Ford now uses a high-tech process to create, design and conduct market research on its newest vehicle offerings. The use of digital tools throughout the development process of the 2010 Ford Taurus provided a savings of both time and money.
“The team was charged to deliver the new Taurus one year sooner than planned, so everyone – from Design, Engineering, Manufacturing and Marketing – signed on for the challenge,” said Moray Callum, Ford executive director, Design. “Digital tools were certainly a big part of that.”
The digital tools also improved communication throughout Ford. The system’s pictorial language requires no translation. “The digital process really has become a unifying language for the organization,” said Jeff Nowak, chief designer, Studio 2000X. “All groups can communicate with a common, unified vision.”
The 2010 Ford Taurus set the standard for exceptional craftsmanship at a reasonable price. In fact, at the North American International Auto Show, AutoWeek magazine named to 2010 Ford Taurus “Most Significant” vehicle of the show.
Digital work added flexibility and exploration opportunities for designers. “Working digitally, one has an advanced ability to experiment; you can magnify the creative potential,” explained Nowak. “Our digital process starts from the very beginning. We’ve converted all our analog tools – our paints, markers and brushes – and we literally now sketch digitally. So we can make dynamic changes to our sketches, make changes on the fly, do all those things you couldn’t do back in the day with a sketch on the wall. Our experimental capability has been empowered by digital design.”
Christine Stasiw, director of Global Market Research says the benefits continue during the market research phase. “Market research really is important in getting customer input into each phase of the product development process,” she said. “When we did customer research in the past, depending on the development phase, we would use either 2-D photos or actually would have the properties built. Working with 2-D photos did not provide the customer a visual that defined the lines and depth of the design. Having properties built for research and shipping them to market research clinics was extremely costly.”
As Ford continues to enhance its global portfolio, the digital process will help smooth the way forward.
“A design, whether it’s created in Europe, Asia Pacific or America, has to be researched around the world,” says Callum. “That could be Brazil for example – it could be Shanghai, Milan or Atlanta. You don’t have to carry around these three-dimensional properties. Now, market research can occur on multiple continents in one day or one week. We’re cutting days and dollars out of the whole process.”