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When you try to innovate, you will always meet someone who will say: “I can already do the job with my tool, why would you change it? I don’t want to change!” This person is exactly the one I want to convince. If you succeed at that, you can be sure that you are holding a true innovation. My favorite part of the job is the first stage where I get to intellectually challenge myself to find « the things » that we will add to our product or change in order to help our end users. They need to see that we have thought of them while developing our product and that we are truly searching to improve their job by making it more comfortable and enjoyable. My biggest recognition for my work would be an end user telling me « thank you » for bringing out a new tool as then, I will know that I have made a difference.
To transfer a simple idea into innovation requires vision and determination. Engineers that put forward an idea must prove its worth and share their vision at every stage of its development. They have to be able to question themselves at any time: will this idea make the difference? If the answer is yes, no matter the failures and the difficulties in between, it is necessary to make it happen.
Indeed, the biggest challenge our Chicago Pneumatic R&D designers face every day is: how do I make a new product that will not only do the job right, but also bring a true difference and deliver added value for the end user in their day-to-day work?
To take on this challenge our creative designers spend a lot of time understanding our end users and the problems they face every day while using our tools. It is by observing tool operators in their working environment that the real issues become clear. By being around them physically or by canvassing their opinion to get to the bottom of their needs, our engineers are constantly listening to our customers. They also work hand-in-hand with our marketing team to carry out our « Voice of the Customer » process to not only understand, but also anticipate, customer needs.
Then comes the creative thinking, where we translate those problems or needs into solutions and then into creative concepts. This is an ongoing process: our design engineers come up with new ideas that are organized by challenge and stored until they are needed in the development of a product. This favors true innovation and quicker product development. Once the concept ideas for a product are identified, they go straight to the drawing board and enable the creation of new tool elements that will deliver improvements and solutions.
Our design engineers use two techniques: volume-based design to create mechanical parts and surface-based CAD design for the look & feel of the tool.
Here comes the challenge: once drawn, the 3D tool then goes to the simulation department to be tested for performance. Based on results, this process can go back and forth a while until both design and performance objectives are met on the simulation software. Strong cooperation is needed at this stage to optimize the tool’s geometry in order to get the best possible power. Once this is set, we go to the next phase: trying to make the pieces lighter to improve the tool’s ergonomics. Another round of simulation is then performed. Improving ergonomic design is the biggest part of the project and the most complex. If the simulation software reveals that a part would fail at this stage, the designer literally has to go back to the drawing board and begin work on that piece again.
A very strong synergy exists between the internal mechanism of the tool and the design creation of it. Creative design comes into play at every stage of product development and it is the key aim of R&D to discover new functionalities.