Exploration into the strategic role of designers and academics in shaping collaborative new product development across supply chains : towards a new methodology
This investigation starts from the hypothesis that a new approach to new product development is required to meet the future requirements and expectations of customers and consumers and product and service providers. The investigation focuses upon domestic food refrigeration and its position within the retail food supply chain, with the domestic refrigerator as an example of a mature product, the future development of which, it is argued, may depend upon a new approach to new product development. A review of established and emerging new product development strategies suggests that such future requirements might be met through collaboration between organisations from different industrial sectors and across supply chains, and that existing strategies would not support such collaborations. A new methodology, Collaborative Envisioning is proposed which engages the business of academia and the tools of the designer to facilitate multidisciplinary trans-sectoral collaboration. It is further proposed that a demonstration project, Beyond the Fridge, is the most effective test for the methodology. Key participants in Beyond the Fridge are Sainsbury's, Electrolux, 3M, University College Northampton and University of East London. Results from Beyond the Fridge suggest that the Collaborative Envisioning methodology is effective in bringing together partners from different industrial sectors and uniting them around a shared and mutually supported vision of future business. However, the low start-up cost and high level of concept realisation inherent in the methodology have led to some overestimation of the tactical deliverables from an essentially strategic process. In the light of Beyond the Fridge it is recommended that structures are established at the initiation of a Collaborative Envisioning project so that tactical solutions which may be derived from the strategic objective are differentiated and separately funded from the core project. The reflection upon Beyond the Fridge, and the recommendations for future work derived from it, is followed by reviews of evolving consumer demographics and perceptions of food storage and preparation in the home, and recent initiatives to integrate new technologies into domestic and personal products, thus establishing the historical and social context for Beyond the Fridge.