Saturday, July 11, 2009

Design for healthcare

Globalization has turned India as one of the technological hub’s which has enabled to create products & services that can compete with the advanced countries. With the limited resources, Indians are able to innovate products that are creating buzz words in the global market and thus the emergence of the field “Frugal Engineering”. The best example for India’s Frugal Engineering is ‘Tata Nano’ and it got hold of the world’s attention after it failed all the 'impossible' theories that were claimed by the so called experts.

Even before the emergence of Nano, Indians are able to create products that consumes minimum resources and gives maximum output. To find this, you may visit the houses or bazaars in any of the Indian cities. One of our student Mr. Ganesan (MSc in Product Design) was approached by a company to design a health care product. This company is manufacturing the core technology of the product and was exported to Korea, where the ID (industrial design) of the product would be built and from there it would be marketed to the rest of the world (with a ‘made in Korea’ tag).
The board of the company decided to try developing the product in India (as they lose out the market share through export and also they don’t have an identity or brand of their own). Initially the company was little apprehensive about developing the product indigenously and marketing it from India. Finally, they decided to experiment through one of our students and they hired him for internship.
Due to confidentiality I would not be able to explain the technology behind this product and so the design process. However, an introduction to this project has been explained by the student. In his own words…

“Auto ref /keratometer is a combination of two machines, refractometer and keratometer. It helps to identify the refracting errors in eyes. Errors happens at different level, some times in eye lens, some times in cornea or in retina .Both machines are used to fix the errors which depends on the patient to be checked. The aim of the project was to design an Auto refractrometer/keratometer by improving the usability and aesthetics. At present most of the Auto ref/keratometer are imported from foreign countries, to make the competitive appearance to those products with consideration of usability and ergonomic issues. In order to develop an improved design, research was done by conducting product study, market study and user study.

The user study was done at hospitals across south India to understand the user needs and their aspirations. The qualiy function deployment (QFD) and the PDS were arrived. After finalizing the technical features of the product, ergonomic simulation was carried out . With reference to the PDS concepts were generated.

The concepts are modeled and rendered in the Alias studio tools. The final concept was selected and was developed as a physical model for validation. The validation is done with reference to the aesthetics and usability. When compared to the existing product, the proposed design overcomes the usabiltiy problems. From the valdation it has been found the new design has enhanced the aesthetcs of the product. Consideration of usability and ergonomics will provide the comfort to the user.”

The project was a success and the student was recruited by the company to work for the further development of the product. In the near future the product would be launched in the market.

However before conclusion, I have couple of questions that needs to be answered…

With all the advancements in technology and awareness, Is our country still in the mind sight of pro-industrialisation era?

Why do the companies in India hesitate to consider the word 'Innovation' not just in their mission statement but use proactively in their development process?

How many companies still perceive Industrial Design as an activity of Art and not a value addition to their product?

After joining the company, on the first day of his work the student called me up and said ‘they are not negotiating with the salary’ and he was upset, I tried consoling him and asked him not to quit because there is recession out there, then he said the reason for worry is not the salary, but during some discussions the boss had mentioned “I know what is design, it is like stitching a cloth…. Your job is just to stitch a cloth for the technology given to you…” Anyone listening out there?

Posted by Jayakumar from PDC lab

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