Challenge: Nippon Closures Co. Ltd (NCC), a leading Japanese packaging company that manufactures and sells metal and plastic closures, wanted to innovate and develop new business propositions as part of their market expansion activities in South-East Asia. There was a desire for their upcoming innovations in closures to address societal needs, such as closures that are easier for senior citizens to open – a response to the aging population in Japan and other developed societies.
Insight: A design thinking process would be very useful to create products if we were solely focusing on the needs of the elderly. However, NCC’s consumer grade products had the potential to be used by all types of users, including those with disabilities. We felt that adopting universal design principles would increase the scale of users that NCC could impact – in line with SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities). However Universal Design is not a popularly known concept and further more, many designers would not have had significant interactions with persons of disabilities.
Additionally, it was realized that designers, while talented, were unlikely to be aware about NCC’s machine specifications. After all, any new design must be producible by NCC in order to see the light of day. Our solution, had to take all of these requirements into account.We designed a 2 stage challenge incorporating inclusive design to that Nippon Closures can cater to both the elderly market and to the people with disabilities. The participants went through several design and technical workshops, and they work alongside Nippon Closures engineers and possible target users to redesign the bottle caps over 2 month period. We also invited partners from the design, F&B industry as well as the people with disability sector to be involved in the product development process as mentors and judges.
We decided to hold an open challenge in Singapore to design for the general public with the incorporation of inclusive design principles to accommodate both the elderly and persons with disabilities. In the first part of the process, over 30 designs were submitted online by interested design teams. These were whittled down to 11 designs through several rounds of evaluation on technical feasibility, financial viability and customer desirability aspects.
The participants, mainly designers, enjoyed the intense design and technical mentorship provided by the product development engineers of NCC to redesign the bottle caps over a two-month period. We brought in expert speakers to conduct workshops on Universal Design and Design for Manufacturing for participants. The mentoring process as well as the workshops not only benefited participants but also members of NCC’s own product design team who were exposed to open innovation methods for the first time.
For practicality of design, we also had participants work closely with target users to provide timely feedback. We also partnered veteran designers, potential customers of NCC as well as members of the disability community to attend the product development process as mentors and judges. The finale and exhibition was held at the National Design Centre with several dignitaries and clients of NCC in attendance.
Result: 11 prototypes were created and 5 were selected for further testing, refinement and Intellectual Property (IP) registration. NCC successfully aligned themselves to the missions of several NGOS and design companies interested in universal design, which puts them in good stead to accelerate their business development in Southeast Asia. The parent company of NCC has also been inspired by the open innovation process to setup a product design innovation lab in Singapore in early 2018. The redesigned packaging is expected to be launched at the 2020 Summer Paralympics held in Japan.