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A Product’s Generalized Life Cycle under a Design Entrepreneurship Perspective: A Case Study

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This paper is of an interdisciplinary character at the crossroads of industrial design, technology, and entrepreneurship and it is developed on two planes. On the one hand a case is scrutinized, based on a design project by the first author, from the point of view of the restrictions imposed by the foreseen production process on the design of the product. On the other hand, the implications on the product configuration of the changes in the means of financing the project are discussed together with the implications in terms of achievable production processes and consequences in the product’s configuration. In general terms, disconnected from the case study, the economic, design, and market perspectives are brought together to explore the ways in which alternative configurations of the tri-axial model of financing, production, and marketing may suggest changes in the product’s generalized life cycle. The paper discusses the initial design for a terrace chair, in order to manufacture it in large-scale by thermoplastic injection, with a model of designer income from business financing in the form of authorial rights. An alternative configuration in order to meet the rules imposed by a chair design contest is also introduced (including restricting to the use of metallic materials), whose award would consist of placing the project in a catalog for manufacture to order from the end customer. The possibilities for productive development and subsequent placement on the market from alternative funding and investment models are also explored, including crowdfunding, for an adapted version of the concept. Conceptually, the prospects of various interested groups in the product and the production process are articulated, based on various academic specialties that are typically involved (marketing, design, technological process). In this plan the classical technical and economic curve of a product's generalized life cycle is contrasted with a proposal for its reconfiguration drawn up in light of the analysis to the alternatives for improving the feasibility of the initial conceptual design.
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A Product's Generalized Life Cycle under a
Design Entrepreneurship Perspective: A Case
Study
Hilary Almeida Marques and Denis A. Coelho, University of Beira Interior, Portugal
Abstract: This paper is of an interdisciplinary character at the crossroads of industrial design, technology, and
entrepreneurship and it is developed on two planes. On the one hand a case is scrutinized, based on a design project by
the first author, from the point of view of the restrictions imposed by the foreseen production process on the design of the
product. On the other hand, the implications on the product configuration of the changes in the means of financing the
project are discussed together with the implications in terms of achievable production processes and consequences in the
product’s configuration. In general terms, disconnected from the case study, the economic, design, and market
perspectives are brought together to explore the ways in which alternative configurations of the tri-axial model of
financing, production, and marketing may suggest changes in the product’s generalized life cycle. The paper discusses
the initial design for a terrace chair, in order to manufacture it in large-scale by thermoplastic injection, with a model of
designer income from business financing in the form of authorial rights. An alternative configuration in order to meet the
rules imposed by a chair design contest is also introduced (including restricting to the use of metallic materials), whose
award would consist of placing the project in a catalog for manufacture to order from the end customer. The possibilities
for productive development and subsequent placement on the market from alternative funding and investment models are
also explored, including crowdfunding, for an adapted version of the concept. Conceptually, the prospects of various
interested groups in the product and the production process are articulated, based on various academic specialties that
are typically involved (marketing, design, technological process). In this plan the classical technical and economic curve
of a product's generalized life cycle is contrasted with a proposal for its reconfiguration drawn up in light of the analysis
to the alternatives for improving the feasibility of the initial conceptual design.
Keywords: Financing, Alternative Models, Paradigms
Introduction
he paper revisits the Product Life Cycle (PLC) concept, with the aim of analyzing the
applicability of the generalized product life cycle curve to today’s product design
environment and context. In particular, the aforementioned theoretical concept springing
from marketing literature is set against the backdrop of recent developments in the product
design arena, with emphasis on crowdsourcing. The paper articulates this juxtaposition with the
support of an original design case study, developed by the first author. This resulted in the
proposal of a newly adjusted generalized product life cycle curve.
The Concept of Product Life Cycle
The product life cycle (PLC) is a model-based approach that shows trends in product sales
history, from creation to extinction. McDonald and Wilson (2011) agree with this view. A PLC
graphs the volume or value of sales of a product from its inception to its decline and retreat. It
shows sales trends and profitability of a product throughout its life cycle. Proponents of the PLC
concept assume that products follow a common sales model.
The product life cycle is the recognition that most of the products have a limited life in the
market. This life has clearly separate stages just like the life of a human being. The PLC concept
draws an analogy between biological life cycles and sales growth models for successful products
(Baker and Hart, 2008). Thus, under favorable conditions, species (and products) will proliferate,
while in adverse circumstances, only the strongest will survive (Baker, 1991). The intuitive
appeal of an analogy with the life cycle is a crucial aspect of the PLC concept.
