Disrupting an Industry: MTD Products and Nottingham Spirk Shake Up Outdoor Power Equipment Market

Vertical Innovation Approach Leads to Transformational Product, Troy-Bilt FLEX

Feb 25, 2016, 09:10 ET from Nottingham Spirk

CLEVELAND, Feb. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- With an early spring forecast by groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, homeowners may soon be switching from snow-throwers to lawn mowers. Thanks to a successful partnership between business innovation firm Nottingham Spirk and outdoor power equipment leader MTD Products, that transition is just a few clicks away. Today, Nottingham Spirk announced its role in the co-creation of MTD's Troy-Bilt® FLEX™, a revolutionary, space-saving yard care system for homeowners. FLEX features one rugged engine with four click-on attachments to make it a snow-thrower, lawn mower, leaf blower or power washer at any given time.

MTD saw an opportunity to deliver a yard-care system that would be unlike anything on the market—revving up an industry that was re-emerging from the last recession. But the company did not want to divert attention or resources from their core products. Instead, they tapped into Nottingham Spirk's Vertical Innovation Consulting™ practice, which houses customer research, engineering, design, manufacturing, prototyping, sourcing and other experts under one roof – many of them award winning patent holders, well versed in finding unmet needs and executing on them.

"We were relentless in proving out the feasibility of the FLEX, of showing the opportunity it presented MTD to expand into complementary products and services," said Jason Ertel, Engineering Program Director, Nottingham Spirk. "Through our Vertical Innovation approach, of which thorough research, our capacity to gather, analyze and act on consumer insights is part and parcel, we offered MTD a rock-solid way to invest in a promising but radical new concept."

"The Nottingham Spirk team was able to identify multiple pain points, then create a product that addressed all of them," said Roy Keating, Vice President of Business Development, MTD. "Their research is iterative; they don't do research simply to support an idea — the research drives ideas. And research is not just performed up front; they go back to the consumer for feedback throughout the process in a constant cycle of listen, create, listen, create. The resulting benefits to consumers of the FLEX are outstanding, including reduction of storage footprint by up to 60 percent, and cost efficiency: consumers can start seeing savings with FLEX after investing in just two attachments, as compared to purchasing single-purpose equipment."

Keating adds that working with Nottingham Spirk forced MTD to carefully evaluate its entire process: "They start at the beginning and question everything, from packaging to manuals to assembly to set-up and so on." MTD has since incorporated many of these practices in its own projects. It is a process that yields revenue-driving results at a relatively quick pace: after just two years between concept and market, FLEX launched exclusively at Lowe's – where it regularly receives five-star ratings - and the retailer recently named MTD a 2015 Innovation Partner of the Year. New attachments are expected to hit the market in 2016.  

At MTD's invi­tation, Nottingham Spirk representatives attended meetings with Lowe's, and Keating says this lent credibility to MTD's claims that the FLEX would be a disruptive product. Nottingham Spirk was able to make it clear to all involved: the FLEX solves problems that consumers didn't even know they had.

"We've helped over 1,400 clients develop more than 1,000 commercialized patents and delivered $50 billion in combined sales from new businesses developed," says John Nottingham, co-President, Nottingham Spirk. "Part of the reason for our success is our focus on helping our clients keep their often long-standing companies ahead of their competition. We do this by providing a proven, cost-conscious process to move outside of their core product lines and create breakthrough innovation. For example, with MTD, we worked hand in hand with their engineering team to ensure the design to best fit the company's man­ufacturing practices, using existing tooling as much as possible, to keep costs down. We believe in the power of transformational innovation to drive ongoing revenue – and we couldn't ask for a better proof of this than MTD's Troy-Bilt® FLEX."

About Nottingham Spirk
Cleveland-based breakthrough innovation firm Nottingham Spirk is the innovator of wildly successful new businesses including: Spinbrush, Swiffer SweeperVac, Sherwin Williams Twist & Pour, and MTD Troy-Bilt FLEX. Launched 44 years ago, Nottingham Spirk has developed over 1,000 commercialized patents that have generated over $50 billion in new revenue for industry leaders as well as fast-growth entrepreneurial firms. Through our proprietary Vertical Innovation™ approach, we handle every aspect of innovation under one roof, leading to significant time and cost efficiencies as well as ensuring confidentiality and intellectual property protection. To learn more about our collaborative approach and successes with our client partners, visit www.nottinghamspirk.com.

Contact: Ariane Doud, Warner Communications
(978) 283-2674 or ariane@warnerpr.com

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