What’s in your CPG innovation pipeline?

By Rosemary

Better, faster, smarter innovation. Sounds pretty good right? This is a consumer packaged goods (CPG) mantra.

If you work with new products in a CPG company, are you working to improve in-market success for your new product introductions? Are you trying to do this faster than ever, garnering higher market share and revenue more quickly, particularly in this economy? And are you working with fewer resources to get the job done?

The answer is simple and consistent: all of us are!

The more tricky question is how?

Consumer packaged goods companies work toward this “Holy Grail” everyday, bringing their consumers products that meet their changing needs in a fast paced, competitive environment. These are products that are sold in large quantities for a low price. One consumer goods company has $84B in sales revenue and sells most of their products for $10 or less! Think about that.

These are products that are consumed, literally. Personal Care products like toiletries, soaps, lotions or teeth cleaning products. Household items like laundry detergent, household cleaners and disinfectants. It includes food and beverages products that you use and enjoy every day. And it also includes beauty products, like make-up, skin care or cologne.

So how do manufacturers keep up with the changing demands of consumers worldwide?

This is a challenging task, often in an environment of fragmented systems, with functions working independently and little collaboration with global peers. And language barriers add an additional level of complexity.

It seems to me that there is a lot of value waiting to be had for many companies who can solve this conundrum.

Common practices and centrally available information can add significant value. Often times, companies try to string current systems together. Leading companies are implementing systems that are designed to work together seamlessly and are finding significant bottom line results.

P&G is a great example. Below is a link to an article that describes their challenges, obstacles and solution that has saved them $250M annually. This too can happen to you.


Semiconductor Check-Up

By Rick

Two major semiconductor industry events occurred in July. Those were Semicon West and the Design Automation Conference (DAC). Combined, the two events capture nearly the entire product lifecycle for integrated circuits (IC). DAC focuses on design and the tools, partnerships and standards needed for complex chip design. Semicon focuses less on design and more on the productization, manufacturing, assembly, test and equipment used by the industry. The Semicon show (combined with a sister event Intersolar) was attended by over 17,000 people, up about 4% from last year. That’s pretty encouraging on its own. What I’ve seen on DAC’s attendence is a bit sketchy, but one source had the attendence for just the exhibits at over 3200 and attendence for the technical sessions over 1800 engineers. It may not sound like much, but given the economic climate, it wasn’t too shabby.

Trying to analyze the health of the industry based on these events was sort of like my last trip to the doctor. I actually grew up in the same town as my doctor and graduated high school with his brother. I knew my doctor as a super-bright kid that always seemed to have the answers. As an engineer, I’m always looking for “the right answer”. So my last visit with my doctor was a bit disturbing. As I was talking to my doctor, he told me that without literally going inside to look at things, everything else is just a series eliminations and probabilites towards finding the truth. He can only look at the information available and reduce the set of possible causes. Even x-rays are just a single-point view. Sometimes, there is only so much that you can deduce from that.

I’m the kind of guy that likes answers. My doctor knows that about me. So I’m sure that he was having fun with this conversation. But I think that the “Semiconductor Checkup” from the two recent events can help give us some clues on the health of the industry. My last post had some feedback from the Semicon West event. Here’s an update from DAC.

Frankly, DAC exceeded my expectations. I was in a number of great meetings with customers, prospects and partners. But I think that the tone of the entire event was very positive. I did notice a number of trends that I wanted to pass along.

First, before the show there was a lot of talk on “eco-systems”. I saw where there would be a number of vendors and industry alliances talking about their participation in eco-systems. And, although there were a number of such events at DAC (technology alliances, industry standards partnerships, IP vendor collaborations, …), the eco-system message really wasn’t explored as much as I had thought it would. Dassault Systemes was obviously a key player that could talk about multi-company, product development for Semiconductor. But I think that when pressed for key messages, most of the vendors talked about their niche capabilities.

There were a couple of key technologies that stepped to the front of the line. There were a number of people talking about Electronic System Level (ESL) design and some annoucements working groups around different API drafts. The importance of that being that IC design continues to get more about the product than the low-level details. There is a quote out there coined “Stanley’s Law” by Michael Santarini that says something like “Everything that happens in IC design happened in PC-board design many years ago”. People replace the term “systems” for “PC-board” now. And we can see that it’s true.

There was also buzz around the hardware-software barriers. As the amount of software content has rising over the past few years, integration of the two technologies has become more of an issue to teams in the area of partitioning, interaction and predictability. In one panel discussion of 8 managers, most of the answers on the “like to have” list were in the area of hardware-software functionality.

But the biggest change at DAC this year was the emergence of social networking. Holy smokes! Although not an IC design technololgy, the explosion of bloggers and tweets from so many people was mind-blowing. There was actually a controversy on whether bloggers should be considered journalists and, if so, should they be given media passes to the event. There was a large number of tweets with the tag #46DAC. If anything was happening, if anything was said, if there was any place to be during the show (or at night), Twitter seemed like the medium of choice. This is all interesting, as it really shows how collaboration is permeating the semiconductor industry at so many levels. It’s not just for IP commerce or limited corporate partnerships. I can’t wait to see where this takes us.

