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Companies Compete to Make Products User-Friendly (January 5, 2007)

The FWH12DC3 electric screwdriver (Hitachi Koki Co., Ltd.)
A growing number of companies are putting ergonomics front and center when designing and developing such things as car and airplane seats. While ease of use has long been an important means of getting ahead of the competition, another factor behind this trend is the concept of universal design, which states that even the elderly or disabled should be able to use a product. As it has become difficult in recent years for companies to best the competition in terms of product functionality, ergonomics has become a focus of increasing attention.

Sales of Electric Screwdrivers up 30%
Ergonomics is a field of engineering that involves analyzing the human body and the way it moves and using the findings to design and make easy-to-use products. In the past, it was mainly used in areas in which a design flaw could literally be a matter of life or death. Recently, however, with competition for sales of commercial products becoming ever more intense, it has become difficult for companies come up with something new in terms of functionality. This has led firms to look to ergonomics as a means of making their products stand out from those of their competitors. Another factor behind the ergonomics boom is the global spread of universal design, which follows the principle of making things usable by as many people as possible.

The ergonomically designed Aohata 55 jam jars (Aohata Corporation)

The electric screwdriver FWH12DC3 released by Hitachi Koki Co. in June 2006 was designed based on ergonomics. While such tools had previously been created with functionality being given top priority, usability is now more of a focus given the increasing number of hobbyists who use tools on the weekend. When the screwdriver created by Hitachi Koki is gripped, the tool carefully determines the amount of pressure put on the palm of the hand, and it is designed in a way that the user does not feel the device to be heavy. As a result of these improvements, sales of this screwdriver are 30% higher than those of previous models.

A Slim B5 notebook (Kokuyo Co.)

Making Jars Easier to Open
Jam maker Aohata Corporation used ergonomics in its design of the jars for its new Aohata 55 Jam, which it launched in February 2005. Using data on the hand sizes of people of all ages and both genders, the upper portion of the jar features indentations that make it easy for anyone to open. Consumers report happily that even their children have no trouble opening the jars.

In the fall of 2005, meanwhile, stationery maker Kokuyo Co. released the Slim B5, a notebook designed ergonomically by making the pages narrower than usual so that users can read the entire page with just their eyes, without any need to move the head. Sales of this and other ergonomic products have been very brisk, suggesting that ease of use will be of growing importance as companies develop new products in the years to come.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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