Fantasy in Industrial Products

There are already many existing examples of industrial and business – to-business products that fulfill fantasy. Consider, for instance, the agriculture industry. what if there was an agriculture combine that not only was extraordinarily efficient at its main function but also was designed with an eye toward ease of maintenance, with easily opened panels to provide complete maintenance access along with a built-in service platform and foldaway maintenance ladder? What if its elec­tronics were the most sophisticated in the industry, not only adapting the performance to field conditions but even including a system to identify and remove stones from the field? What if the combine looked so sleek and exciting that it seemed almost fun to drive, was comfortable to sit in, and had state-of-the-art lighting and a global positioning system? New Holland created just that combine, with an international team of American and Belgian engineers along with industrial designer Russell Strong of Integrated Vision. This com­bine, the CR, has won awards worldwide, such as the 2002 Gold Business and Industrial Product IDEA award, given jointly by the Industrial Designer Society of America and Business Week magazine.

What if a machine tool operator could just flip a lever to quickly release and change a tool bit and then flip the lever again to secure it in place? This rather than taking an Allen wrench and unscrewing each bit, replacing it, and then having to screw down the bit with the Allen wrench again. A tedious job and one that is typical in the indus­try, the standard approach may change due to the patent-pending ergonomic lever design by mechanical engineering students at Carnegie Mellon, working with Paul Prichard and others at Kennametals Breakthrough Technology Group.

What if you had constant continuing education via a hands-on magazine, one that even provided samples of new materials and tech­nologies so that you could incorporate the most cutting-edge tech­nologies into your product? And what if you knew this because you could subscribe to such a magazine provided by the company Inventables? Every third month a technology kit called DesignAid would be delivered to your door, complete with Web support to keep you abreast of the latest developments not only by text, but also by touch and feel. Inventables is a supplier of knowledge, of the building blocks for technical innovation. Zach Kaplan and Keith schacht, the principals, developed the company after meeting in college. Today their customers include GM, HP, and IBM. Although their main goal is to provide information for teams to use in product development, the kits have been applied in a host of different ways. For example, they are used to help to stimulate teams to think out of the box, and man­agers are using the kits as a creative education tool to open up indi­viduals and teams as a warm-up exercise.

The final example considers respirator masks. In every hazardous work environment, employees need to wear respirators. The problem is many of these masks are so uncomfortable that workers often fail to comply with health and safety rules. What if workers in hazardous areas wore comfortable masks that were made to be comfortable not only during work but also during breaks? Hired by the Aearo Company, Elizabeth Lewis and her team at Product Insight, Inc. designed such a respirator, and it won the Bronze IDEA award in the same competition as the New Holland CR. Lewis, her company, and the mask are discussed further in Chapter 11, “To Hire Consultants or Build Internally—That Is the Question.”

The farm machinery combine, the quick change for machine tools, the DesignAid technology kit, and the respirator mask may not seem to have the aura of Quidditch, or the Trek bike, or the OXO salad spinner, or a starbucks nonfat double latte with a shot of caramel. But they are still examples of form and function fulfilling fantasy. The fantasy here is to have an experience that exceeds the standards of current products, beyond the reality of the industry sta­tus quo. Even on the farm, the combine provides a comfort level and an aura of a high-end office space and yacht. Even in the midst of a production tool room, the fantasy is a clean environment and effort­less maintenance of the machines. Even in the midst of a rapidly changing technological world, the fantasy is continuing education that explains the complexity of the latest technological advances with the simplicity of “show and tell.” Even in the midst of hazardous envi­ronments, the fantasy is the ease and comfort of a world especially designed for humans rather than opposed to them.