Back to the “checkup”. Although nobody came out and proclaimed the industry to be healthy, I think that there were many, many positive signs at DAC that shows an upward trend. Most analysts seems to be looking at the semiconductor industry as a leading indicator for the rest of the economy. Let’s hope so.

Virtual Reality in 50 Years

By Kate

What will VR be like in 50 years . . . what comes AFTER virtual reality!?

These are some of the questions I asked Jean-Louis Dautin, the director of the VR technology center CLARTE, as part of our VR-interview series.

Jean-Louis is an industry veteran from the industrial-business side of the VR sector. Here’s what I asked him:

1. What’s CLARTE’s mission ?
2. Out of all the VR projects you’re working on, which one’s your favorite?
3. What types of advancements are needed to bump up VR to the next level?
4. What will VR be like in 50 years?
5. What comes after virtual reality?

Enjoy the interview . . .

Q1 : What’s CLARTE’s mission ?

A: CLARTE is a VR technology center that interfaces R&D and working with companies. Our mission is to pragmatically extract and package ideas from the research world to make them useful for corporations. The iteration of this is simple. For one, we help companies determine what are the concrete advantages to leveraging virtual reality, and, second, to help these companies apply VR technologies within the enterprise.

Q2: Out of all the VR projects you’re working on, which one’s your favorite?

A: We’re working on numerous VR projects heavily implicating industrials, especial industrials working in the transportation sector. The kinds of VR projects we’re focused on right now are projects focused on working collaboratively and ergonomics, and for these we’re using Virtools.

Why do we think these projects are important? For one, we esteem that working collaboratively can very quickly bring companies a return on investment. While this sector carries a lot of potential, today’s it’s not exploited very well, whether this be by video or audio conferencing systems. Yet there aren’t very many veritable VR applications that really permit collaboration through immersive, 3D-interactive, real-time technology. This is a point that we work on a lot, for example, with a project called Partage.

The second sector where we’re investing resources is ergonomics, in particular the ergonomics for industrial production posts. It’s not a secret that today in France and occidental Europe we’re faced with challenges to maintain industrial employment. It’s clear that we must increase and improve productivity. Improving productivity today consists of improving the quality of work stations with the objective to reduce the amount of sick leave by improving the quality of the working environment. For this we’re working with several automotive OEMs, notably PSA, on the conception of ergonomic work stations based exclusively on virtual reality prototyping.

Q3: What types of advancements are needed to bump up VR to the next level?

A: If you look at VR visualization technologies, for example display, image immersion, they’ve all pretty much reached maturity. What we’re missing today are true multi-sensorial technologies, implicating a real return of force, non-perturbing, highly intuitive and reactive. These systems exist and they’re being worked on in labs, but none are really exploitable for the industrial world. This is where our challenge lies. Don’t forget that VR is about creating professional-quality illusions. If you want an end-user to work with a virtual prototype the way he would a real prototype, in his head everything needs to process as if the virtual prototype were real. You need a perfect illusion, and a perfect illusion implicates multi-sensorial experiences.

Q4: What will VR look like in 50 years?

A: Virtual reality in 50 years is the illusion that is perfect in all senses, whereby we can do everything as if everything around us were real. That means physical sensorial feedback, impeccable audio-spatial feedback, even odors!

But in 50 years I think we’ll go far beyond working in the virtual world instead of the real world. We’ll definitely have pushed working collaboratively to the extreme. With Telepresence, when you’re working with 10 geographically dispersed locations you’ll really have the impression that the people from those different sites are physically working with you in the same room. And you’ll really get the benefits of working in the same room with the same relational quality without needing to focus on the enabling technology, for example, focusing on looking at a video camera verses your colleague whom you’re addressing, etc.

Also in 50 years you can imagine that the costs for providing this technology will be significantly reduced to make it available to everyone.

Q5: What comes after virtual reality?

A: After virtual reality? This is a great question! I’d say after virtual reality it’s simply reality. Above and beyond all the technologies we’ve been discussing, there’s the problem of the human factor, which is very important. Beyond Telepresence, working collaboratively, multi-sensorial immersion, etc., there will be numerous questions about the psychology of people working in these environments. The ‘after virtual reality’ will be an ‘after’ that takes into account the ensemble of these psychological challenges. We’re already working on them today, but certainly not sufficiently, and this is the last barrier before we can have complete virtual reality.

Merci Jean-Louis!

Do you agree? What do YOU think will come after virtual reality?



P.S. If you missed other interviews in this series, here’s the collection thus far:

P.P.S. I’ve covered two of CLARTE’s industrial projects in previous blog posts. If you like the sound of what they’re doing, you may enjoy:

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