Interview with Detlef Gottstein, product manager from Bosch Packaging Systems and Prof. Sigmar Willnauer, the company’s consultant and an expert in Industrial Design. Prof. Willnauer currently teaches product design at the University of Applied Sciences Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany and has previously designed products for Apple and others.
You have been working together on a pilot project to apply an overarching design philosophy to the latest Bosch Packaging Systems technologies. Can you tell us a bit about the background of this project? What were the reasons for the collaboration?
Gottstein – Prof. Willnauer has collaborated with Bosch Packaging Technology for the past seven years to work towards a more unified, streamlined design across the company. Bosch Packaging Systems took this initiative on step further by putting its uniform design project into action in 2010, and from the start we had a very clear idea of what we wanted to achieve. The premise of the pilot project was to develop a new, specialized system for the packaging of bars from scratch. By establishing a single design philosophy across the new bar line, we knew it would be possible to provide real added value to our customers through a more streamlined, harmonious production process. We wanted to provide one look, one feel so that the entire line can be operated as one, rather than a combination of separate entities.
Prof. Willnauer – The idea of ‘one design’ has been absolutely fundamental to our efforts from the very beginning. The key for us was to develop lines that would give the customer the flexibility and choice Bosch Packaging Systems has always offered, while at the same time providing a harmonious, clear and efficient framework that can adapt smoothly to individual demands.
We knew that this idea of one design, one feel across all design components of the new bar line would enable us to eliminate bottlenecks from our production line through smoother interfaces, easier operation and better access to all components. At the same time we have been able to implement consistently high safety standards and ensure high hygiene standards across the entire line. The standardization of operating software and equipment also enables intuitive operation and reduces the potential for operator errors.
How did you come to this idea, and how has it been reflected in your design strategy?
Gottstein – At Bosch Packaging Systems, our design strategy has always been based on meeting customer needs with innovative solutions. Across companies in the food and pharmaceutical industries, whoever we spoke to, we heard the same, recurrent demands for simplicity and straightforwardness in design. We saw instances where more than 10 different operating panels were incorporated in a single line, leaving operators completely overwhelmed. Equally, we often heard customers say that components just didn’t ‘feel’ right, for reasons they couldn’t quite express. It was the job of Prof. Willnauer and our engineers to define these subconscious reactions and develop solutions that did ‘feel right’.
Prof. Willnauer – We really wanted to drill down to the core of what makes an efficient, simple packaging line. Drawing on our combined industry experience, it became very clear that the best way to achieve our goal of a more harmonized line was to align design more closely with functionality. This ethos of lean, functional design focuses on a number of key areas: reduction of downtime; hygiene; practicality; ease of operation and minimization of potential for operator errors.
Combined with the consistent feel of standardized components, we have been able to design packaging equipment that does not overcomplicate matters, or gloss over inefficiencies with aesthetic frills. Throughout development of our new technologies, we have adhered to stringent design guidelines. Similarly, existing machinery has been updated and elevated to the same level as new designs.
So how does this design process actually work?
Gottstein – The relationship between Bosch Packaging Systems and Prof. Willnauer is based on constant refinement and openness. After we develop a technology, Prof. Willnauer provides us with feedback regarding the overarching design and functionality of the technology, which is used as a basis for adjustments and modifications. This collaborative process continues until we achieve a perfectly designed end product.
Through this method, we derive the greatest benefit from our respective areas of expertise. We’ve reaped the rewards of Prof. Willnauer’s varied knowledge of technological design and customer needs, accumulated through years of work in Silicon Valley, consumer goods design and academic lecturing. Combined with over a century of systems engineering expertise from our experts at Bosch Packaging Systems, this collaboration has given us a unique set of competencies that has taken our technologies to the next level.
Tell me more about the implementation of your standardized designs. What are the specific ways in which they benefit your customers?
Prof. Willnauer – Our new designs reflect the precision and quality for which Bosch is renowned. Firstly, they enable our customers to make significant cost savings. By its very nature, standardization means that fewer parts are needed in the line, reducing financial outlay and simplifying maintenance (hence boosting Overall Equipment Effectiveness, or OEE). Also, standardization minimizes downtime required for changeovers, line adjustments and cleaning – cutting costs by increasing throughput and production capacity.
Standardization does not just bolster productivity, it engenders huge improvements in safety and hygiene. In our bar line, parts are easy to disassemble and clean, and our functional approach manifests itself in the robust, safe design of, for example, machine panels.
By following the principles of lean design, we streamline the entire packaging process, making the line far easier for operators to set up and tweak. A single software platform and standardized interfaces only add to this. As every component looks, feels and works in the same way, operators really feel comfortable with the equipment.
Gottstein – It is very important for us to develop technologies that are long-lasting, and which allow the high-level of flexibility that is so important for modern-day manufacturers. While the purpose and function of our design is always clear, packaging lines can be customised and adapted with close precision. It is vital that our customers have this freedom to manoeuvre in rapidly evolving markets. In our new bar line project, we have eliminated major bottlenecks and causes of downtime from the outset by applying a robust, product-specific design and reliable, fool-proof operating processes. This allows for easy handling and operation and ensures consistently high output with minimal disruption by personnel fluctuation or training.
Finally, how are your customers reacting to the new designs?
Gottstein – We have had really enthusiastic feedback. With the launch of the DCI distribution station at Pack Expo in Las Vegas in 2009, the functional design element was first implemented in one of our technologies. Due to the overwhelmingly positive reception, we then built on the experience gained from the DCI and applied it to all key components of the new bar line system. Once they see the extent to which our designs improve packaging line performance, such as the significant reductions in downtime, customers are quickly convinced of the benefits of our approach. Our functional design offers serious value for money and we are convinced that this approach will lead the future of packaging systems.
Based on this initial success, we have now for the first time developed an entire system using this strategy of symmetry and simplicity, which is due to be unveiled at Interpack.
Prof. Willnauer – We’re tremendously pleased with the reaction so far. Customers are impressed by the attention to detail we show. Within Bosch Packaging Systems, the reaction has been enormously positive. There is a growing realization of the opportunities brought about by the new guidelines. There is no need to make rules for every detail any more, which allows engineers the freedom to expand their levels of knowledge and expertise to provide solutions of real value.
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