Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What motivates a particular product design?

Intentionality is critical to product design.  Why does Ikea design their furniture the way they do?  Why does Tata Motors design a stripped down, super-efficient automobile?  In both cases, the “why” was determined by a desire to tap into a vast market segment while minimizing shipping costs.  By producing furniture and cars at the lowest possible cost, Ikea and Tata Motors capture the cost-conscious, utility-focused consumer and makes their supply chains as efficient as possible.. 

The gadget highlighted in the article exemplifies this intentionality in that it is extremely functional for a certain subset of people: urban apartment dwellers.  Within one hour, the battery-operated vacuum can charge enough to clean an average studio apartment.  And, at a weight of roughly 7.5 points, the vacuum can be easily transported from the store to one’s home. 

How, then, does intentionality impact one’s supply chain?  Ikea and Tata Motors both design their products with their supply chains in mind.  Both companies built their products such that they can extract every ounce of value from their shipping and freight costs.  The AirRam vacuum, with its light weight and compact frame, seems designed with a similar objective in mind. Its design is also amenable to the greatest constraint on big-city life and to the final phase in the supply chain: transporting the product from the retailer to the customer’s home.  Imagine Philadelphia or Chicago or Manhattan- big cities in which most people rely on light-rail and bus networks.  A portable vacuum is much easier to bring on a subway than a hulking Dyson. 

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