User Story

Pro/E : Metrologic Instruments, Inc.

Metrologic Instruments, Inc. (Blackwood, NJ) is a leading manufacturer of bar code scanning equipment incorporating laser and holographic technology. The company's scanners are sold in more than 95 countries worldwide to retail, commercial, and industrial applications. Orbit, one of Metrologic's most recent product introductions, is an omni-directional barcode scanner that helped the company to record sales. In May of 1999, Metrologic president C. Harry Knowles says, "I am particularly pleased that Metrologic's record sales were primarily the result of shipments of the Orbit scanner."

In addition to record sales, the Orbit won an IDEA Award from Business Week and the Industrial Designers Society of America. The device also won an Appliance Manufacturer Excellence in Design Award and Europe's top honors including the Industrial Design Hannover Fair Award.

Mark Schmidt is Metrologic's Vice President of Marketing. "Orbit's introduction and wide appeal in the marketplace is testimony to the innovative product design team relationship established between Metrologic and Bresslergroup," notes Schmidt. "Developing our products requires input from multiple design and engineering disciplines including software, electronics, mechanical, optics, and quality engineering. In addition, mechanical tolerances must be exact and consistent. Ultimately, product east of use and aesthetics are of critical importance to the design of today's point of sale products."

Traditionally, aesthetics was not a critical scanner design requirement. "Over time," notes Garrett Russell, Metrologic's Product Manager for Point of Sale Products, "aesthetics has become critical. Only a couple of years ago, a purely utilitarian approach to product design could maximize sales. Today, industrial design plays an ever important role in maintaining and growing market share."

Critical redesign
Schmidt, Russell and their team decided to completely redesign the existing scanner product in an effort to gain back marketshare. During that process, they contracted with Bresslergroup, a 30 year old, Philadelphia-based product design firm consisting of a staff of researchers, strategists, engineers, and designers who work on projects targeted for a range of markets including electronics, medical, and consumer goods. Schmidt notes, "We believed that it was crucial to team with Bresslergroup in our efforts to deliver a new, innovative product to achieve our strategic goals of winning new business and reestablishing confidence with our existing customers."

"As we developed the idea of Orbit," notes Russell, "we knew we wanted a ball type shaped scanning mechanism and we needed some aesthetic and ergonomic refinements to meet customer demands. We knew we were losing sales because of those two issues. We provided Bresslergroup with our ideas and they quickly responded with a range of viable concepts."

Bresslergroup's principal Peter Bressler adds, "The challenge in the Metrologic project was that they wanted to use a ball as a scanning head. We needed to create an overall design that supported the ball concept but we wanted to go the extra distance and add functionality and some personality. We incorporated some human factor issues and anthropomorphic attributes to make the product more desirable, approachable, and intuitive."

Bressler and his team moved from concept to modeling the device using Pro/ENGINEER CAD software. Orbit product development was a very quick turnaround - starting in November and shipping in June. Bressler notes, "Because we had such a small window of time, the Orbit project went straight from concept to CAD to tooling in a paperless environment."

Solid modeling speeds development time
Using parametric solid modeling - solids and surfacing CAD packages - eliminates parts drawings in the development process. Historically, engineers and designers generated part drawings and sent them to a model maker to obtain a part to check or use, or to see if it fits within assemblies. Bressler adds, "Eliminating the need to create a drawing because you can now simply send an electronic file to mold makers and manufacturers literally eliminates part of the development process. Mistakes are eliminated. To be able to visualize in real time in three dimensions on the screen, we can rotate models and see all the elements that make up the product. We can also closely examine assemblies to check for part interferences.

"In addition, the software helps significantly reduce and at times, eliminate many mistakes that don't typically show up until downstream when the cost of rework can be exorbitant. As a result, our clients achieve design goals to deliver quality products on time.

"Metrologic was comfortable with that approach and we provided a number of mock-ups and prototypes as reassurances that we were on the right track. We reviewed the files with the client and the client'ss molder many times," says Bressler. And, since the molder was located in Asia, Bresslergroup established a strong conduit for international interaction.

Complex product specifications
Besides creating a more attractive base and a rotating scanner head, Metrologic asked Bresslergroup to factor in other elements that were critical to Orbit's success. Issues such as weight, durability, ease of use, and ease of installation were important. In addition, Bresslergroup designers tackled the tough task of addressing multiple parts - some moving - housed inside a compact envelope. Parts such as a spinning motor, fasteners, connectors, and the fact that the laser had to fit and perform consistently and accurately were critical objectives. Scanners must meet stringent specifications including durability since scanners are often in use in harsh conditions and busy retail environments.

Metrologic meets those requirements by extensive in-house testing for drop durability, temperature, and environmental and beta testing. Russell adds, "We let key customers use the beta product to test it for ease of use, durability, and aesthetics. We work with focus groups to look at the design of the product. We also take a look at failed opportunities to determine why we lost business."

Metrologic's Russell and his team have worked with Bresslergroup on at least three projects. The first project was a hand held device that was just introduced this year called Voyager. "We have established a great relationship such that we can bounce ideas off one another. Also, the Bresslergroup location is ideal - close enough for us to easily visit their office at a minute's notice," adds Russell.

Click here (6kB) and here (12kB Pro/E image of the casework parts) for a JPG view.

Author: Laura Carrabine

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Page last modified on September 22, 2000
Copyright 2000 by John Stark