Innovation opens up closing doors

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As part of the ASSA ABLOY Product Idea Realization program (PIR), participants from ASSA ABLOY Americas went to a hospital in Arizona to use what they had learned about putting customers’ needs in focus when developing new products. They photographed, videoed, interviewed and observed people of all ages who passed through the doors.

“It was interesting to see how everyone opened the door in different ways,” says Blue Houser, new product development manager at Norton Door Controls. “One thing that we saw was that everyone tried to hold the door open. Some would use the side of their body, others their back and some even used a cane.”

The team, comprising people in various positions within the Americas division, met up after the field trip to translate the material into relevant customer solutions.

“We realized that a solution that would keep the door open for as long as someone was standing in the doorway would add real value to the customers,” Houser says. “It would make the people using the doors feel safer, and it would reduce the number of accidents in the hospitals, as well as the number of claims for damages.”

Norton Door Controls already had a product to start building from, so a new product sprang from that platform and will be launched in 2010. The findings of the study also generated other projects.

Åsa Christiander, director product innovation process at ASSA ABLOY, says the project has followed the Voice of the Customer (VoC) approach to the letter. “Since people buy what they perceive as valuable, the perception of our products as better or safer than our competitors’ products is at least as important as the fact that they are,” she says. “But it’s impossible to guess people’s perception of our products without doing a proper Voice of the Customer activity.”

Since the team learned that people are afraid the door will close on them, how can ASSA ABLOY convince them that this new product, which looks exactly like the old one, will not? In this case, it was decided to use light and sound to show how long the door will stay open.