Almost every washing machine has a block of cement which helps control vibration during the spin cycle. This blocks typically weighs more than 50 lbs and contributes a third of the weight of the machine. This increases shipping costs, not to mention the difficulty when delivering the machine and moving it later.
A reservoir of hope
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have proven that a plastic reservoir can take the place of that concrete ballast. Once filled with water, this tank absorbs as much vibration as the ballast it replaces.
This significantly reduces the weight of the machine without compromising functionality and could save considerable fuel and emissions costs from shipping machines around the world.
Not what I would have expected
Often the way products work is far from what a person unfamiliar with the product would assume. Embrace this. When someone is stunned by something about your product or service that you have come to think of as normal, this is an invitation to question. Why is this done this way? Is there an alternative that would make more sense.
How might we…
If the original question was “how might we eliminate the weight of the ballast in a washing machine” we might have fixated on eliminating the ballast altogether and focused on ways to reduce vibration without ballast.
SCAMPER asks how can the product or service be changed, without explicitly asking how it can be changed dynamically, i.e. be configured one way for delivery and another for use. This is a reminder that even with SCAMPER, we need to slow down and really explore a variety of options.
This is a bit of a conundrum because I have come to rely on SCAMPER as an easy to digest method for arriving at many different ideas. It does, however, risk overlooking options that the 40 Inventive Principles are more likely to uncover. After all, the 40 Principles are purported to be able to explain hundreds of thousands of patents, so they must be pretty comprehensive. SCAMPER on the other hand is more of a handy list of ideas that one man, Alex Osborne, thought up over 50 years ago.
Nottingham Trent University