Industrial design can be decisive in competition

Jan 11, 2017

Customer and user experience play a central part in today's marketing. After delivering a presentation concerning Valmet's service development work at an annual event for the marketing and sales management, I received several contacts from different companies where similar ideas were being considered and developed. There appears to be a great need to discuss these matters and learn about them from others.

Improving the user experience is one of the key objectives in modern product development. Here, industrial design plays a large role, even if many technology companies do not make large investments in it in term of resources. Due to cost pressures, compromises may be made concerning product design, or the design work may be directed at decreasing the cost structure of the product. In marketing, the many technical features of the product may be highlighted, but the design and the benefits obtained through it receive less emphasis in the story.

Turning this way of thinking around, bravely investing in the user experience, and skillfully marketing the features obtained through product design could considerably increase the competitiveness of many companies in the global market.

Paper machines in the vanguard of design
When people think about the top names in design, everyone probably comes up with the same leading Finnish products, from scissors to modern elevators. But how many will come to think that paper and board machines designed in Finland are internationally at the vanguard in their field? Still, this is the case.
Design in paper machines means optimizing the machine's usability and operator safety, its visual appearance and, of course, the development of cost efficiency. At Valmet, the design team is a part of the product development team and is constantly planning better user solutions from customers' perspective.

Valmet's latest paper and board machine innovation launched in 2011, OptiConcept M, has been a success on the market, and 12 machines have already been sold all over the world. The design of the machine has been refined to optimize the safety of operators and ease of working. In the design of its walkways, stairs and guardrails, as well as in the selection of materials, different types of maintenance and operation situations have been taken into account. The achieved appearance of the machine is also modern. The machine's appearance overshadows traditional solutions. OptiConcept M received an honorable mention in the Fennia Prize in 2014.

Digitalization brings new perspectives on design solutions

Valmet's designers have been working together with young design students to create new lighting solutions that improve operator safety, the atmosphere of the working environment and the machine's visual appearance. Lighting is, in fact, one of the tools of industrial design with a lot of unused potential.

Possibilities offered by digitalization are also sought and tested all the time. In the future, it will be possible, for instance, to display visual infographics at the ends and on the guardrails of a board machine to describe the machine's operation and its energy and materials consumption. Easily viewed visual data can make machine operators' work a lot easier in the future.

Let's bring design back to the marketing agenda

In service companies, service design is a rising trend. Service designers are being trained and hired in companies at an increasing pace. Within the customer base of technology companies, the user experience of technology and the visual appearance of industrial equipment may have more significance in customers' decision-making than has been realized in many technology companies. This is the case especially if we can bring these factors to customers' attention in sales and marketing.

Design plays an important part in improving Finnish competitiveness in the global market. Hopefully, industrial design will take a higher priority in the product development and marketing agenda of technology companies!


Anu Salonsaari-Posti

Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications