Where man and machine meet, MMID takes the spotlight

Product development for the mechanical engineering industry

Mechanical engineering is big business in the Netherlands. CBS (Statistics Netherlands) announced in February that machines and machine parts are the most lucrative Dutch export products. A growing number of MMID clients is active in this industry. “Our added value is found mainly at the intersection of engineering, functionality and user interaction,” says Klaas Jan Veltman, Innovation Consultant at MMID. “This may concern just a casing or a complete redesign that is smarter, cheaper or more modular.”

“MMID has operated in many different product groups, and we take all the experiences and insights we’ve gained, to our work for the mechanical engineering industry,” says Klaas Jan. “Our strengths lie in projects where there is human interaction with the machine. Not just by the operator, but we also consider other stakeholders, as the machine is not only operated but also has to be installed, assembled and maintained. That’s what makes it interesting for a designer to get involved.” MMID is used to not only consider the technical side of things but the complete package, and to make the right choices amid a variety of contradictions that fit the assignment. “This in contrast to many hardcore machine builders that focus mainly on engineering and materials,” says Klaas Jan.

User focus
A great example of this is Vanderlande Industries, based in the Dutch province of Brabant and world market leader in baggage handling systems for airports and package and postal systems. “Vanderlande’s products are the absolute best in the areas of engineering and functionality, but when it comes to the user experience of their machines, there are opportunities for improvement,” says Klaas Jan. “That requires a different expertise. We are no longer talking about engines, propulsion, and sensors, but about the soft side of things; how do people interact with machines and what are their expectations? And that is precisely what MMID excels at.” In 2007, Vanderlande, together with TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research), developed a concept workstation for order pickers – the Pick@Ease – putting productivity and safety first. MMID added to the concept with a user focused and appealing design. “Vanderlande still carries the product,” Klaas Jan says proudly. “For them, it was an important step up towards the development of more user-friendly products.”

Additionally, MMID is often employed by machine builders to take care of the styling of their products. Klaas Jan: “One of our clients is a large multinational that delivers machines only twice or three times a year. A machine like that can cost up to €5 million. When you’re investing such an enormous amount in a machine, our client’s client will probably want it to look good.” MMID can make that happen. “The outside may not be innovative, but it is extremely important for the look and feel of the product and the company itself. We contribute ideas regarding brand identity, form, color combinations, graphical elements, logo, composition, etc. A client will instantly earn back that investment on fairs, in their brochure, on their website, and through proud customers.”

Cost saving
The desire to save costs is usually the primary reason to bring in MMID for the optimization of the design of machines, explains Klaas Jan. “When you embark on designing a complex machine for the first time, it is usually a process of progressive insight, with continuous adjustments and changes. You can imagine that in time, that can become an expensive, inefficient and messy whole,” says Klaas Jan. “The production run of large, high-tech machines is usually low, but even then it is worth to consider improving efficiency.” Idento, producer of industrial robotic milking systems, engaged MMID for a complete redesign of the milking robot. By rearranging the various components, we realized a significant optimization. For a logistic service provider for standard, reusable packaging, MMID worked out an existing concept for an industrial crate washing system to a finished design. The result: the entire washing process was simplified, increasing process control for the user. MMID also realized a robust reduction in costs of the washing process while at the same time improving the quality of results.

Contact MMID to discuss possibilities and opportunities for your machine. Klaas Jan or one of his colleagues is happy to pay you a visit for an informal, substantive consultation.