T
DESIGN MANAGEMENT AND
Baker (1991) considers a generalized model of the tendency to sell goods over a period of
time, and the associated changes in the competitive behavior. In this regard, the concept can be
considered an important tool for planning at the strategic level. It should, however, be recognized
that the PLC concept is not decisive in itself and can be significantly influenced by changes and,
or, environmental factors, as well as marketing.
Kotler (2007) believes that to say that a product has a life cycle is to say that the products
have a limited shelf life; product sales pass through distinct stages, each posing different
challenges, opportunities and problems to the seller; profits rise and fall in different phases of the
life cycle; and products require different marketing strategies, financial, manufacturing,
purchasing and human resources at every stage of its life cycle and designers should properly
manage each stage of the PLC using the appropriate marketing mix to explore opportunities that
are there and derive the maximum benefits.
Crowdsourcing
The product development process has evolved from one that is managed and moves sequentially
through strategic planning and concept generation, pre-technical evaluation, technical
development and commercialization to one in which the overlapping nature of the various phases
is recognized and managed (Veryzer, 1998). From a managerial perspective, there are five phases
in a product’s lifecycle: Imagination, definition and realization making up the beginning-of-life
of the product, the phase of product use, support and maintenance which makes up the middle-of-
life of the product and, finally, the activities of product retirement, disposal and recycling making
up for the end-of-life phase (Stark, 2011). Crowdsourcing is aimed at supporting with greater
emphasis the phases within the beginning-of-life of the product (Vieira, Nunes and Coelho,
2014).
The process of crowdsourcing starts with the launch, by companies, of challenges in an
internet platform for the "crowd" in an attempt to find solutions that meet the needs expressed in
the design brief or solve the problems under focus. People in the crowd respond to the challenges
posed by sending ideas or other contributions in order to get monetary gains, social recognition
or other rewards. These incentives are offered in order to keep participants active while
moderators foster activity further by launching new challenges, running the platform as
intermediaries between the company and participants or community members. The profitability
of the platform comes either from a fee charged for transactions of solution ideas, or from direct
sales of the products developed as a consequence of the crowdsourcing process. Crowdsourcing
is a phenomenon that may provide good opportunities for companies to internalize consumers’
ideas (Mladenow, Bauer and Strauss, 2014), but there is no consensus on how the social crowd
may be integrated in the different stages of the product development process. This
notwithstanding, this approach is based on the consideration of the active consumer postulate,
whereby “prosumers” (Toffler, 1980) strive towards being involved in the value creation process
more than just being consumers. Considering this new role of users, new business models evolve,
integrating prosumers into the value chain (Mladenow, Bauer and Strauss, 2014). Prosumers can
be regarded as active participants in product development processes, e.g. social product
development processes as an instantiation of crowdsourcing, because, due to their interaction
with online content and their contribution to content generation, companies consider them as
partners in their product development processes (Ritzer and Jurgenson, 2010).
When crowdsourcing is combined with product development, important stages of the
product development process are carried out with the collaboration of members of the public (as
part of the crowdsourcing community). These typically involve idea generation and concept
development, as well as important market related styling and feature considerations. The public
nature of the crowdsourcing platforms means that product ideas are potentially available to the
public long before they are ready to market, potentiall killing the element of surprise (to the
MARQUES & COELHO: PRODUCT'S GENERALIZED LIFE CYCLE
public and to competitors) very early in the process of development. As a positive outcome of the
crowdsourcng process in product design, early exposure to the public and the market might help
in selecting the product ideas for development that are potentially viable in the market. These and
other aspects have been reported by Vieira, Nunes and Coelho (2014). The impact of these
changes brought about by crowdsourcing in the generalized PLC graphical representation is
focused on the early stages of the product’s life cycle development and is discussed in the
following section.
Generalized Product Life Cycle Curve Extension
New products are the key to economic survival and each year millions of applications for
invention patents and utility models or industrial design registrations are made (Morris, 2009, p.
11). To meet market needs, several projects of new products are developed simultaneously, as
well as the appropriate planning of future replacements and or updates thereof. This strategy is
called Concurrent Design. In an interview following the launch of the iPhone 6 and the Apple
Watch device in 2014, Jonathan Ive stated that the Apple watch took three years to develop; and
that at the time of release, its replacement was already in early development (Coelho, 2015). A
team of professionals from different areas makes the design of the production process and the
design of the product an articulated, continuous and collaborative process, in a concurrent
engineering and design approach (see Figure 1 ) (Gaither and Frazier, 1999, p. 129) (Rozenfeld
et al., 2006, p. 16).
Figure 1: Product Development
Sources: adapted by Marques (current work) from Rozenfeld, et al, 2006, p. 12.
