Innovation is still the driving force
We all like to try something new and, as long as it’s come from a trusted source, why not? But what do we really mean by innovation these days, and how do you choose what to invest your shelf space and staff training time in?
Timeguard has a decades-long reputation for bringing new ideas to market. In the 1970s the company, then part of Smiths Industries, was first to the UK market with PIR lights. Now part of the Theben Group, we continue to benefit from a culture that encourages innovation and have continued to add new ideas to our catalogue year on year. Most recently we have broken new ground with affordable electronic thermostats and the energy saving boost timing concept. It will therefore come as no surprise to the wholesaler market that we are well advanced with plans for new ranges which will come to market later this year.
Manufacturing new products is a big investment. One of the main reasons we have the confidence to make that investment is the feedback we get from the trade that gives us a reality check on the marketplace. Another key source of our confidence is that we have a team of design engineers who are based in the UK and work alongside the sales and support staff so they know about your issues and wish lists. Successful innovation is producing what the customer wants, not just what is technically possible for its own sake.
Time and again our designers have demonstrated their creativity and an ability to dovetail their skills with the manufacturing process – turning what they invent on the drawing board into innovation on the wholesalers shelves. I challenge anyone to improve on their classic design for Vision outdoor sockets with full-size windows that can still be manufactured without compromising on product integrity. With the benefit of hindsight, anyone can dismiss ideas like the blue line that gives visual feed back on our dial-controlled electronic wallstats as simple and obvious – but hindsight always was a wonderful thing! Personally, I think it was as small stroke of genius that demonstrates a real understanding of how a product is going to be used and by whom and so adds a lot of value.
As with all the best ideas, ours are quickly copied. PIR lights are ubiquitous, everyone’s outdoor power sockets have been pulled up by their bootstraps since we unveiled the Vision range and imitators will soon be snapping at the heels of our energy-saving boost timing concept. In short, a lot of new products are ‘me too’ imitations, and they seem to find their way to market quicker and quicker.
There is very little legal protection for innovators. Acquiring patent protection is expensive and time consuming – and at the end of the day offers no cast iron guarantees in a global market place. Besides, not everything that counts as a product innovation is a patentable invention. Our innovations often focus mainly on ergonomic and cosmetic design or, in these days of energy consciousness, just switching things off.
It is often how we do things rather than what we do – so patenting does not come into it anyway. For instance, we cannot patent the technology behind the BoostMaster range which has, by the way, been flying off the shelves because it is basically delay timers and switches, albeit used in a clever way. Similarly, we acted quickly to put instant-on low energy bulbs into PIR lights, which were an innovation yes, but not a patentable new technology.
So we accept imitators and, as innovators, recognise that we have to rely on the financial strength and resources to distribute and market the product effectively during the short window of exclusivity and great designers and trusted manufacturing partners. We also have to have faith that, even after the clones arrive, there will always be space in the market for the quality, support and service we put behind our pioneering products and that we have a wholesaler channel that is as committed to innovation as we are.
Right now we have all this in place and we thank you for your vital support.