Product design for sport
Grays International has a long history of designing and manufacturing elite sports equipment. The company began by producing high quality cricket bats, and their ranges now extend to equipment and clothing for hockey, rugby, cricket and netball. Managing Director Neil Gray has worked with various universities in the past to make use of the specialist expertise and additional resources they can bring.
Already an innovative market leader in equipment design, Grays saw their sports clothing ranges as a potential area for further growth, and began talking to the University of Brighton about possible ways to go about development.
Neil Gray, Managing Director, Grays International
The company commenced a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the university, led by Dr Tim Katz, principal lecturer in the School of Environment and Technology. As part of the project, the company recruited a KTP associate.
‘We were very fortunate to find such talented candidate’ said Neil Gray ‘our associate was a product design graduate with previous experience of working in the sports equipment and clothing industry, so she had a great deal to offer.’
The brief involved taking the traditional sports garments produced by the company, and developing them for the top end of the sports clothing market. Using a more structured approach to design and development, the clothes were re-designed for efficiency and style, using high performance modern fabrics. The whole of the manufacturing and sales process was also reviewed, resulting in new systems and procedures for specifying and costing garments including quality control throughout the process. ‘This is more important than ever now that most manufacture takes place in the far east’ says Neil ‘communication must be absolutely clear at all stages’.
The target was to produce £1.2 million in additional revenue over five years. By the end of the two year programme, the additional revenue had already reached £1 million.
The company has seen particular success with its new lines in the rugby market as more youngsters have taken up the sport since the World Cup in 2003. Having improved the structure and design of its clothing, the next challenge will be to reduce the delivery times for team wear.
The company is also working with University of Brighton on strength analysis for its hockey sticks. The product design department has characterised the sticks for stiffness and power, setting absolute values to these dimensions to enable more effective comparison by end users in retail situations.
‘I’ve found the university extremely helpful – they’ve spent time helping to analyze my needs and skilfully coordinated the project from start to finish.’
Neil Gray, Managing Director
Grays International: www.grays-int.com