Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
- Thomas Edison
Ok, let’s first address the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the word FAIL. Some people are actually afraid of the word fail… But I contend – You haven’t failed if you learned something.
What is Fail-Fast-Fail-Cheap (FFFC)?
Stop spending time and money on developing new processes, products, or marketing messages without trying (at least) pieces of it out.
TMAC, the U.S. Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate for Texas worked with a company that wasn’t getting all they needed from their vacuum system, it was not removing debris from the material they were cutting. They were ready to spend thousands to tens-of-thousands of dollars for a new solution. After listening to their concerns and watching the process, we came up with, admittedly what seemed like a dumb idea, which was simply make the vacuum pull over a smaller area.
Back at TMAC HQ we cobbled together a crude prototype and tested it with a milling machine and sample material. It seemed to work, so it was time to try it on the real machine.
Can you imagine walking into a company with a 2-liter bottle and a roll of duct-tape? As you can imagine they laughed – mercilessly. However, after a quick test our concept proved to be a rousing success. So much so that the customer didn’t want us to take back our prototype – it worked so much better than what they already had in place. For a minimal investment of time and money, we were able to test the concept – fast and cheap. If it didn’t work, back to the drawing board and no one was out much. This time it DID work, so the company moved forward with the adjustment without purchasing an entirely new system. This example of cost avoidance directly benefits your bottom line!
Function, not form, is key when proving out a concept.
On a side note, it is very important to ensure that sufficient resources, in terms of time, money or both, are spent to truly test out a concept. Many (including us) have encountered instances where there wasn’t enough time spent to test a concept, and when it failed, it was not clear whether it was the concept or the implementation.
Bottom line: The key to Fail Fast Fail Cheap is to spend minimum resources to get the concept off the paper and into the application so you can tell if it needs to be revised, killed, or finalized.
Do you have a proven system for testing your new ideas?
Great things are NOT often achieved by the well-rounded.
A new or existing business that attempts to be everything to everyone will not be successful. A machine shop that advertises itself as a provider of close tolerance milling is no longer unique. A restaurant with a sign out front saying “Good Food” is not unique. As a result, they have to be “cheap”.
The most successful businesses in the 21st century define and implement a niche strategy. A niche is a need or want not currently provided in the marketplace. Southwest Airlines started as a geographical niche. Bag-less leaf removal is a green lifestyle niche. Wine for Lawyers is an example of an Age/Stage niche.
Good niches have seven characteristics:
Master inventor Doug Hall says “If you’re not unique, you’d better be cheap.” Cheap is not a niche.
Does your business have a niche?
Dr. Raul Fernandez and his TMAC team were invited to collaborate with the Neiman Marcus’ downtown Dallas Flagship visual display team for the 2010 Holiday Windows. Located at the Automation & Robotics Research Institute at UT Arlington, the team worked on the interactive parts of the display. In 2007, the main display window featured UT Arlington robots in a futuristic display.