In an enterprising effort to engage the design community and nurture new product development, a United Kingdom unit of Honeywell Inc. has struck up an informal alliance with the Advanced Product Development Centre, a small British industrial design firm.
APCD was founded five years ago as a joint venture between two universities as part of an economic regeneration project in South Yorkshire, an impoverished region of northern England. To date the Rotherham-based center has worked on hundreds of projects and provided industrial design services valued at £3 million ($4.68 million) to local clients, according to director Andy Toward.
Its success is prompting the seven-person design center to broaden its scope and market itself nationwide as a for-profit business, which helped lead to the new alliance with global nylon producer Honeywell.
``It's a toe-in-the-water test,'' said Russell Conway, European marketing manager for plastics for Honeywell Specialty Materials, and a driving force behind the project. He believes the modest venture can serve as a model that Honeywell can replicate around the world.
``The alliance is in its infancy,'' said Conway, ``though we've been talking about it a long, long time.''
At the Interplas trade show, held Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 in Birmingham, the Honeywell and APDC stands were side by side in a small grouping of exhibitors that were designated as the Designing in Plastics Technical Centre, sponsored by British design engineering magazine Eureka.
Conway insists that resin producers need to differentiate themselves from the competition, and help customers to manufacture more efficiently. To that end, Conway said he wants Honeywell to provide support to designers while also seeking out and identifying promising new product ideas in their earliest stages of conception.
``Free-thinking industrial designers might have some radical ideas ... that could lead to productivity gains. I want to be the first to do it,'' he said. ``The reason for being here at the show is to test the response from customers [to the alliance].''
Honeywell has received several positive reactions, including one from a global purchasing chief for U.S. hardware and appliance maker Black & Decker, an existing Honeywell customer.
APDC and Honeywell are working with Materialise NV, a Leuven, Belgium, company that makes tooling and prototype parts.
Laurent Dewez, leader of design engineering for plastics at Honeywell's Heverlee, Belgium, office, noted that product design is not Honeywell's specialty. But the firm offers extensive expertise in resin engineering. Using Honeywell's Internet-based MyResinPro service, the nylon supplier can blend and deliver custom compounded samples in just five days, thereby speeding the design validation and development process.
Conway said Honeywell has no commercial tie to APDC. But the partners brought in Toward, an experienced business manager from private industry, to run the center.
APDC is moving its office to Sheffield by the end of the year, Toward said.