The Result: Sewer Repair and Beyond

The result is an industrial product that works in extreme environ­ments. The product, called the Renovator, functions off a sled plat­form with cylindrical components that fits into pipes. The functional need of the product’s environment—pipes—produced a natural visu­al theme. The cylindrical features create continuity in the visual aes­thetic. Cylindrical skids on the bottom of the robot curve upward, forming ergonomic handles that make carrying and deploying the robot easy to do. The robat’s weight, distribution, and overall dimen­sions are specified to enable easy manipulation by the crew. Even the camera has a circular theme, with its spherical shape and circular lens openings. Because the platform will house multiple tools, and because quick swap-in/swap-out components are used to make main­tenance and repair rapid and on-site, all handles are color-coded for high visibility and are textured to maintain grip in slippery conditions. The name RedZone was extended into the product aesthetics by using red anodized components as highlights on a basic aluminum finish with black details. This theme was also extended to the printed material. For safety, sensors connected to indicator lights positioned on the robot and attachments warn users before tools are activated. The functional capabilities and device aesthetic create a brand lan­guage for the product and company.

The stakeholder analysis, the corporate strategy, and the product strategy are integrated with each other. For example, if the crew is enthusiastic in using the robot and becomes more effective in their job, the general contractor (like sal) who initially is testing the new approach will have positive reinforcement, causing him to purchase additional equipment. RedZone’s brand equity will increase, and the products success will reinforce the development team and its process. Their renewed energy will continue to produce successful products that meet the customer’s needs. Society as a whole will have a posi­tive response as their tax dollars are more effectively spent and their lives have less disruption, with their yards no longer being dug up. Environmental groups will be positive about improved sewage and less leakage into the water stream. They will petition for new policies that set RedZone’s approach as the standard, reinforcing the compa­ny’s brand and profitability.

We worked with Close in developing this strategic plan. it became clear that this robot was not just a product. it was the future of RedZone. This robot would establish the company and its brand, and the initial product release would set up all the company’s subse­quent products in the industry. As we write this book, RedZone is involved in its launch of this product. initial customer reaction has been strong. The upfront strategic planning exercise and extensive research on its stakeholder base has expanded the company’s vision of its product platform. If it succeeds, it will corner the market. RedZone will have opened doors for new products with different functions—not only for lateral cutting, but for all the major steps in sewer and water-pipe rehabilitation. Eric Close has the vision and courage to go for this biggest prize, to use this product to define the company and its brand. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, to define fantasy for an industry.

Like those highlighted in Chapter 1, “The New Breed of Innovator,” and throughout this book, Eric Close is a new breed of innovator. To him, innovation is “the ability to enter a marketplace, anticipate the needs of the consumer, and put together a product or service that makes their life better.” He is a technical guy who loves products. Complete products. His approach is to take successful prod­uct development methods from the commercial and retail sectors and apply them to the industrial sector. The innovation process outlined in Chapter 9, “A Process for Product Innovation,” does just that. It helps people move away from individual solutions to team-based results. It helps teams communicate with each other and with their customers to understand the requirements and demands from the market. It pro­vides an approach for the team to weigh the conflicts between different stakeholders’ needs. By putting together a team that com­plements each other, and by developing a culture that relishes cre­ativity, Close can build a company along with a product.

Close sees himself as a pragmatist. He embraces design and implements the innovation process we have described because “it works!” and a company in any field “must have it.” In the industrial frontier, this leads to a differentiated business model, one that allows his companies to stand out from and lead the pack.

RedZone Robotics is just one example of an industrial-based product company that embraces the mantra that form and function fulfill fantasy. The form and function together stand out in terms of performance and comfort to the user, providing not only a great expe­rience, but also a fantasy projection of a more amenable work envi­ronment. For a crew working in the sewer, the form and function of the sewer robot fulfills fantasy. Rather than work deep inside the sew­ers, the crew can stay clean inside a comfortable cabin, controlling this high-tech robot with the same skill and enthusiasm they had with video games as they grew up.