DESIGN MANAGEMENT AND
Figure 2: Generalized Product Life Cycle
Source: adapted from Arsham, 1994-2015.
Product development involves a sequence of steps and production processes that should be
considered by the practicing designer together with the possible funding, production and
marketing models and, or, paradigms. It appears that the actual shape of the generalized product
life cycle curve will vary depending on the organization of the selected alternative development
process. As illustrated in Figure 2, the conventional life cycle of a product is divided into four
stages: the design and market introduction, growth and competitive turbulence, maturity and the
last step which concerns the decline of turnover and possible extinction of the product in the
market due to its obsolescence (Arsham, 1994-2015). The curve related to the exposure to the
market is confused with respect to the sales curve because the greater the volume of sales, the
better known is the product. Entry into the era of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding caused
effects and changes in the configuration of the curve of the generalized life cycle of the product
given the fading of the boundaries between the stages of the life cycle, particularly in terms of
generating ideas for new products. Thus, the initial stages of design and product introduction in
the market have now become interlocking. In a typical crowdsourcing arrangement, submission
of a particular idea into a Web platform is the initial phase of the product that will be developed
taking into account the feedback from the crowd, thus becoming a collaborative project and one
that is always exposed to the market. The market exposure allows the designer to predict in
advance what will be the acceptance of the public to the development of the new idea for a
product (see Figure 3).
MARQUES & COELHO: PRODUCT'S GENERALIZED LIFE CYCLE
Figure 3: Generalized Product Life Cycle - Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding Era
Source: Coelho and Marques, current work.
In the case described in this paper, in contrast to the classic technical and economic curve of
the generalized product life cycle, this proposed reconfiguration of the PLC graph was drawn up
under the light of the analysis of the feasibility of alternatives to an initial conceptual design for a
terrace chair. Initially the project had large-scale manufacture by injection of thermoplastic in
view, with business financing in a model of income for the designer in the form of copyright
revenue. However, several alternative models were considered and are described in the following
section.
Design Entrepreneurship Perspective (analysis of an example)
Seeking contact with companies interested in the production and sale of an original chair
concept, the first author participated in the international competition of furniture design Special
Guest launched on April 9, 2015 by Formabilio web platform. This platform is founded on the
concept of crowdsourcing. The actors in the platform are the designers (in this case of furniture),
consumers and manufacturers. The designers share their ideas on the platform, prosumers
comment and vote on the proposals and manufacturers produce and sell the winning projects.
The winning concepts later pass through prototyping and marketing processes, with a
commission of 7% per product sold being paid to the design author(s) (Formabilio, 2015).
The aim of the competition was to promote the sending of designs of chairs, magazine racks,
tables, and furniture in general, among others, to the platform with inspiration flourishing from a
well-known persona or character. Based on the proposed brief, the first author followed the
requirements and submitted a concept of her own, one hundred percent made of metal and fruit
of inspiration from the fun cartoon character ‘Homer Simpson’.
The chair that was designed is a combination of design, ergonomics and functionality
(Figure 4). ‘Homer Simpson’ is a comical character and his favorite drink is beer, for these
reasons the concept contains fun design elements and a bottle opener incorporated in the chair,
located in the armrest. This accessory allows the user to open his or her beer (or other beverage)
DESIGN MANAGEMENT AND
bottle at the most convenient time. It contains a flat area for advertising with 4 times more area
than the backrest of the chair and a place for storage of newspapers, magazines or other small
objects. The cutouts of happy faces (fun design elements) aim to transmit eagerness to users. The
design enables optimized stacking and may be appropriated for production by indoor and outdoor
furniture industry.
Faced with new requirements and new decisions to be taken, amendments were made to the
concept. The new paradigm is a change from the concept to the level of detail, especially for the
metal type specification and the associated manufacturing processes. The international
competition Special Guest had participation of about four hundred candidates, and the first
author, who designed this proposal, was placed above the average.
Figure 4: Homer Chair
Source: Marques, current work
Thus, the concept and its realization in detail depend on the selected investment model, the
material and the production process, these being interconnected. The final cost of the product is
also directly related to the type of materials used in the production process which, in turn, are
dependent on the product design and process selection (see Figure 5). Currently, the choice of
materials and the production process is virtually unlimited and designers can use the materials
and forms of production and innovation factors in order to realize good design projects and
bringing benefits in the domains of durability, aesthetics and distribution (Lesko, 2004, p. 9).
Figure 5: Materialization of the Concept in Design Detail
MARQUES & COELHO: PRODUCT'S GENERALIZED LIFE CYCLE
Source: Coelho and Marques, current work.
