MAGNET for growth: Invention Machine data platform leads to sustainable, repeatable product innovation

Best-in-class companies tend to rely on IT—especially collaboration-oriented applications—to support their product-development processes. Goldfire Innovator, a software platform from Invention Machine, makes it easy to manage data from both internal and external sources, allowing design teams to share ideas about products as they are being developed.
By Jim Fulcher, contributing editor January 27, 2009

Many of the world’s greatest inventions result from painstaking development cycles fraught with trial and error—a luxury that manufacturers can no longer afford.

“Product innovation can be difficult enough, but a number of factors now make the situation even more challenging,” notes Chad Jackson, VP of the product innovation group at Boston-based Aberdeen Group . “Raw materials costs are rising, manufacturers are facing considerable pressure to reduce development cycle times, and customers are demanding more features at a lower price point.”

With all of that to face, manufacturers want to turn product innovation into a predictable process. In fact, says Jackson, one of the characteristics of a best-in-class company is the ability to develop innovative products on a repeatable and consistent basis. The best-in-class also tend to rely on IT—especially collaboration-oriented applications—to support their product development processes.

Cleveland-based MAGNET ( Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network ) isn’t a manufacturer per se. It’s a not-for-profit organization offering business consulting, product development, and business incubation programs to manufacturers primarily in the Northern Ohio region. It’s also an enthusiastic user of Goldfire Innovator, a software platform that allows a company to collect and manage data from both internal and external sources. That data can then be used in the product development process.

The platform also offers a means of quickly searching the database to find solutions to specific product development problems, in addition to allowing design teams to share ideas about products as they are being developed.

“We offer a software platform that helps companies move from an idea to a product and accelerate time-to-value,” says, Jim Todhunter, CTO of Invention Machine , the developer of Goldfire Innovator. “It allows manufacturers to implement a repeatable and sustainable innovation process. Consequently, they are able to avoid unnecessary development effort and resulting cycle time, which ultimately improves revenue.”

Last fall, MAGNET used Goldfire Innovator to design Siphon Flush, the first anti-leak toilet-flapper for Frisco, Texas-based American Innovative Products . Siphon Flush’s design eliminates water leakage in toilets, is impervious to harsh chemicals found in most water and cleaning solutions, and has a lifespan 20 times that of existing flappers. Using Goldfire Innovator, MAGNET engineers generated and validated product design concepts, and eliminated design risks early in the development process. All this allowed bringing Siphon Flush to market quickly, says Dave Pierson, senior design engineer at MAGNET.

MAGNET product designers used Invention Machine’s Goldfire Innovator to play out the consequences of Siphon Flush design features to ensure the validity of the concept.

To develop Siphon Flush, MAGNET product designers used Goldfire Innovator to identify the root cause of water leakage, analyze technology trends and materials, play out the consequences of design features to ensure the validity of the concept, and anticipate future failure points. The application also recommended concepts outside the engineers’ sphere of expertise and offered viable solutions that expedited the idea-to-product process, Pierson says.

“We could not have designed and manufactured Siphon Flush as quickly or efficiently without the Invention Machine solution,” says Pierson. “Goldfire was key in helping us converge unique ideas from various fields, including life-sciences technology that we adopted into the design. And because it allowed us to substantially reduce development time, we were able to finish significantly under anticipated product delivery cost.”