As it reaches to redefine the engineered soft goods space, OSM Group shows that expertise and flexibility add up to success.
It’s an equation that is delighting the world’s global brands and driving up-and-coming players to the heights of success: inspired design + robust manufacturing + ethical conduct = OSM Group. The Swedish firm develops extraordinary engineered soft goods that trendsetters demand. A design leader in color, materials, and finish, OSM Group offers consumer driven design, product development, scalable mass production and supply chain management solutions for the world’s most influential OEMs—as well as for visionaries on the brink of entry into that vaunted group.
With OSM’s strategic push into combining engineered soft goods with electronics, the journey towards something new has just started. In a first-of-its-kind move in the industry, OSM is merging electronics with engineered soft goods. As company CEO Patrik Ågren explained, “When you’re in the engineered soft good space, you typically don't touch electronics. We saw the trends changing and realized one of the capabilities we had to build was the ability to integrate electronics into engineered soft goods and vice versa. So initially we set out to organically build our own facilities that were better equipped to handle that business.”
To fast track this strategy in April, OSM inked a deal to purchase advanced electronics developer and manufacturer Flexworks Ltd, an original design manufacturer with expertise in electronics, radio, acoustics, sensors, and power with a specialty in harsh environment product engineering. That’s when their capability-driven approach kicked into high gear. “We added a range of capabilities that we didn’t really have before. That is where it really became interesting,” he mused. “Our clients don’t have suppliers that are experts in engineered soft goods and experts in engineered electronic goods with RF and those types of technologies. That combination is creating something unique.”
From tech devices to industrial applications and smart fashion, engineered soft goods are integral to the performance and strategy of many of today’s hottest consumer products. While they have a strong presence in the tech, industrial, luxury, and outdoor goods spaces, OSM transcends markets to share the capabilities that make the dreams of today’s most imaginative product designers come true.
Specialising in new product introduction for OEMs, the company helps clients get quality products to market and volume quickly and offers value-based manufacturing and engineering solutions. Leaders in the design, product development, prototyping, validation, engineering, mass production, and retail pack-out, OSM operates globally with presence in Dallas, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Dongguan, Huizhou, Delhi, and Seoul. The firm recently broke ground for a new manufacturing center in the Philippines, which will be operational in early 2021, to augment its China-based factories.
OSM’s keen understanding of critical timelines for go-to-market and time to volume projects and of product engineering complexity and supply chain requirements is a boon to clients in the tech space. As luxury products continually advance to meet the needs of tech-savvy consumers, OSM’s sourcing and material expertise team is tuned into their wide-ranging CMF needs for sustainable and ecofriendly materials, helping to keep supply chains balanced, sustainable, resilient, and agile. “We even have capabilities to localise various materials and fabrics close to our manufacturing locations or to create unique material or fabric properties to meet complex and advance product requirements,” Ågren said. In the outdoor space, OSM creates ruggedised solutions for the most extreme environments, and medical device manufacturers turn to OSM for precision manufactured soft goods accessories.
“We have made early investments and inroads into sustainable fabrics and materials for our products, this early investment is now paying off and even our big customers are turning to us for direction, advice and recommendations for their upcoming product launches and need for sustainable CMF options. We can not only provide the materials themselves but also ensure that we develop a product and a manufacturing processes that ensures that the products can truly be manufacturing on time and in volumes.
“Last week I spoke to a customer who wanted us to explore a new sustainable leather substitute made from cactus plants. When I told him that we could send him to a few stores in USA who already sell products made by OSM from that exact material it became very quiet on the other end … the conversation ended with an excellent discussion on how we could support,” Ågren said.
The firm takes an agnostic approach to the markets they serve. “We are not market- or industry-centric. We are capability-centric. We are in tech, in outdoor, medical, industrial, luxury—a very broad span across the typical industry segment definitions,” Ågren said. In taking a capability-first approach, the company has expanded its horizons exponentially. “It’s much easier to be precise in how we can develop a true value proposition for our clients through our capabilities. It’s not like we’re saying, ‘We’ve been in your industry for many years,’ thinking that this qualifies us. Not really. We might be very comfortable in your industry or we might not; it won’t impact how we deliver our value proposition to our customers. We’re product-focused, so our capabilities will help you go to market with unique products, or in a better way with your existing products. Most of our clients are product-focused in the discussions they have with suppliers like us, so being product-focused through our capabilities works out very nicely.”
While OSM has made its mark by enchanting brand name power players, many clients exist outside of that realm. “Many of our customers are somewhat established but they are smaller than the giants out there that we typically work with. They have the desire to go global at some point, and we collaborate with the experience and expertise honed while working with the big guys,” Ågren said. “That says a lot on how we operate, how we can help, and who we cater to.”
The emphasis on strategic partnerships is becoming increasingly important. OSM works with advanced materials developers that cover everything from smart and sustainable textiles to fasteners and with the world’s biggest electronics manufacturers—a novel combination. OSM’s partnerships range from collaborations with heavy hitters Qualcomm and NXP to cutting-edge solar cell technology innovator Exeger.
“What we have created in combining engineered soft goods with true electronic integration capability, is something that doesn’t exist in the industry today,” he stressed. “When customers have complex problems and they have challenges in realising the product that they know will make them a winner, they call us. That’s when we really shine and bring value to our clients. If they are only after something that is a price driven gap filler, a vanilla flavour, then they typically don’t call us because that’s not where we bring value.”
In addition to their design and development capabilities, OSM’s formidable manufacturing proficiencies include the creation of custom fixtures, custom testers both in laboratory environments and on the manufacturing line, integration and product and material testing in their accredited ISO 17025 facilities, and manufacturing builds including line qualification, product verification and ramp up to mass production to hit volume targets.
“Continuous improvement is quite important for us given the fact that we’re in a manufacturing-oriented space, but we are seldom fixated only on perfection. Progress beats perfection any day,” Ågren exhorted. “Leadership is also something that is essential to our company’s success. We typically say that any problem we have in the company is a leadership problem.
“Once you take that approach, wherever you sit in the hierarchical pyramid of leadership, you start looking at challenges and failures very differently because you realise that immediately and ultimately it boils down to you and how you act and behave, how you explain context and how you communicate.” That equation adds up to excellence, making OSM Group an invaluable contributor to the evolution of engineered soft goods and electronics and a trusted partner to OEMs and rising stars.