Category = ‘Events’
BEEAs – Young Design Engineer of the Year
We took a trip down to London to the BEEAs (British Engineering Excellence Awards) last week. Like a parent watching their child walk up on stage at a school prize giving, a warm glow came over me as Michael Aldridge picked up his gong! It was a great success for Michael and just reward for all of us here at 4c Design that have invested hundreds of hours in Michael’s training and development over the years. It was proof to me that if you invest time in your people they will go on to achieve great things for themselves and their company.
Michael was the first graduate to come through our 3 month internship that we set up in 2009.
We wanted to use 4c’s innovation culture as a platform for talented, young design engineers to stretch their wings and show the world what they are capable of. The formal part of the internship focuses on the 4 attributes that we look for in a consultant design engineer:-
- Professional skills
- Design skills
- CAD skills
- Workshop skills
Michael thrived during his internship in the 4c Design environment, he would regularly work long hours, by his own choosing, keen to learn and keen to impress absorbing the training and the experience. Here is a small example of an internal training project Michael took on and succeeded in less than a week.
At the end of the 3 months Michael had made himself invaluable, he was offered full time employment with 4c and we haven’t looked back since.
At 4c, the range of services we offer clients is very diverse and hence we need people with a fundamental understanding of all things mechanical, technical and with an instinct for aesthetics.
From the outset Michael shown an aptitude to this diverse role; on his first day as an intern he was thrown into the deep end with a brainstorming session to develop a new life raft leisure case. He was able to contribute clear, concise and valuable suggestions in the meeting. Later followed up with detailed research, concepts, client meetings, detailed design, CAD and finally manufacture. Michael became integral to all these stages in what turned into a hugely successful project; increased function, improved aesthetics, reduced weight and lower manufacturing costs. This in turn led to repeat business from the client.
Moredun Bottling Machine; this project required the design of a machine to bottle a vaccine solution under sterile conditions. Due to the abstract nature of the bottles, this required custom mechanisms and processes to cope with the batch sizes required. Michael developed a highly innovated, yet simple mechanism for placing the aluminium caps onto the vaccine bottles. Costing only a few hundred pounds it has saved the client tens of thousands as the only solution other engineers (some twice Michaels age) could think of was a pick and place robot.
These projects are a few amongst many that Michael has contributed towards: Egger (logging solution), Equalizer (Smart tools for the oil industry), Tannoy (all industrial design is done by 4c), AWS Ocean Energy (Wave Power), Thales (defence contractors) and Tree of Knowledge (as featured on Dragons Den, innovative range of tools to promote personal development).
Whilst having a well-deserved pint at the airport coming back north I asked Mike how it felt to win, he said ‘he was shocked to be singled out, the projects he has worked on have always been a team effort’ he went on ‘Good design needs talented people (and clients) all pulling in the same direction and I’ve been lucky enough to find that at 4c’.
Enjoy the spotlight Michael. You’ve worked hard and you’ve worked smart.
You deserve it!
I was asked to present at a recent CIBSE event in London on the subject of ‘Environmentally Progressive Design’. This really got me thinking, as it is a seriously provocative subject. What does it mean and are we doing our bit? Is 4c Design Environmentally Progressive?
Designers have a duty along with consumers, retailers, manufacturers and distributors to make environmentally responsible decisions. We all feel a little guilty when we ask for bags at the supermarket, or have to through food out.
Discussions around how the design process can reduce the environmental impact of new product development have been raging for many years… We have seen Cradle to Grave design, where we must at least be aware what is happening to our products at the end of their lives. This is evident when looking at any product, where you can see the recycle symbol and number, or the WEEE icon which is to encourage responsible disposal.
The thinking has moved on slightly and is now called ‘Cradle to Cradle’, which I am sure most of you will have heard. This now encourages the re-use of materials and not the simple disposal.
I could now run through some examples of products we have worked on that follow this line of thinking, however I’m more interested in taking a further step back to the initial creative process we employ to ensure that these are useful products in the first place. In my opinion there is nothing more irresponsible than creating a mountain of novelty crap that no one needs or wants and therefore that is where design can be truly progressive.
This started when I looked up the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) website and saw that over 162,000 international patents were filed in 2010. Now that is a staggering amount of valuable ideas generated that have been deemed important enough to protect. It doesn’t stop there, over 500,000 patents were filed in the US in the same year. This got me thinking… Just how many of these are commercially successful. How many have paid their creators back with enough to cover design, development and manufacture and of course the cost of patenting. This, after a certain amount of digging rounded up at about 1 in 100, which I think you’ll agree is a little disappointing.
The figures I have seen for funding an international patent range from a conservative £5000.00 to a monumental £50,000.00, which clearly needed to be a success! If we take a figure of £10,000 and match that to our hit rate vs international patents filed, then we are looking at a waste of £1.6Bn in patent fees. Never mind the costs involved in taking that product to market.
During the event I was introduced to the ‘Museum of Failed Products’. This has to be seen to be believed. An article by the Guardian covered the story:
So what is going wrong?
I believe we need to focus on what a good idea is in the first place and ensure that the product has a fighting chance to survive in the marketplace. The conventional ‘lightbulb’ is too precarious, we need to dig a bit deeper at the beginning of a project and identify a need! Every solution needs a problem.
The design process has developed over decades as people have identified ways of taking an idea to market more efficiently and there have been significant developments in prototyping to help you visualise and test an idea within hours of drawing it up in CAD. However little is said about where these ideas come from in the first place, because design is conventionally the process employed after that Eureka moment!
This I believe is where the most change can be made, because it doesn’t matter if you design the most environmentally responsible cradle to cradle considered product in the world.
If no one wants it, it’s simply a waste.
Building Services 2012 – the official CIBSE Conference and exhibition will attract building services professionals from across the globe and provide a superior platform for suppliers to showcase their existing products, launch new technological innovations and network with senior delegates and speakers. Welcoming a wide variety of professionals from consultant engineers, architects and property managers to contractors, installers and energy managers, all will be looking to attend to gain valuable information on the latest in building services.
Well if anyone is feeling the effects of an economic downturn it’s the construction industry. This is presumably why they have asked me (amongst a great deal of others) to talk at their conference spanning two days this week. What I can hopefully do is inspire them to look for issues within their industry that can be developed into commercial opportunities. It’s an old trick, spanning back to the times of Edison and his famous line… ‘Discontent is the first necessity of progress’.
What I hope to get from it, is to see how an established industry sector (that we have had little involvement with) showcases the latest developments and what exactly those latest developments are?
I’m walking in as an unknown into the unknown… What could possibly go wrong?