Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Bresslergroup builds a better mousetrap and sustainability wins

By Guest contributors on December 17, 2010

Guest contributor Mathieu Turpault is Director of Design and Managing Partner of Bresslergroup. Based in Philadelphia, Bresslergroup offers innovative product solutions via integrated user research, industrial design and production engineering. The consultancy serves consumer, medical and industrial manufacturers. Founded in 1970, Bresslergroup has won more than 80 major design awards and has authored more than 125 patents. Bresslergroup was an early adopter of the Designers Accord and has hosted two Designers Accord sessions in Philadelphia. 

In redesigning existing products, we have found that incremental change when multiplied by hundreds of thousands of units can have a resoundingly positive environmental impact. Furthermore, when retailers and manufacturers work together to drive sustainability improvements, it creates a role for product design firms to put their create design and engineering talents to work. Sustainable Minds is a powerful tool we use to test hypothesis, evaluate and prove how a redesigned product can be more environmentally responsible.

In the case of Woodstream's Victor Mousetrap, the client was working toward a major distribution contract with Walmart and recognized the opportunity to address the Walmart environmental scorecard. Additionally, Woodstream challenged us to redesign the product to make it possible to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US. Our success with the project was aided significantly by the Sustainable Minds evaluative process.

Sustainable Minds enabled us to create a benchmark, a starting point that we could iterate around and improve upon. We can quickly test assumptions, evaluate how shipping environmental impact compares to material environmental impact, and figure out where our design time and effort should be spent for maximum impact. For this particular project we recognized early that the environmental impact from shipping was fairly minimal, and that material selection was one of the most critical elements to focus on. It became clear that designing packaging material out, would yield significant environmental gains. We utilized Sustainable Minds to guide our design process throughout.

With Sustainable Minds, we determined that switching to HDPE No. 2 plastic yielded a 43% environmental impact reduction over the originally specified material. From there, we did a Finite Element Analysis to optimize the amount of material used. Analysis allowed us to understand stress issues and life cycles of the product as we incrementally changed the design parameters such as thickness and width at various points throughout the product. The results offered us the ability to use the minimum amount of material needed with the best estimated life cycle to create a better product, and further reduce the environmental impact.

In continuing with our analysis, we were able to address another big opportunity - packaging. Working closely with the team at Woodstream we were able to eliminate the use of the plastic blister-pack, while utilizing a minimum amount of cardboard. We found that integrating the cardboard packaging into the assembly of the product reduced overall labor and eliminated material a real win-win. This reduced the environmental footprint of the product, and helped comply with new packaging guidelines and scorecards from a number of retailers.

Sustainable Minds software allowed us to quantify the impact of proposed changes for our client and their clients. By making incremental, strategic changes to the existing product, we are able to make a significant impact, when multiplied across hundreds of thousands of units. In this way, the ethical aspect of sustainability becomes a credible, recognized aspect of product design, manufacture and distribution. Sustainable Minds establishes a seat at the table for environmental practices and has changed the game, for the better.

Comments

Posted by NP on Dec 22, 2010

It’s wonderful that a design company can get retailers and manufacturers to work together to drive sustainability improvements. Great job Bresslergroup!

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