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Frugal solutions without sacrificing safety

If frugal solutions are not at the expense of safety, less can also be more. Products and technological solutions from highly developed industrialized countries such as Germany are often “over-engineered”. They have many features and operating elements that are dispensable in classic everyday use. When developing frugal solutions, this way of thinking is virtually turned on its head: Only the bare essentials – the so-called “bottom-of-the-pyramid” – instead of the complex high-end variant. Does simplicity stand in contrast to security? Not at all: in some areas, it is precisely frugal approaches that offer considerable potential for innovation.

When simple sometimes even means safer: Frugal solutions in medical technology

During the coronavirus pandemic, the healthcare industry repeatedly experienced global supply bottlenecks for various components, which delayed the production of urgently needed products. A problem that has continued to have a significant impact on the healthcare sector ever since. And one of the reasons why a new perspective on the production of medical technology has emerged – especially in situations with limited resources.

The frugal approach in medical technology focuses on the sense and positive effect of effectively reducing complexity: simple is sometimes even safer – especially when a simple operating unit has been designed to be so easy to understand that you can react quickly and intuitively in emergency situations. This means that valuable minutes do not have to be spent studying detailed instructions. In this case, simplicity even saves lives.

In the meantime, a large number of designs, prototypes, products and solutions have been created in the lower and medium price segments, most of which can even be operated by medical laypersons: Technologies, devices and services that benefit everyone – regardless of the level of development of the country in which they live. This approach has a lot to do with a new awareness of social responsibility. The examples are many and varied:

  • Robust, easy-to-use, safe ventilators and respiratory support systems for adults, children and infants
  • Highly functional ECG devices with simple operating units
  • Innovative diagnostic tool for inflammation of the mouth and throat: “chewing gum rapid test”
  • Compact, mobile ultrasound devices and computer tomographs
  • Textile incubators for premature babies
  • X-ray machines reduced to the essential functions

Simple is not easy – but it’s worth it: productive challenges for great market opportunities

Product development, product design and user experience: a whole series of complex work steps must be invested in these areas so that the result is “simple” in the frugal sense. All value creation processes are streamlined – without any loss of quality and just as secure as the highly developed, feature-rich solution.

The effort is worth it: there is now considerable demand for frugal solutions and products not only in industrialized countries, but also in the so-called emerging markets, for example, in a wide variety of sectors and within the entire technological infrastructure. These gaps in the market offer great potential for all companies that get involved in the development of frugal products – and in this way can not only open up new markets for their business, but also sustainably advance the general technical and thus also social development of a country. Superfluous functions not required by the customer are omitted. Products and solutions are newly developed with a special, targeted focus on the respective area of application.

Speaker from the Fraunhofer Institute explains on the screen

New technologies and the right mindset: Ready for “Frugal Engineering”?

Many new technologies, such as process automation and device control or IoT (Internet of Things), are ideally suited to frugal engineering.

At the same time, modern production processes such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing methods provide further useful effects: Saving raw materials, avoiding overproduction, reducing follow-up costs.

And we have saved one of the most important thoughts in this context for last: Successful “frugal engineering” is not least always a question of the appropriate and necessary corporate culture. The right agile mindset is just as much a part of this as the detailed, regular exchange of information with customers and users. If all of this is combined with deliberately promoted performance for fast, functional adaptations and effective marketing, frugal products can be a real success: Simple, affordable, practical, good and safe.

Do you have questions about frugal products or would you like to start a new project with us?

Contact us! Just send us your message or call us at +49 6281 5200 0.

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