Well, if you have the time, you can read the following. It’s very interesting to me – the way IKEA place effort in their design process and tweaking their designs to achieve greater cost savings.

“When we decide about a product, we always start with the price,” Deboehmler said. “Then, what is the consumer need?”

“When we start in the development process, we say we’d like to have a cabinet to hold a large screen TV that’s 42 inches, and priced out to come in at X dollars,” Marston said. “OK, now we’ve said we want it to retail at $500, arbitrarily. What can you make, what can you design, to make it at that price?”

From the beginning of the process, a variety of people get involved. Those include field technicians who are able to see what’s needed in the creation of a new product and determine if Ikea has already designed something similar that can be mined for parts or design inspiration.

Another example is a packaging technician.

“They’re always part of the team from way at the beginning, when the product is designed,” Deboehmler said. “We always have to find the smartest way to do something so that it can be flat-packed and minimize waste of space when transporting.”

With the Lillberg chair, the idea was to build a prototype at the factory–which the team did–and then to see what they had on their hands.

“After many, many days of trials, we thought we had it right,” Deboehmler said. “‘OK, this is the product.’ Our designer was on his hands and knees. Then we got it back to (Ikea headquarters in) Sweden and started taking it apart again, and decided we can make it better because we can fit more in the package if we changed the arm direction.”

By making a small tweak in the angle of the chair’s arm, she elaborated, the designers and packaging technician figured out they could get more of the chairs in a single shipping container, and that, in the end, meant a lower cost to the consumer.

“The arm (change) meant huge savings,” she said.

“A number of years ago,” Marston said, “somebody had the bright idea that if we narrowed down our catalog of hardware that we use in our products, then we can be even more efficient.”

The company is also looking for ways to maximize warehouse efficiency.

“We have (only) two pallet sizes,” Marston said, referring to the wooden platforms on which goods are placed. “Our warehouses are dimensioned and designed to hold these two pallet sizes. It’s all about efficiencies because that helps keep the price of innovation down.”

At some of its warehouses in Europe, Ikea uses robots to move products around, even doing things like taking them off of very high shelves.

These factories, Marston said, are dark, since no lighting is needed for the robots, and run 24 hours a day, picking and moving goods around.

At any given time, Deboehmler said, Ikea will likely be in the process of creating 5 to 10 new products, some of which are for the current year, and some for next or the one after that.

“It’s an ongoing process,” she said. “There’s no real beginning and end to the year cycle. It’s continual.” (Source: Cnet)

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There’re some things that can be learnt here even though I don’t build furniture and probably won’t be anytime soon. I like the way IKEA trim their design to achieve costs savings.

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