfort of a suit ?
If truly so, keep it, if not, try to find methods to get rid of the differences in production, regardless of the discussions about the emotional facts.
Does it need the differences because of the manufacturing ?
If so, keep it, if not, try to standardise it. Porsche showed us 5 different front lights of their car types with different visible designs for us customers but the same assembling principles for the production.
Now again, for all the smiling folks of Heavy or FMCG industries – we are talking about fashion here, not producing Soft Drinks or Metal Tubes. You have probably no idea how much time you can spend discussing about the right fit of a garment or if a product should be sold in a slim fit in size 56…
Summarising this lecture I got in Leipzig, the teams and me are looking even deeper into the structure of our products than we did before and I am sure we will find a lot more details to ease our lives and the ones of our colleagues from procurement in the near future. There are a more trims, more raw materials and more assembling methods we can erase by simply finding better recipes and more clever combinations to impress the customer in the future.
Besides – how much fashion products do people really need and how big do collections have to be – really ? A good starting point for another post…
How is your life here – what kind of experience do you have with modular design ? Do you use it in your product categories and have you found clever ways to multiple-use features in a way the customer doesn’t get it, but values it ?