It is not just that prosthetic part manufacturers find their business is a bit of a stalemate. After all, optical glasses - a form of prosthetic enhancement of our visual system - today is a thriving business that, as opposed to the prosthetic limb business, is fashionable, affordable, fun, honest and open, contains (at least in Switzerland) a relatively high price for the unit (i.e. 1 pair of glasses) and from then on free maintenance.
What made that happen? What can we see in the market, maybe in other products, that helps us drive the prosthetic market?
The burger industry was extremely limited in scope. No one would really buy burgers decades back. Then, cattle breeding, slaughter houses, beef processing, and ultimately, burger preparation, were separated. The separation caused each step to undergo market pressure or cartel organization on its own. What we have today - fresh cheap burgers - is the direct result of split steps.
The same is true for automobiles or computers. Parts are competitively built and whether the computer assembly company - Apple, HP, Lenovo, et cetera - buys their parts from a no-name Chinese OEM manufacturer, from ASUS, Realtek, from Papst or from Thermal Take, from AMD or Intel, is their choice. That makes the industry move and keeps customers glued to the edge of their seats.
A real requirement - for prosthetic limbs, for example - is compatibility. A prosthetic manufacturer that has not realized that is certainly not worth their weight in, say, paper dust.
Customer needs and hip stuff
A customer has so and so much money to spend, monthly, annually.
If a prosthetic manufacturer has a body powered bionic looking hand that is equipped with swappable plastic covers and that looks ultimate and cool, that repeats for prosthetic sockets and arms what already helped sell Playmobil figures (such as making the surfaces paintable et cetera), offering structured surfaces and so on, then they will be able to keep trucking in a segment where NOW amputees waste money on other stuff - cell phones, gadgets, sports, cinema, glasses, entertainment, clothes or shoes.
To what extreme degree established and well rooted (seemingly) companies are off the mark is shown by two recent examples:
Otto (a German warehouse) tried to get their Facebook community to find a suitable model to represent it, and funnily enough, a man wearing women's clothing won that contest. The company was mature enough to realize that fans wanted Otto to be funny, and not stale - and went with it. Good for them:
Pril (a German dish washing liquid brand of Henkel) tried to invite the Facebook community to contribute new dish washing liquid bottle designs. The one that won that contest is a brown label with the slogan "tastes like chicken" - absurd, Dada and really creative, but as it turned out, really cool. Hell, I never buy the overpriced stale Pril brand - but if they would actually have printed these labels I would have bought that product - just like I started to buy Hero confiture, a Swiss stale overpriced brand with nice marmelade and a new selling point: absolutely NO extra force is required to open their marmelade glasses. At any rate, managers of the Pril brand allegedly forged Facebook votes and removed the design as they found it unfunny. This now constitutes a fiasco for Pril and Henkel:
We learn from that:
a) Listening to customers can be difficult, and it is almost impossible if customers have gone their own way since an extended period of time. To no surprise, "friends don't let friends wear Otto Bock" - and anyone who had the chance to experience their products and customer experience has a story to tell. That company must have started to intimidate and cover their clients with useless replies so long ago that it may have become second nature now. But they are not the only ones that have trouble or are even unable to listen to customers.
b) Cool design exists : ) It really does. It can be created, copied, invited and carried out. No big company at all is required for that. A big company may help but also be in the way.
c) Going with the groove is the way to go.
For prosthetic parts manufacturers, time to cut back on marketing, enhance web store / web presence, expand engineering, start building quality, go modular and go compatible, and let the customer access sculpting and design aspects.