Developing Attractive and Differentiated Products



Updated: Jan 11, 2019

Design-Led Innovation

In 2018, LIXIL appointed Paul Flowers to an expanded role of Chief Design Officer, building on the work he has done at LIXIL Water Technology (LWT) to further integrate design into the entire organization's DNA. As part of this new role, he has now been tasked with driving design-led transformation at LIXIL Housing Technology (LHT).

The Importance of Listening to the Consumer

For Flowers, design thinking most importantly is about putting the consumer first.

"A lot of companies don't try to solve problems, they just bring out iterations of the same products in order to use their existing assets. But consumers don't purchase things based on the compromises that you have within your own setup, they want to spend their money on products they love. That means less time trying to convince the consumer and more time observing, listening, and gathering insights to understand their frustrations and unarticulated needs." Flowers refers to this concept as "Presearch."

"I like that we are a large company but not a cumbersome one. We're inquisitive, and we want to think. That's where the value comes from, because if you're like that, then you are constantly questioning, "How can I do this better?", "Why did we do it like that?", "Can we do it in a different way?" We have to think like this if we are going to add value."

Building the LIXIL Design Process

Flowers has already implemented core design processes at LWT that can be used for any of its products and technologies. His team can now apply what he calls a 'brand lens' – signature elements intrinsic to a particular brand – to ensure products are true and relevant to their consumers.

"Each of our water technology brands is now well defined, with a unique sense of purpose, identity, and value. That means we can apply our brand lenses to a certain technology, and attach things like different materials, colors, and finishes. This way, our brands can fulfill different consumer needs and at different price segments."

"I think there's also a sense of cultural appreciation. People know that Japanese technology is amazing. Then we add something like GROHE brand equity into the package, and it becomes an unbelievable product."

Sales growth of key products show the approach is working, but for Flowers, it's the fact that all of LWT's global brands are winning design awards, not just those that traditionally focused on design, that is the most telling.

"I'm proud that I've got an absolute world-class design team behind our products, and that we've really focused on the people and putting them in leading design studios."

From Product Design to Experience Design

One of the benefits of having a great in-house design team is that they are involved in every step of the development process.

"With an in-house design team, you can really start to work with the engineers and factories, and understand how you can apply all of that information to design. We now work very closely with marketing, too; we name products, we focus on packaging, attend trade fairs, and ensure design is present at each of the consumer touch-points. This end-to-end approach really helps to enhance and harmonize the whole consumer experience."

Flowers has also overseen a transition from product design toward 'experience-based design.' As an example, he cites GROHE Blue, a kitchen faucet with its own filtration system.

"When we made GROHE Blue, we actually created a tap brand for the first time. We wanted to show people that its value could be symbolic. And for that, we had to look at the whole process and the whole experience, from how you decant water to how you transfer it. As a result, we learned that the consumer value of the product didn't just lie in the fact that water will be cheaper or safer, but that it also contributed to social interactions between people. It became a choice for people to say, "I drink filtered water from the tap because it is better for the environment."

Transforming LIXIL Housing Technology

Looking ahead, Flowers plans to use a similar design-led approach at LHT.

"In terms of the philosophy, it's still all about putting the consumer first. It's not about creating a product because we have a factory that can do so; it's more about what a product can do for humanity and for consumers. That should give LIXIL real purpose and real value. We want to identify a problem, a pain point, or an opportunity."

And similarly, he is also confident that it will soon pay off.

"At LHT, we already have a design team in place and we are busy introducing our design processes and tools to the team. I have no doubt that we will start to see good progress in our products and services, which will help to redefine this area of the business and drive value for the brand."

Making Things that Matter

LIXIL makes things that matter – to all sorts of different people and to the world it is part of. Below are a range of LIXIL products that solve real-life challenges, suit individual preferences, all while contributing to environmental sustainability.

American Standard: Spectra Shower Collection

Spectra+ eTouch empowers the consumer with flexible shower spray choices to suit their individual preferences. Its first-to-market technology allows users to switch between spray patterns by simply touching the edge of the showerhead, making it easy to customize – even with wet hands. The showerhead also includes a wall-mounted remote that can be placed anywhere in the shower, helping consumers who cannot reach the showerhead due to age, height, or mobility restrictions....

In addition, the Spectra+ Duo model features a two-in-one option: a fixed showerhead and detachable hand shower. Offering among the widest spray coverage of any two-in-one showerhead, consumers can enjoy two convenient options without requiring significant remodeling to their bathroom.

GROHE: Sensia Arena

GROHE Sensia Arena combines German design and engineering with advanced shower toilet technology from Japan, blending together form and function. Modern and elegant, its streamlined, gentle, and stylish shape integrates seamlessly into any contemporary bathroom design....

No design feature has been left unexplored, from the finer details such as the discreet nightlight to the lid that automatically opens and closes. Inside GROHE Sensia Arena's sophisticated design, it integrates some of LIXIL's most cutting-edge technology developed in Japan to improve the experience for consumers, from AQUA CERAMIC, which keeps the ceramic surface shiny for 100 years, to the Triple Vortex flush system.

American Standard: Genie Hand Shower

Genie Hand Shower, designed for consumers in markets with low water pressure, offers a new alternative. Unlike hand showers that rely on typical pressure boosters, it delivers a robust yet non-abrasive shower experience through 120 intricately and evenly spaced micro-spray nozzles....

Transparent materials used in the showerhead allow users to see when the product needs to be cleaned. With something as common as a key, a slot on top of the showerhead enables consumers to open it up in order to wipe away limescale, mold, and dirt. Genie Hand Shower is available in three colors – aquamarine, petal pink, and steel gray – providing a refreshing alternative to current metallic offerings in the market, and matching local trends and preferences.

LIXIL: Carport SC

LIXIL's Carport SC blends in beautifully with the look of the modern home while maintaining all the functions of a carport. Its uniquely minimalist façade was created after reimagining the fundamental structure of carports and reducing unnecessary decoration and noise....

Thanks to the use of aluminum extrusion, the roof is a thin, flat, elegant yet robust surface measuring just 40mm thick. The use of aluminum also blocks out sunlight, helping to prevent a car's colors from fading while keeping the inside from getting too hot in the summer. As part of this minimalist design, gutters and bolts are invisible from beneath the roof, while components have been reduced and ease of construction improved.

INAX: Ecocarat

Ecocarat is a wall tile that combines design and function. Through micro-holes in the ceramic material, Ecocarat can control humidity levels in a room five to six times better than diatomaceous earth walls and 25 times better than humidity-controlling wallpaper*....

By maintaining humidity levels between 40 to 70% in a room, consumers can even hang their laundry to dry indoors during the winter and rainy seasons, while it helps prevent the spread of mites and mold, as well as skin from drying out. Furthermore, it helps reduce odors from toilets, food waste, cigarettes, and pets, as well as toxic substances such as formaldehyde. A range of Ecocarat tiles are now available in various designs to enhance both homes and public spaces.
* Effect varies depending on the room, ventilation, weather, and environment



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