Teaming up with designers, engineers, architects and other experts can lead to novel applications and help advance the industry.
Innovation requires collaboration. Consider the Curbside Pickup Pod: The deceptively simple GFRP kiosk, which resembles a bus stop shelter, is the byproduct of new way of shopping introduced by a startup company called Curbside (shopcurbside.com). The company’s founders created an app, which consumers use to order items from stores including big-box leaders Target and Best Buy. Within a half hour or so, those items are waiting for pick up at a kiosk outside the store or mall. Consumers pull up to the Pickup Pod and collect their merchandise from an attendant – no time wasted searching for a parking space or standing in line in a store. And they receive items faster than if they ordered online and waited a day or more for delivery.
The Pickup Pod is the physical presence at the back-end of Curbside’s high-tech business. But it took just as much brain power to pull together as the digital juice that fuels the company. The team that developed the kiosk included engineers from Curbside, renowned architect Greg Lynn, composite fabricators Kreysler & Associates and civil engineers from Martin/Martin Inc.
Teamwork was critical to the creation of the kiosk – the first of which was installed at Glendale Galleria in Los Angeles in August – as it is for most composite applications. “Nobody can be an expert at everything,” says Bill Kreysler, president of Kreysler & Associates Inc., American Canyon, Calif. “If you bring together a group of people who have expertise in their various fields and everyone contributes, you’re going to be better off than if one person tries to do everything.”
What Drives Partnerships
Selling composites necessitates more than a “quote-and-a-handshake” approach. It takes a village to devise composite solutions, from designers and architects to engineers and OEMs. Companies partner with customers as well as outside consulting firms to ensure that visionary ideas ultimately translate into functional composite applications.
One of the primary reasons collaboration is so important is because most applications are custom. Mar-Bal Inc., a compounder and molder of thermoset composite products based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, provides components for numerous consumer appliance brands, including GE, KitchenAid, Electrolux, Whirlpool and Maytag. “Each component has very unique and specific attributes,” says Marc Imbrogno, director of materials engineering for Mar-Bal. “In order to achieve those attributes – and a satisfied customer – you want to be engaged as far upstream in the design chain as possible.”