May 23, 2010

Product design with Powers of ten

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:09 pm by chait83

Powers of ten:

I just came across an interesting case study on product design. This is one is called “Powers of 10”. Powers of Ten is a 1968 American documentary short film written and directed by Ray Eames and her husband, Charles Eames,

The Powers of 10 analysis helps innovators identify stakeholders, envision scenarios of how their product may be used, and anticipate how it may make a difference in people’s lives

So the product involved in our case study is a product by Lubrizol known as PuriNOx a.k.a. Q white, an emulsification  of diesel and water which reduces / eliminates the NOx emission into the environment.

This case study is taken from the book “The design of things to come” by Craig M. Vogel, Jonathan Cagan, and Peter Boatwright. I am just summarizing it.

A few things that the author observed were.

  1. Product developers often focus on the aspects in their comfort zone or closer to their comfort zone
  2. Technologists are technology driven tend to focus on the technology alone (I fitted in here in early stage of my career)
  3. Companies often fail to take into account all the different views and requirements of all the stakeholders of their product. I would like to add that in a most of the cases companies fail to identify even the stakeholders or justify their role in the whole ecosystem.
  4. They don’t envision potential difficulties in gaining acceptance in the target market.
  5. They also fail to leverage enthusiasm of other stakeholders and potential role in encouraging it’s adoption.

Now how did Lubrizol assess their challenges using the Powers of 10.

101 Molecular levels:

  1. The ad agency and the technologist focused on the molecular structure, which did not concern the stakeholders.
  2. Technologists were unhappy over the ad agency for portraying their molecular structure as some junk food candy.
  3. This brawl gave jitter to the executives who had to invest money into marketing and sales of the product.

102 Blending water with diesel:

To blend the unit you need a new blending unit, lots of engineers, suppliers, eventually opening door to new opportunities. Now the question is would the blending process be hidden from view or prominently displayed. But the Powers of 10 suggests it should be visible, providing a new opportunity to establish a visual brand identity of the product. Elaborated in 103

103 The blending machine:

The water molecules blend temporarily, settling to the bottom of the mixture unless they are stirred. The supplier/stakeholder has to incorporate the new product line into his work routine, which is critical to the product’s long term success. How will he react? Anticipating stakeholder’s needs affects the product design itself. Companies would always want their products to be widely appreciated and accepted. Lubrizol anticipated these concerns and designed a support programs for them.

104 System Operations:

The typical supply chain management trail chain, which sprocket fits when and where. Resistance of the existing shop floor folks towards learning new thing and unlearning the old ones. This certainly affects the productivity in the initial stages. What about the union, plant manager, et. al? Lubrizol addressed the concerns by educating them on the benefits and use of the product, not pitching the benefits to the plant manager alone. From the start, the operators and maintainers will have a sense of the goals of the new product and the purpose behind the process changes.

And as always education helps reduce foibles.

105 System Operations:

This new fuel affects residents around the refinery, politicians dealing with pollution in their city, and even the gas stations. Could these stakeholders harm the product’s success? Or could they be used to the company’s advantage?

106 Region:

This would involve political level decision-making. Does clean environment only means using a different type of fuel, how do politician take a decision, formulate policies? Can there be subsidy or a mandate for using this new fuel. Could the enthusiasm of the environmentalists be leveraged?

107 Continent:

I guess I should stop here because the context is getting beyond my scope.

108 Global environment:

FYI it deals with humanity and environment.

The Powers of 10 analyses people who are relevant, and scenarios of each of the identified individuals provides needed insight and understanding. Scenarios ensure that people remain real.