Guest: Robert Tiller
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Robert is the founder and CEO of Tiller Design, and partner businesses Tiller Manufacturing Pty Ltd. Robert has held board positions on several ‘start up’ companies focussing on technology commercialisation. He also advises many business entrepreneurs on successful new product development, manufacturing and distribution. Robert has judged international design awards programs in Korea and Australia. He has spoken at international design and sustainability conferences in Saudi Arabia, China, North America and Australia. Robert is a highly respected design professional and a founding member on The Good Design Council Australia.
Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, get familiarized with the various services that Tiller Design has to offer as we are joined by their founder and CEO Robert Tiller. They are a leading product design and development consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. A champion of truly diligent product design, Robert has over 25 years of experience in product development, design, manufacture and commercialisation. Globally Robert and his team have developed many successful products in the medical, consumer, commercial and business market.
Health Professional Radio
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and today my guest is Robert Tiller. Robert is the CEO of Tiller Design, a firm based in Sydney. Robert, welcome to Health Professional Radio.
Robert Tiller: Thanks Wayne. Thanks very much.
W: Now Robert, Tiller Design I guess is a design company but tell me a little bit about what you do and what your geographic footprint is.
R: Indeed, thanks. Well Tiller Design is predominantly a product design and development company. And we actually specialize as a consultancy business in helping people bring their ideas to the market. So we also move from design into manufacture and commercialization. We do that across the planet actually, our prime customer base is Australia and the USA and a few clients in Europe.
W: Okay. So that pretty much makes you a one-stop-shop in the design and production of new product?
R: It does, but it’s better to think of it as a team that can move across the entire journey of a product coming from conception to the market. So quite often we’ll find companies that need part of the journey resolved or the entire journey resolved. So we can line up and does everything as you say ‘one-stop-shop” but more commonly we will get heavily involved in the product design and development and occasionally involved in there for commercialization.
W: Robert most of our listeners are clinicians of one sort or another often in acute care or aged care. What’s the kind of illustration of a product that fits into your model?
R: It’s really quite interesting, acute care, aged care equipment. So you need to think really broadly about this and sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. So any product or service for that matter, that people are using or touching, whether it’s chairs, knives, fork, tables, cooking equipment, beds, whatever it might be, somebody’s designed that. And the good products are the ones that have been carefully considered and solved the problems that people might experience in their daily use. So really our profession bends and twists into any work of life, medical devices is one area of specialty but we actually cross to all sorts.
W: I see. You’re quite right when you say if someone have to design that and as you were saying it I was thinking, “No, no surely a knife or a fork. They’ve just … oh yes I guess someone did have to design them.”
R: Yeah, and it’s not always the case if they’re designed well and I guess that’s luckily for us, that’s why our profession exist.
W: Yes. Often I think if professions worked better than they did, then most of us wouldn’t have jobs anymore because a lot of us are employed in fixing things that don’t work very well.
R: Yeah, indeed. But a lot of innovation comes from grassroots so I love grassroots Innovation. And if you marry that with professional services like the design or our product development processes, you can actually get some amazing result.
W: So Robert, what’s the take away message for clinicians listening? What would you like them to take away from our chat today?
R: I think clinicians from all walks of life in different medical practices will no doubt know the problems of their industry, if you like. So they would know the problems of their end-users and costumers’ experience. And sometimes they might not even realize it so it will be great for clinicians to think about where there is a significant problem. And if they’re brave enough to then share it to companies like ours to find out if there is any commercial upside or even some potential to turn that into a small startup or even a product that might reach the market.
W: I wonder if you’ve got any view about what inhibits people from doing that?
R: Yes, a particular personality. We meet different types of clients. We have established companies obviously, but then at the other end of the spectrum we get what we call sometimes for ‘give me the mad scientist’
R: All the way through the sophisticated inventor. So it’s a huge undertaking to commercialize a product, let alone bring one to market in the first place. And quite often one of the big misconceptions I see if people have a good idea and they think because they have a good idea, it is a good idea. It’s not always obviously and quite often they will feel it’s about the product where it’s not about the product, it’s really about the problem and how innovative and scalable the solution might be for that problem. And in my world, that means a problem is solved by a device being created.
W: Uh huh.
R: Like the smart phones example didn’t exist once, now it exist. Obviously it’s a very successful object in product design. Similarly in the medical space, there’s thousands of problems and there’s many a person has tried a start up or answer but not many of them make it to market because it’s a very arduous path that it has to go through.
W: Robert that path is something that I guess you take people along as your core product. You mentioned misconceptions a moment ago, I do like misconceptions because they always deal with straight things. Is there a greatest misconception amongst your clients and customers that drive you nuts and keeps you awake at night?
R: Yeah. I thinks it’s the one I mentioned a minute ago, actually. Everybody believes that it’s about the product. They think that their idea is the best idea ever and they focus very firmly on the product. Now that’s quite valid but the product design process even though that’s my core business is one part of the whole journey in evaluating whether we should even bother trying to bring something to market. And the big guys did this very well, they spend years researching problems and years coming up with ideas on how to solve them and only one in probably a hundred ever make it to market. So while it’s good to get excited by your ideas and your observation of them solving the problem, it’s really important to validate that that’s worth pursuing and be very clear in your mind whether you want to pursue it for philanthropic reasons, i.e. it’s a great problem to solve because everyone will benefit or commercial reasons or both. Most of the time we meet people that want to do it because they need a commercial outcome.
W: Robert it’s been a pleasure having a chat with you this morning. How do people get in touch with you?
R: Well we’re based in Sydney. They can reach us through our website which is tillerdesign.com and the best thing is probably to pick up the phone and have a chat and we love sharings of people’s ideas and very much so look forward to helping anyone who’s got any ideas if they think it’s got legs.
W: And the number for people who want to reach out to you?
R: It’s 02-9818-5251
W: And I’ll just mention the website again because I’m always getting into trouble for people not getting websites down quickly enough, it is tillerdesign.com T I L L E R design dot com. And that’s where you can find Robert Tiller, the CEO of Tiller Design who we’ve been chatting with this morning. If you just missed our chat, well the good news is we have a transcript up on our website at www.hpr.fm. You can also hear an archive of this conversation on SoundCloud and on YouTube. Robert thank you for your time, I do appreciate you being with us today.
R: It’s a pleasure. Thanks Wayne.
W: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar.