MK Electric Discusses How Feedback Can Shape The Design Of A Final Product

mk electric imageIn order to provide products which meet the real day-to-day needs of installers, it’s vital that manufacturers listen to their audience and respond to their needs.

Here, Emma Segelov from MK Electric discusses how feedback can shape the design of a final product, and how installers play a fundamental role in product development.

Research and development is big business in the UK, with companies spending more than £30bn every year - according the Office for National Statistics - to ensure that their new products are fit for the market.

A significant part of this process is gathering direct and continuous feedback from customers – those who will be specifying and installing a product once it has been developed.

From a manufacturer’s perspective, collecting the insight of stakeholders is vital to creating a product which is truly necessary to their target market. At MK Electric, for example, our research and development phase is underpinned by interaction with the installers and specifiers who will eventually be the core target audience for our products. By understanding these day-to-day challenges, products can be designed which respond to the real demands of the industry, rather than what their perceived needs might be from a manufacturer perspective.

A recent instance of this is the responsive process undertaken in the development of our installer-led range of screwless wiring devices, Dimensions. Through extensive discussions with customers, we were able to identify a series of requirements for the range, which culminated in the design of a product which both makes life easier for the installer, and provides a solution which is appealing to their customers.
Below are a selection of our key findings, and how that feedback has helped us to tailor our latest range to the most pressing needs of our audience.

Installation
It’s a given that installers would like installation to be as hassle-free as possible, but what exactly are the difficulties they face on-site?
A standout, recurring theme amongst those consulted was the risk of product loss and damage on a busy site for screwless wiring devices. Another frequently raised concern was that if a frontplate is not installed until a later stage (in order to protect it) then the functional module may not be compliant with British Standards, and therefore may not be operational as an on-site power source.

The obvious answer to reducing damage is screwless wiring devices which enable a two part installation – allowing the functional module to be installed whilst the frontplate is safely put aside to guard against abrasions or paint splatter. However, this still leaves two points of difficulty; the first being the risk of losing the frontplate whilst it is waiting for installation, and the second that the functional module alone may not be compliant, and therefore unusable. What’s more, this still does not allow for adjustments to the design scheme, and would still require a new order should there be any amendments to the original plan.

This insight was crucial to the MK Electric product designers and became a central part of the development of Dimensions. Whilst Dimensions offers a two part installation, it presents the two individual components as completely separate products, with individual part numbers. This means that whilst the functional module can be installed in line with the build schedule, the frontplate - which does not need to be fitted until later in the process (perhaps until just before client handover) - can also be delivered to site at a later stage.

This avoids both loss and damage hazards, and also means that the frontplate finish does not need to be confirmed and ordered at the same time as the functional module, allowing for any late changes from customers

In terms of tackling usability, and also providing added protection for the functional module, Dimensions products are supplied with a protective coverplate. The cover ensures that the device meets British Standards, and the functional module is fully operational, allowing work to continue as usual. The cover is also recyclable, cutting down on the amount of waste which goes to the landfill in-line with the predicted requirements of the Government’s new Sustainable Construction Strategy.

By combining these solutions with the core values of MK Electric – reliability and quality – Dimensions provides a high standard product range which makes life easier for installers working on site.

Customer-friendly design
Whilst ease of installation is of course integral, we also found that the individuals consulted placed particular emphasis on finding products which equally satisfied the needs of their customers.

In terms of discovering exactly what those needs are, MK Electric again spoke with installers, alongside end-clients such as housebuilders and hotel developers. Unsurprisingly, style considerations were high on the list.

Screwless design is still a dominant trend, as it provides a sleek look which hotel visitors or potential house buyers are drawn to. Continuing on the topic of aesthetics, many of the stakeholders interviewed highlighted the importance of design scalability. End-clients often want a unified look throughout their project, but within this, a level of differentiation for certain areas. A housebuilder for example, may want variation between the devices used in the kitchen and the master bedroom, or for a hotelier, between a suite and a standard room or back of house locations.

In light of this, Dimensions is comprised of eight different frontplate finishes, including metallic and synthetic options, which allows installers to offer a comprehensive solution to their customers. The broad range includes products such as integrated USB sockets, LED dimmers and multimedia plates, making Dimensions suitable for hotels, homes and commercial offices alike.

Flexibility
Alongside the flexibility of staged installation, many of the stakeholders consulted referenced the value that end-clients place on products which can easily be updated to fit in with a frequently changing décor.

This is of particular importance to hospitality projects, where keeping up with interior trends is a big part of attracting guests. This is borne out by the statistics - in 2016, hotel refurbishment spending jumped by 57 per cent, demonstrating the weight that hoteliers give to keeping their premises up to date.

The two part installation and selection of frontplates available with Dimensions neatly cater to this. As the frontplates are clip on, they can easily be upgraded and interchanged to match a refurbishment, and because they are tool removable and not connected to the mains power, disruption is reduced. This also means that they can be fitted by a less experienced worker, which means less downtime, keeping both installer and customer happy.

This flexibility offers a selling point to installers working on such projects, which meets their customers’ needs with minimum fuss.
Dimensions has been built on time honoured MK Electric engineering and based on the feedback that we have received from the people that matter – our customers. After all, the research and development phase is all about ensuring products solve the challenges facing installers, and giving them the tools to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

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