Innovation driven by Logistics
4Legs Pet Food have just released their latest product offering for dogs in Gourmet Ready Meals, a single serve meal designed to be eaten straight from the pack. As the pack is a simple, thin plastic tray, it was identified early in the development process that for product success a means of holding and supporting the tray would need to be offered; the Tray Feeder. The Tray Feeder was developed for 4Legs by Bayly, and it wasn’t marketing that drove the innovation but logistics. We a take a closer look at the Tray Feeder and it’s journey to market.
For those of you that don’t know 4Legs Pet Food I’ll give you a quick background. Established in 1995, 4Legs is a Melbourne family owned and operated pet food supplier who provide natural, healthy alternatives to overly processed dog and cat food.
4Legs approached Bayly to assist them in developing the Tray Feeder to help get their new product to market. After looking at the entire supply chain and logistics system it became apparent that the Tray Feeder needed to be a little smarter than originally anticipated. 4Legs intended to mail the Tray Feeder to customers as a part of a redemption offer. To make this commercially viable, the size of the Tray Feeder needed to fit within standard letter dimensions. .This meant that the Tray Feeder needed to be about half as thick during shipping as it needed to be during use.
After Bayly identified a range of different possible solutions to this issue, 4Legs decided to go with the simplest, yet most challenging and risky design. This made sense from a marketing perspective as the solution was intuitive and easy to use, ensuring customer satisfaction and encouraging repeat use. But as it so often happens, to make something simple takes a lot of smart engineering and persistent collaboration with the manufacturer to get it just right.
Risk vs Rewards
There were a few known risks in choosing the simple solution. The first risk was stability. The design included an outer wall which folded for shipping and unfolded to provide the footing during use. The question was, would the thin fold line provide enough stability when unfolded? The second risk was moldflow. The fold line needed to be super thin to bend correctly, but thick enough to allow material to pass through and fill the other side of the mould cavity. Prototyping allowed 4Legs to assess the functionality and stability performance of the design and make improvements to mitigate the risks.
Successful Product Realisation
After a few small tool refinements to improve the material flow, we had samples that worked perfectly. The Tray Feeder walls fold up to fit within a standard postage size and fold down to provide a sturdy base for the tray. Taking the safe route is not always the best; 4Legs took an early risk and it paid off. Drawing design requirements from the whole product system and logistics, and identifying and mitigating risks facilitates the decision to take the more challenging route, and instead of a good product, you’re more likely to create a great product.