“We are spurred on by the impossible” may be a fairly trite throw away line from Dyson’s Director of Energy Storage Development (Bruce Brenner). But it does show the attitude of the company driven by James Dyson in pioneering new inventions which are also commercialised with great success. As many of you would know - he has created products ranging from...
“We are spurred on by the impossible” may be a fairly trite throw away line from Dyson’s Director of Energy Storage Development (Bruce Brenner). But it does show the attitude of the company driven by James Dyson in pioneering new inventions which are also commercialised with great success. As many of you would know - he has created products ranging from the ubiquitous vacuum cleaner to hand and hair dryers. Dyson achieved a huge $2.4billion in sales in 2015.
The Dyson design engineers are encouraged to experiment and fail without shame. Everything however is documented in each engineer’s personal notebook. Typical prototypes (after the extensive testing and experimentation) before successful commercialisation are huge:
- Bagless vacuum cleaner (5127 prototypes)
- 360 Eye robot (1000 prototypes)
- Hair Dryer (600 prototypes)
Dyson’s big project at present is on batteries. He feels that the Lithium Ion ones won’t make it as they don’t hold a charge long enough and aren’t always safe. He has thus focussed on a solid-state battery cell and believes these will be very successful. (Tesla of course, disagree with this as they are backing Lithium Ion batteries to the tune of billions of dollars).
How did Dyson Start his Career?
What makes his success interesting in a hugely intensive engineering and scientific arena is that he commenced his studies at a College of Art after leaving school. His first invention was a wheel barrow that used a ball rather than a wheel as it was easier to distribute weight more widely. And thus didn’t get stuck in the mud of a building site. The bagless vacuum cleaner followed swiftly after this. His current project is a robotic vacuum cleaner where he is taking on some pretty big hitters who have been in this space for years.
One thing that is critical is that all the failures along the way towards a successful product are not random and seemingly hopeless. Product development is done with the highest level of research and know-how to achieve success.
What does this mean to you?
First of all – you don’t need to be an engineering professional with specific knowledge or skills to undertake product development in any field. Simply invest in researching and understand the project you are wanting to undertake in exquisite detail. Dyson was an arts graduate and has achieved notable success in a totally different area.
Secondly – a key part of all successful product development is failure. Just another step to getting to the finished product. Don’t worry about failure – it is something that must be in our DNA to achieve greatness. Disturbing and distressing though it may sometimes be.
Thirdly – entering a market with existing established competitors can be good thing to ensure that you refine your product to create the best. Just make sure you have a plan going forward and don’t simply ‘hope for the best’.
Fourthly – the final price of the product isn’t a killer. If the product is outstanding and has good features – people will pay more than for existing products.
Finally – as the saying goes: ‘The world won’t beat a path to your door for a better mousetrap’. Dyson would have had some superbly good commercial instincts to drive the marketing and production of this huge number of products on a worldwide basis.
Charles Kettering remarked: An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.
Thanks to Forbes for an interesting interview with James Dyson.
Yours in engineering learning
Mackay’s Musings – 20th Dec’16 #631
780, 293 readers – www.eit.edu.au/cms/news/blog-steve-mackay