Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Design for Assembly

Good designs are always simple.  They are so simple that you don't realize it if you don't think about it.  I recently bought a patio table from IKEA.  As always, IKEA does a great job in packaging and instructions.  It was a complex piece of furniture with collapsible leaves and a glass top.  But, it came with simple instructions, set of fasteners and the tools required.  How many manufacturers think of including the tools needed?

As soon as I unpack the fasteners I usually dump them all into a bowl to make sure I don't lose any.  BTW, what is wrong with including a couple extra screws and nuts with any item shipped?  Have you ever lost a screw or a nut and found yourself running to the local Home Depot to pick a spare.  It is the most frustrating experience.  You are so pissed that you want to return the piece of junk (after an hour of assembly labor, you discover that a bolt is missing), but you cannot, because it is half assembled and will not fit in your car anymore!  Morons.  If the BOM calls for 24 screws, throw in 25.  I know that in the small scheme of things, every piece matters to the bottom line, but in the big scheme of things, customer happiness trumps everything.

Back to the patio table.  Here I am with my bowl ready to pour over the fasteners.  I open the blister pack and tilt it into the bowl, but nothing falls.  I then notice that the clever engineers at IKEA have used a soft double sided glue strip on the packaging (see pic above) so that the washers and nuts stick to it until I pull them apart. What a clever idea.  The cardboard holds the fasteners for me until I need them.  These simple things are what count for immense customer satisfaction and pleasure.  This is what IKEA excels at.

Have you ever wondered why IKEA has the designer's name printed on every product?  In case you have not noticed, all products have the designer's name printed on the packaging.  It achieves two things:  for one, it honors the designer for the work they have done.  And, two, it makes a public statement about you.  Imagine the designer who created the chair which keeps falling apart.  "Inga, your chair is the worst chair I have ever sat on.  You are not fit to be a designer". On the other hand, imagine your pleasure when your fans call to tell you how great your designs are!

Every product I buy, every product I assemble, teaches me a lesson.  It is amazing to see companies like IKEA, Apple and others push the boundaries in customer convenience and satisfaction.  All other companies should follow their lead and design products that are convenient to assemble as well as use.