More than a new project or initiative, innovation requires an approach and climate that can make a company stand apart in the global competitive marketplace. Starting in fall 2012 with the singular vision to reinvent the ‘Last 100 Meters Of Delivery’, John Reynolds, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and has prior experience managing new product introduction for iPhone at Apple as an operations program manager, focused on improving the safety and efficiency of this delivery challenge. MIT’s capstone mechanical engineering course is product design process. They challenge a team of undergraduates to come together to identify a need, develop a solution, and deliver a prototype. Reynolds lead the team and identified delivery as an area of interest and need.
Reynolds and his team were committed to eliminating the cost and risk to safety that is so prevalent in today’s direct store delivery (DSD) and e-Commerce Business to Consumer (B-to-C) model. He shared, “We’re a team of passionate engineers out of MIT who truly believe in improving the safety and efficiency of the last 100 metres of delivery. We work on, design, and innovate in spaces most others overlook. We’re all about the details. Chris Benson, Nate Robert, and I were teaching assistants for the premier MIT course on design thinking, EID, and all took MIT’s capstone design course, Product Design Processes out of which the Glyde Hand Truck concept was borne.”
Understanding user's needs
The development of this new product started with truly understanding the user’s needs, to hone and simplify an innovative design and solutions. With data driven rapid prototyping principles, the design most closely aligned with user requirements. Every day hundreds of thousands of deliveries take place. The goods, food, beverages, furniture, and parcels we consume and depend on have to cross the last 100 meters before the delivery is complete. Older and variable infrastructure using delivery via forklift, elevator or loading dock creates dangerous difficulties.
Reynold’s team built a relationship with the AB (Anheuser Busch) distribution center in Medford, MA and went on hundreds of runs with them, spending hundreds of hours with the drivers and observing the creative ways AB safety managers were trying to improve delivery. They decided to help them focus on this problem with kegs first, as they are very heavy at 160 pounds each. These were typical deliveries happening thousands of times a day.
The Glyde hand truck helps to adapt to the most dangerous, and part of the last 100 meters, the stairs. In cities with older infrastructure, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, most bars, restaurants, and clubs store goods in the cellar, and the goods must be delivered down a flight of steep stairs. The methods and locations are so variable and dependent on the structure of each delivery location.
The challenge was to devise an innovation that removed the tremendous burden on the delivery professionals. They were forced to muscle, maneuver, and in some cases bounce kegs, cases, food, and parcels down narrow, winding stairs often causing chronic injury to shoulders, elbows, and back. The result was a costly reality; the average delivery professional spends 12-15 days on workers’ compensation a year, and larger companies like Anheuser Busch budget tens of thousands of dollars for each injury every year.
The pain point was not relegated to just the beverage industry, but also for the moving industry, food industry, parcel industry, and other industries requiring delivery to large cities, causing the majority of chronic workplace related injuries.
Innovation driving strategic business relationship
Having developed and tested the engineered solution, Reynolds and his team reached out to Magline. Magline Hand Truck with Glyde Technology was engineered to ease the burdensome step in the delivery process by enabling the delivery professional to easily transition from maneuvering on level surfaces to moving down stairs. Development took close to three years from the final prototype from the MIT course to the finished product with Magline. Each prototype iteration was taken into the field to validate its performance to ensure driver buy-in. Five to fifteen prototypes in each iteration were taken in to distribution centers in Boston, NYC, and Denver to gather feedback. The guiding principle was always for delivery professionals.
Glyde aids in descending stairs, but does not create additional problems ascending stairs. Delivery professionals traditionally use hand trucks to deliver full kegs ~160 lbs down the stairs. In the past, they have always carried the hand truck and the empty kegs ~30 lbs up the stairs by hand. In field research and in consultations with AB safety managers, this is not a safety risk since the weight is much less.
Additionally, the hand truck actually enables the drivers to stack and pull empty kegs up the stairs, where before they would have to carry the hand truck itself. The engineers ensured a uni-directional clutch built into the treads, which meant the braking is only engaged when going down the stairs. The treads spin freely going up the stairs. Delivery professionals can then stack and load the hand truck and freely pull up the loaded hand truck when before they would have to carry it out. Validating the performance of the design included various studies and consultation with various ergonomic and medical professionals.
“The back strain charts clearly demonstrate that the primary force has been markedly decreased from the back muscles. In addition, the jerky movements, which can lead to acute injury, have been removed,” reported Jacqueline Napoletano, Managing Director, Glyde.
Testing for acceleration: By putting an accelerometer on Glyde and standard hand trucks the impact at each step was measured. The acceleration varied dramatically between Glyde and the traditional hand truck. Each of the red peaks corresponds to the old-school dolly crashing into each step, while Glyde went down smoothly with minimal jolts. The average peak acceleration of the Glyde was nine times less than current products.
Muscle strain: Engineers measured drivers’ back activity using electrodes. As the traditional hand truck crashed into each step, the user experienced a huge jump in back-muscle activation. Glyde, again, travelled smoothly down with much lower muscle activation. Overall, the Hand Truck had three times less average muscle strain and eight times less average peak muscle strain than current products.
Ergonomics: The innovative finished product works on stairs of various steepness and pitch; the handle had to best fit with the demographics of drivers to ensure that the length was appropriate, so that when used on stairs the drivers would not have to bend. The built-in passive and pre-set braking is carefully tuned make the varying loads (up to 350 pounds). Braking makes the load feel manageable, and relatively effortless; it allows the driver to more easily control the acceleration of the delivery.