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In 1985 Fisher and Paykel set out to design a dishwasher that would reflect the way people live their lives in modern society. The company recognised that the dishwasher needed to be fast and efficient, aesthetically pleasing, maximise useable space both within the dishwasher and in the kitchen, minimise environmental impact and provide flexibility for different household sizes. The resulting DishDrawerTM, a AAA water conservation rating and five star energy rating machine, is essentially two dishwashers in one, with two independently operated wash drawers. Each drawer comfortably fits 12 large dinner plates or a seven place setting. Customers can purchase either a single or double DishDrawerTM based on their dishwashing needs.
A double DishDrawer TM
Fisher and Paykel is a New Zealand public appliance manufacturing company founded in 1936. The company has about 2,500 employees worldwide, exporting to Australia, the United States, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. The DishDrawerTM manufacturing division is located in Dunedin, New Zealand, with 570 employees. Fisher and Paykel have two manufacturing plants in Australia, in addition to sales offices in each capital city.
Design for environment
Fisher and Paykel began the design and development of the DishDrawerTM in 1985, with the product released to the market in 1997. The primary aim during the development of the DishDrawerTM was to design an innovative and unique product that would provide the same or better services as a conventional dishwasher, whilst also providing a new service for small households such as singles, couples and retirees. Integral to this aim was the concept of DishDrawerTM operating as either a single (one drawer) or double unit (two drawers), with each wash drawer being independently operated.
The expertise for the development of the DishDrawerTM was sourced internally, with brainstorming sessions being held with all sections of the company, and consumer surveys undertaken to determine consumer wants and needs. The results of these surveys indicated increasing consumer demand for high performance, 'modern' dishwashers, and provided the company with positive feedback for the two-drawer concept.
The subsequent development program for the DishDrawerTM focused on maximising the useable space provided within a conventional kitchen for a dishwasher. The motor, pump and drain unit of a conventional dishwasher is 300 millimetres deep. Fisher and Paykel have developed their unit to be only 40 millimetres deep. This increased the useable space within each drawer. For example, a full size dinner plate can be washed in each drawer, whereas in a conventional dishwasher this can only be achieved on the lower shelf.
Environmental considerations addressed during the design of the product related to energy, water and detergent consumption. The machine has been fitted with a Fisher and Paykel SmartDriveTM motor. These compact motors have been designed with fewer components and for high levels of energy efficiency, achieving a five star energy rating. In addition, the machines are only fitted with a single water connection point, with recommended connection to cold water. A highly efficient enamel heater plate heats the water for each wash load.
To minimise water consumption, the designers addressed the efficiency of the water flow around the drawer, by providing users with a variety of wash cycles depending on the size and nature of the wash load.
Reduced detergent use is achieved through the efficiency of the flow-through detergent dispenser - which dissolves the detergent prior to its release into the wash drawer, and the ability to run a single-drawer wash.
The system has been designed for longevity and ease of disassembly, with minimal and durable components. Components have been selected according to their strength, durability and cost. Materials with reduced environmental impact, such as reduced material density and increased recyclability are used when their performance is equal to alternative products. Other fundamental design considerations were that the dishwasher needed to be simple and straightforward to operate, provide optimum wash performance, and be aesthetically pleasing.
In addition to DfE considerations during the design process, the company addressed the environmental impacts of the manufacturing process, reducing energy and water consumption and minimising waste outputs (solid, liquid and air). Scrap steel and faulty plastics from the factory are recycled back into the manufacturing process where possible. A completely closed-loop manufacturing process is not possible due to the reduced strength and durability of these recycled materials. The company also receives used machines, which are disassembled for recycling of components.
In-house and user trials were conducted during the development of the DishDrawerTM. In-house computer-controlled trials at the Dunedin factory focused on the performance and durability of the machine and its components. Performance tests evaluated the washing and drying performance, energy and water consumption, and detergent requirements. Durability tests evaluated the life span of various components of the machine. The machines were also tested for their ability to function in different environments, such as differing water type and temperature. For example, tests were undertaken on the performance of the machine using water with varying degrees of hardness.
User trials would typically involve the general public, however the uniqueness of the product made this option unfeasible, with the user trials being conducted in the homes of Fisher and Paykel staff. These trials evaluated ease of operation and wash performance, and examined the way in which people use the machine. New usage scenarios are often established after this process requiring some adaptation to the original design.
DishDrawersTM are delivered and installed in customers' homes by a technician. This process ensures the proper installation of the dishwasher and the provision of operational advice to users (such as the benefits of cold water connection). All packaging materials are removed by the technician for recycling and reuse.
Issues and barriers
The main barrier concerning the development of the DishDrawerTM relates to the uniqueness of the product. Fisher and Paykel were unable to source any external expertise or components for the machine, since no similar product existed. As a result all design and engineering expertise for the project needed to be internally sourced and the product built from the ground up, extending the development period of the product.
Fisher and Paykel possess an ISO 9001 accredited Quality Management System. Under this system serial numbers on the product are used to track the manufacture, transport and installation of each unit.
The environmental benefits of the DishDrawerTM stem from the flexibility of the product, environmental efficiency aspects of the design and environmental efficiencies within the manufacturing process.
The opportunity to purchase either a single or double unit allows customers the flexibility to buy a suitably sized product to meet their dishwashing needs. Smaller households that would not typically fill a dishwasher before their dishes required washing, are able to put on a smaller wash, reducing energy, water and detergent consumption. Larger households, which may have purchased the double unit, are still able to put on a smaller one-drawer wash when the need arises, without wasting large amounts of energy or water running a half-empty machine. The 'economic' wash cycle option uses only 9 litres of water per drawer compared to the 20 litres used by an average dishwasher.
The cold water connection to the DishDrawerTM reduces energy demand from household hot water systems that would normally heat an entire tank rather than just the water required for each wash load.
Additional benefits provided by the design of the machine include reduced noise during use, increased recyclability and increased opportunity for remanufacture.
Efficiencies addressed during the manufacture of the DishDrawerTM result in reduced energy and water consumption, and reduced amounts of waste sent to landfill.
The DishDrawerTM has had excellent sales performance and positive media and industry reactions. Fisher and Paykel enjoy a positive company image due to their position as one of the leaders in the industry in environmental terms.
The company believes that the development of such an innovative product has also resulted in increased staff commitment and involvement, greater staff satisfaction and improved community relations.
Economic benefits are also provided to the consumer, as using one drawer halves energy, water and detergent consumption saving costs for these resources.
Fisher and Paykel intend to continue the development of innovative products with minimal environmental impact, aiming for continuous improvement in the eco-efficiency of their manufacturing operations.
Fisher and Paykel
Private Bag 50033
Phone: 64 3 489 3819
Fax: 64 3 489 7611
Case study prepared in September 2000