PROJECT: PURELAB ELGA FLEX
ELGA LabWater is an SME company specialising in providing water purification products for laboratories. Acquired by Veolia Water (a 12.56 billion dollar multinational) in 2000, all major product development was traditionally undertaken in-house. This was considered an appropriate level of design for the type of product environment.
Major competitors were reacting more quickly to the growing requirement for flexibility within laboratories. As a result, ELGA decided to invest in a significant research and development project (PURELAB flex) with the objective of increasing market
share and reducing the number of products within its range. A radical, user-centred approach was adopted. LA Design was selected as the Industrial Design development partner in 2008 and contributed to design strategy, user research, the product proposition and its realisation. The resulting solution, with many unique patented features, has had such an impact on ELGA, its parent company and senior management, that ELGA is now the ‘Centre of excellence for design, manufacturing and logistics’ for the Veolia Water group – undertaking projects (some with LA) for other Veolia companies.
“Whilst the 42% increase in sales is amazing, the longer term benefit will be the realisation that, as a company, we have turned a corner in our approach to business and the way we integrate user focused design into the process. It has us believing that we can win”
MAT HAMMOND, MARKETING DIRECTOR, ELGA LABWATER
The uplift in ELGA sales directly attributed to ‘flex’ is already more than 100% higher than original forecasts
Historically, laboratory water purification products dispense from a central source, creating difficulties for volumetric accuracy, transportation and the potential for contamination before the water is used. There is a requirement for individual water purification dispensing stations, each fed from a ring main and having accurate dispensing control at the point of use.
PURELAB flex is aimed at the ‘premium’, high specification end of the market. With a successful outcome, the planned product will enable the withdrawal of many entry level solutions from the ELGA range. The product rationalisation will reduce manufacturing overheads and simplify our offer to the customer. The highly technical nature of much of our equipment is often irrelevant to the tasks that individuals perform. Developing the role of the product to benefit the user by having a clear understanding of the working environment is now vital for our commercial success.
Company attitude to design
The ELGA attitude to the value of external design has altered significantly during the development of the flex product, from sceptical to embracing. The ELGA Engineering team now consider that LA is an indispensable part of a process that addresses customer needs, human factors, brand development and cost effective design. The company’s attitude to other design related disciplines has also changed and is demonstrated through the flex packaging solution and related product literature.
LA was also commissioned to produce a product video, utilising existing 3D CAD data and images that communicate the key product benefits in a creative and original manner. Intended as an internal sales motivation tool, the video is now also used extensively for external promotion. This was a ‘first’ for ELGA and the DBA competition is also the first design related award that ELGA has entered.
This has been one of the major successes of the flex project. When the product prototype and video were first shown at an ELGA European sales conference in October 2008 the impact was remarkable and created genuinely emotional responses. One reason was the recognition of what the product would mean to the company’s future and also the fact that even before launch ELGA had a world beating solution with clear and obvious values and saleable benefits.
This emotional reflex has continued and created a distinctive increase in the motivation and confidence of ELGA employees to implement the company’s business mission.
Impact on ELGA
As a direct result of the flex successes to date, ELGA has been recognised as a ‘Centre of excellence for design, manufacturing and logistics’ for the Veolia Water group.
The parent company has invested in a new ‘Design and Engineering’ building and in addition to on-going ELGA product development, the company now undertakes projects for other Veolia companies, utilising new methods developed with LA for the PURELAB flex.