When thinking of the toy market and the toy creation process, the picture that appears in our head most probably includes some huge brands that cope the market. This domination of global brands leaves SME’s in the background. Let’s all agree that this battle is not fair, giants fighting against SME’s, however they can find new ways to reach the market and beat the giant and this is where ToyLabs comes in, by creating a co-design and collaborative platform to help in the process of developing new products.
The Toy Creation Process has a series of steps that go from the conceptualisation up to commercialisation, the objective is not changing the process steps but to introduce innovative elements based on collaboration that improves the whole process for an SME manufacturer in order to be able to acquire competitive advantages. The next paragraphs show how ToyLabs will improve or solve problems in each step of the process.
The creation of any type of Toy, like in any creative industry sector, begins from the conceptualisation/ ideation phase. While concept generation is a creative process, the more information a producer has regarding the market of existing products as well as potential market trends, the easier it is to take decisions and create better concepts. SMEs usually don’t have the means to acquire expensive market research services, ToyLabs will help them to analyse the market on the basis of opinions expressed by end-users in the web and social media. In addition to that the market analysis tool will also provide to the SMEs extensive analysis and related predictions of Toy Market trends based on discussions and articles found in the web and the social networks, especially focused on the identification of Toy Market influencers.
Moving to the second step, the design of a new product is probably the most crucial phase of toys development. ToyLabs proposes an enhanced interactive design process based on collaboration with external parties who belong in the ToyLabs network. In this step the new designs will be shared with FabLabs who can provide technical insights regarding materials, the manufacturing feasibility of the design, etc. Another innovation that ToyLabs introduces is the chance to get early feedback from End Customers (in this case as professionals regarding educational or child-psychology issues) that will form the ToyLabs Special Interest Group. TSIG will evaluate the 3D model through Augmented Reality and provide recommendations, opinions, etc. Working through ToyLabs in this step will save SMEs both money and time in the process of getting the final design.
After addressing all design issues, the process goes on with the development of the product, leading to the creation of a tangible prototype to be validated appropriately. Conventionally is the manufacturer who creates the prototypes in their own production facilities, this process however requires much time and effort since these facilities are ideal for mass production not for rapid prototyping. In this scenario ToyLabs brings into the picture Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs) who are able to produce single complicated items in a minimum time and limited cost. Moreover, using ToyLabs platform it is possible to produce the prototype at the same time in different FabLabs who can get them validated by their local TSIG group. A great benefit of this is that the manufacturer can get feedback from specialists in different countries so they identify the need to create a custom localised product.
Next step would be the pre-production, in the proposed ToyLabs process this phase target is to ensure that the production will follow the parameters set in the previous phases, as well as detect and solve any safety, environmental and mass-manufacturing issues, in order to avoid additional compliance costs. At this point a new series of prototypes is produced to be able to be tested by Toy Safety Experts participating in the ToyLabs network. The objective is to pre-certify the product, as well as at get specific recommendations on how to improve the design in order to make it fully compliant to the EU standards. In the same way, environmental experts can also provide technical advice and manufacturer-specific recommendations regarding the reduction of the environmental impact of producing the toys. This phase will end up with the final design and prototyping.
In the production phase ToyLabs does not propose significant enhancements as this is not in the scope of the project. However, the manufacturer has more trust that he is bringing into production a more suitable and interesting product and more important he will take into account the recommendations regarding safety and environmental standards provided in the previous phases
The final phase involves getting the product to the market, the commercialisation itself. The contribution of ToyLabs in this process relies on the motivation of those involved in the project to promote the product locally, either by recommending it or by publicity providing their feedback.
In summary, ToyLabs aims to enhance the toy development process by creating a new and more effective methodology of co-creation and collaboration between different stakeholders in order to change the market positioning and the prospects of SMEs in the Toy Industry.