Guest Blog Post
By Ken Hegemann, President, K & R Consulting, Inc.
Good Inventions. Generally, good inventions come about in an effort to solve a problem. When considering a product idea that will solve the problem, the inventor needs to search for the root cause of the problem, and reach beyond existing design paradigms to solve the problem. If you truly reach beyond existing paradigms to find a solution, then the invention is novel and original. It’s a good idea to listen to the opinions of peers along the way as you explore various solutions. An invention is the knack of discovering a new/novel way to solve a problem. If your peers are enthusiastic about your idea, there’s a good chance others will like it as well.
Invention?, or an idea for an Invention. Do you have an invention? Or do you have an “idea” for an invention? There’s a big difference. If you come up with a novel device that solves a problem, or something that’s completely new and useful, you have an invention. On the other hand, for example, let’s say you recognize that gum disease is wide-spread, and you believe that if a product could be made that would automatically brush your teeth and gums without user skill, that is not an invention, that’s an “idea” for an invention. Even if you don’t know exactly how to solve the problem with a specific gadget, simply recognizing a problem that affects a big demographic can have real value.
If you feel that you have an “idea” for an invention and are having difficulty coming up with a specific gadget to solve the recognized problem, you can take your idea/concept to a product developer who can expand on your basic concept/idea, and evolve it into an invention/product. When that happens, you can negotiate a shared inventor-ship with the product developer. Of course, if you can emerge with the product/gadget all on your own, that’s certainly better.
Demographics. Studying demographics is one of the most important aspects in determining if an invention is truly needed. Demographic investigation basically involves determining what group of people within a territorial population would likely purchase your product. For example, if you invent a toothbrush designed specifically for people with dental braces, you need to determine how many people are wearing dental braces at any given time. That becomes your demographic for a specified territory, say USA or the entire world if that’s your target. You then estimate what percentage of the demographic you can reasonably sell your invention to, thus determining the potential sales revenue. You will certainly need such data to attract investment partners. Here is a final word on demographics; if it’s too small, it may be time to abandon the idea and exercise ingenuity down another path. If on the other hand you expose a huge demographic, forge ahead with undaunted perseverance. Take it from someone who has been doing this for more than 40 years; hard work does not always pay off; perseverance does.
Has someone beat you to the punch? Before spending any money and more time, make sure that your idea is truly original. Search engines are amazing tools. Conduct an internet search and try to actually purchase a product like your invention. If after an exhaustive search you are unable to locate your product idea, move forward with an official patent search. If you do come upon a product similar to your invention, save your money and time and move on to something else.
Is your idea/solution practical? Often times, practicality boils down to the price that someone has to pay for your product. It is important to analyze the price practicality of your invention. The end product must be affordable by the demographic for which it was designed. Success can only come from volume sales; volume sales can only come via practical affordability. Some rules-of-thumb do apply when analyzing and establishing product pricing. Generally, the selling price for an item needs to be in the range of 4 to 7 times the actual production cost. That’s important because marketing is costly and takes up a healthy percentage of the sales revenue. Without marketing, you have no sales, without sales, your project will fail. Remember, if your product is not perceived to be fairly priced, it will remain on the shelf, and/or web click-through (conversion) will be too low to sustain the business.
Manufacturing. As Americans, our first choice is to be able to “Make in USA and wave that banner. In some cases, that’s just not possible, especially with products that are labor intensive in production. If a product can be robotically assembled, Made in USA is the perfect choice and in fact can be cost competitive with Asia production. Quality is paramount, cost is secondary. Ken Hegemann has first-hand ISO quality experience as well as 20 plus years of manufacturing affiliations with companies in both the USA and China.
Material selection. Designers must consider the best possible material for every product with consideration given to end use environment, safety, practicality, cost, and durability. Good product development companies can offer advice in the material selection process.
Patents. Careful consideration should be given to the patent application process. A patent search is always advised. A good product developer may be able to offer some advice not only on the options of provisional, utility and design patent applications, but more importantly, when to make such applications relevant to the product development timeline. Such advice should always be reconfirmed by a patent attorney before taking any action. With 30-plus patents issued, Ken Hegemann can offer his experience regarding how he has approached the patent process.
Help is available. A product concept may have great potential, but the path to success can be bumpy without the proper steps and the talent to implement. If you need product development advice and assistance, K & R Consulting can be of help. If you have an invention or an idea for an invention, K & R can help. They offer disclosure documents for your protection. Contact Ken Hegemann at [email protected]
Ken Hegemann is a seasoned product design specialist who can take a concept from idea, through industrial design, prototyping, factory setup or sourcing, all the way to final production. He is a life-long member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Hegemann stresses the necessity for autonomy in design, prototyping, materials selection and initial product testing. He is proficient in AutoCAD and SolidWorks 3D modeling software. 3D renderings can aid in presenting your product to investors as well as searching and applying for patents etc. 3D files are tools that are ultimately needed to build production molds and tooling for your product.
Hegemann’s experience includes products ranging from agricultural irrigation machines, tools, sporting equipment, pet products, consumer items, and personal care products including the 30 Second Smile Toothbrush (30secondsmile.com) named Oral and Dental Care Product of the year. He also has access to extensive experience in beverage formulation and production of: Ready to drink coffee, tea, and juice. Also ready to drink high protein beverages in cans, bottles, or plastic as well as formulations for Keurig type k-cups.
Write to us at [email protected] to arrange an interview.
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