Mechatronic Marvel

Bringing an old product into the 21st century

If you have a leading market position, is it really worth the risk to reinvent your most successful product? This became the perfect case study on how to take a leading product and capture substantial new market share.

Leaner and Faster through Agile Development

Key to the success of this program was not to use the existing 'work-horse' dispenser as a starting point but to create three entirely new solutions to the same problem. We mocked these up and tested them, one against the other. With the help of Arduino and 3D printing we were able to create rudimentary prototypes very fast and then measure how each performed.

 

Advancing the Heating Technology

In focus were three aspects - heat speed and retention, dispensing volume and accuracy, and production assembly. The predecessor used convection for heat distribution which was unreliable and lacked control -this we replaced with solid state heating coil that wraps around the heating pan, proving very quick response times and high efficiency. The work on the dispensing valve was very exploratory too, leading to a simple, cost-effective solution that saves the company more than a dollar on every bag they sell. 

Close collaboration between our engineers and industrial design teams meant the new structure of the dispenser parts and their assembly was quickly defined. Following detailed discussions with the parts suppliers, we were then able to build fifteen fully working prototypes that were used in field tests before finalizing for production. These tests are essential for something so complex and unique as it's impossible to predict exactly how people will interact with it in the real world.

The Connection Between UXD and Agile Engineering Creates a Game-Changer

The geometry of the dispenser pan was determined through testing the best evacuation of the cheese with the bag sitting at a perfect content release angle, also eliminating any product waste. Exchanging bags for new ones became a lot more intuitive - and faster, too. The thinner dispenser’s profile enables the proprietor to maximize counter space and increase sales while offering multiple flavors next to each other.

The combination of high-performance improvements, ease-of-use, and efficiency seemed to hit the sweet spot and the increased sales reflected this. The reinvention of their work-horse was met with a great reception and has helped Gehl Foods gain important new ground.

Gehl Foods is already raking in the praise – even on its launch day it was awarded the number one “Cool New Product” out of 290,000 products evaluated by The Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

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