In the case of the Formabilio crowdsourcing platform, the requirements imposed involved
the use of metal as the only kind of material. This imposition dictated design changes to the chair
initially designed with thermoplastics to switch to non-ferrous metals as aluminum or copper and
via a craft process such as cutting and bending plates from a 2D planned out chair (see Figure 6).
Figure 6: Scheme of Proposed Folding and Union from 2D Planned Out Chair
Source: Marques, current work.
Taking into account the alternative materials meant to be used and the respective processes
of manufacture of the concept of chair, a tree with several options was sketched (see Figure 7).
The proposal of the intake of alternative materials in the chair and its production processes do not
compromise its original shape entirely. In future work tests may be performed to evaluate the
structural integrity and effectiveness of the adoption of the proposed alternative materials and
production processes.
The financing segment of this concept links back to the brewers and soft drinks companies;
however, product range items may include local small business sponsorships such as restaurants,
ice cream parlors, as well as information or promotion of events, among others. Figure 8 depicts
material flows and monetary exchange in the sponsorship model.
Figure 7: Categorization Tree of Candidate Alternative Materials
Source: Coelho and Marques, current work.
DESIGN MANAGEMENT AND
Figure 8: Material Flows and Monetary Flows in the Sponsorship Model
Source: Coelho and Marques, current work.
Conclusion
The changes in the product development landscape reverberate across the stages of the process of
product development and on the Product Life Cycle, with a different rapport towards the market,
but also in what regards funding and market viability of projects involving product design.
Through crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platforms, designers have the opportunity to present
to the market a particular idea and or concept and to verify the acceptance of it by the public;
moreover, there is always the chance of developing the product and to launch it in the market.
The theme related to this current era led to the proposal of some changes in the configuration of
the graphical representation of the generalized product life cycle. The fading of the boundaries
between the initial steps of generating ideas and product launch has come to enable early
exposure to the market from the beginning of the development process.
Since new products are the key to economic survival, it is essential to respond to market
needs quickly with new and increasingly complex products. The designer has several financing
alternatives. Through the collaborative design platform, one can collaborate with ideas, vote and
provide suggestions for improvement, thus gaining social recognition and possibly money.
Several proposed alternatives are presented as to the materials used in the chair concept focused
in the paper depending on the production processes without having to critically compromise the
original shape and functionality. Some proposals for the manufacturing process were presented
for envisaged placement on the market based on funding model and investment alternatives,
including crowdfunding. An alternative configuration was adapted according to the requirements
imposed by an international competition of chair design. As future work, we intend to carry out
tests to evaluate the structural integrity of the chair and the tests to assess the feasibility of using
the proposed manufacturing processes.
MARQUES & COELHO: PRODUCT'S GENERALIZED LIFE CYCLE
Acknowledgement
The study reported in this paper was part of the first author’s Master’s thesis in Industrial
Engineering and Management from the University of Beira Interior, completed in 2015, and
supervised by the second author. The initial terrace chair design concept, on which the
developments featured in this paper were elaborated, was authored and developed by the first
author in 2013 as part of her capstone undergraduate project in industrial design at the University
of Beira Interior, with tutoring by Ernesto Filgueiras in collaboration with Fapil - a Portuguese
plastics injection company.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
DESIGN MANAGEMENT AND
Hillary Almeida Marques: Master of Science Graduate, Dept. of Electromechanical
Engineering, Universidade da Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portugal. Hillary A. Marques is a
graduate in industrial design with a Masters degree in industrial engineering and
management, working as a practitioner.
Denis A. Coelho: Professor, Dept. of Electromechanical Engineering and Centre for Mechanical
and Aerospace Science and Technology, Universidade da Beira Interior, Covilhã,
Portugal. Denis A. Coelho holds an extensive research publication track record in
Design and Ergonomics. As the chief editor of “Industrial Design – New Frontiers”
(2011) and “Advances in Industrial Design Engineering” (2013) he is a participant in
the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design (2015) authoring entries on Bionics,
Concurrent Design and Ergonomics. Prof. Coelho is a full member of the Human
Factors and Ergonomics Society (USA) and of the HFES Europe chapter. He has served
as evaluator for the Stanley Caplan User Centered Design Award, as well as in several
research scholarship and PhD committees internationally. He is the founding and current
Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics
(Inderscience Publishers, UK). Prof. Coelho has consulted for the Portuguese
government on innovation and technology matters targeted at small and medium
enterprises. This role included selection and monitoring of product development
projects aiming innovative marketable products and services carried out by industrial
and technology companies.
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