A link takes control of the chain

El País newspaper; weekly Business supplement. Sunday, May 30th, 1999.

This is undoubtedly a special article for us, both because of the newspaper that has published it (the article in the Sunday Business supplement of ‘El País’ had a wide circulation) and because of its content and meaning in our subsequent evolution.

Until the end of 1997, CDN (Competitive Design Network) had been a team focused on industrial design which had relevant participation in the market and loyal clients. The beginning of 1998 brought about the devaluation of industrial design services and their fees as a result of two factors: The increase in the number of freelance professionals because of an excessive training supply in design activities and the design contracting migration to Asia, along with the production of tools and consumer goods.

To overcome this trivialization situation, we began two activities in CDN:

The first one consisted of thinking about how we could migrate to the strategy; two years later we launched our supply of strategic innovation services; today it is framed within the activity of new business models of products and services channeled by Loop Business Innovation.

The second activity (on which the articles places emphasis) consisted of exploiting our digital advantage within the product development process, particularly making progress from being executants of design projects to becoming ‘tailor-made’ software developers for the manufacture of products. As pioneers of industrial digitalization in Spain; since 1993 our designs have been made in high-definition digital platforms (Silicon Graphics & Alias Wavefront) that are relatively common today but at the moment of the takeover it was the 3rd European license (after Volvo and Renault).

The ‘link’ of digital design was joined to engineering software (Pro-engineer in CDN), to the manufacture of digital prototypes (Z-Corp in CDN) and to the numerical control manufacture of different world suppliers of tools for manufacture. This whole integration allowed us to offer high speed and opportunity cost in development as well as to maximize the final quality of the result to our clients.

Today, CDN continues its activity in the world of industrial design and product development. From our offices in Barcelona we conceptualize and manage the product corporatism of our clients. We have all the previously described development centralized in Argentina; this is the consequence of keeping the development of digital ‘links’.

Our competitiveness is not so much based on technological sophistication (which is common nowadays) but on the evolution of development techniques; our corporate vision aligned with the strategy and by the solvency regarding investment, costs and terms obtained by 20 years of developing products.

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EL PAÍS, Sunday, May 30th, 1999

A link takes control of the chain

An internal transformation allows the industrial design company, CDN, to coordinate all the process of launching new products.

It has been six years since the Catalan company of industrial design, Flores & Associats, started an internal transformation process as a result of which it has changed completely. A transformation based on a new concept for this company that is called Competitive Design Network (CDN) today and an indisputable leader in the Spanish industrial design sector. From being a link in the chain of creating a new product, CDN has started to control all the process.

The most miscellaneous products have come out from its offices and they have become sales records: from printers for IBM to toy kitchens for the company Famosa.« Today it has the loyalty of around 60 clients, among which we can mention multinational companies like Teka, Vileda or DBK. It also has clients in the MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) and offices in Oporto and Paris. Its current aim is to become leader in the Mediterranean Europe sector.

‘We believe that, as bringing a new product onto the market has its difficulties, working on design or engineering involved covering only one link of needs. We thought that our clients needed something much more sophisticated’, Antoni Flores, CDN general manager, explains. ‘That was when we decided to expand our supply of services that ranges from conceptual research of new products to what a tool station implies.’ This is what Antoni Flores has called integrated development: a concept that clearly differs from what has been traditionally understood as industrial design, in which the designer’s job is just a little contribution within the whole process. ‘No matter how good you are as a designer, you are still a link in the whole chain of bringing a product onto the market’, Flores states. ‘This makes your involvement trivial and incidental as your work is diluted within the process.’ Integrated development makes it possible to comprise different professional activities –engineers, designers, economists, among others– and provide a complete service to the client within a single information technology chain.

Thus, CDN joins its clients’ committees. ‘They express their market need or they tell us a problem due to a competitor’s attack’, Flores tells us. From there, a whole movement breaks out starting from some market and competition research and some research on the business, cost and investment opportunities required. After some team work in which the client itself gets involved, the result is the product launch into the market, with the added speed value.

Taking advantage of R&D

The company does not do research and develop new technologies to apply them to the products it designs. Instead, it also takes advantage of its clients’ R&D departments and applies it so that the product is put on the market as quickly as possible. ‘You cannot postpone a product launch while you wait for new technology because technological innovations are constant today’; Flores explains. ‘What is important is to be quick enough to meet a market demand.’

CDN boasts about its financial independence, in spite of having received many offers from investors’. And it has achieved its purpose thanks to constant reinvestment. ‘We have never distributed capital’, Flores assures. In 1998 it had a turnover of 400 millions of pesetas (2.4 millions of euros) thanks to the quality of its supply.

‘Many of our clients are small and medium-sized companies, so we must keep within a range of affordable prices’, he assures. But the company’s agenda of projects is far from comprising just small and medium-sized companies, mainly as they started providing a more competitive, useful and novel service.

 

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Mª Luisa Vives – Jaime Gross

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