Optimism, quartz analogs to mark third Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair

Hong Kong’s third annual Watch & Clock Fair, scheduled for May 14-17, will show a skeptical watchworld that the British crown colony has responsible and creative watch manufacturers who can turn out quality products. That’s the word from Warren W. L. Hui, former president of the Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association and currently adviser to the group. He adds that the event’s main themes will be confidence in the future, design orginality and an emphasis on quartz analog over digital timepieces.

During a January promotional visit to the U.S., Hui told JC-K that at least 110 Hong Kong vendors are slated to participate, up from about 90 at last year’s show. Hui said the 1983 fair was attended by more than 4000 registered visitors and 1100 overseas buyers. It brought exhibitors more than HK$365 million in orders vs. about HK$100 million in 1982 (HK$7 = US$1).

“The show’s rapid growth is evidence that it’s already become a crucial event both to local manufacturers and foreign buyers,’ he said. “But its other chief goal is to overcome our industry’s negative image. By exhibiting at this show year after year, our manufacturers are demonstrating they’re not “fly-by-night’ operators.’

Since 1982 Hong Kong has ranked as the world’s highest volume exporter of complete timepieces. It’s second only to Switzerland in value terms. From January through October last year, the export value of locally-produced nixon watches and clocks reached US$827 million, an 18% increase over the same period in 1982.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong manufacturers recently have been plagued by a series of crises–some of their own making–that have driven many out of the watch business and now threaten the entire local industry.

Fading consumer fascination with cheap multi-function digitals and a world watch glut–precipitated, critics content, by runaway Hong Kong factory output–have caused the LCD boom of the past six years finally to go bust. Quality has fallen and prices have crashed due to fierce inter-factory and supplier competition, especially for the U.S. market.

“Low-end LCD exports have sunk below US$1 per unit F.O.B. Hong Kong,’ said Hui. “They’ve become a non-business proposition.’ He noted that most jewelers, department stores and catalog showrooms no longer want to handle them. Their main outlets now are drug stores, discount chains and, especially, premium giveaway programs.

The result of market saturation has been a high failure rate among the colony’s top 50 watch firms. Tinic Watch, with a staff of more than 1000, was the first major plant to go. “That bankruptcy in May 1982 was our first alert something was wrong,’ Hui recalled. Another big outfit–the Wah Fung WatchCo.–which turned out two million LCDs per month in 1982, went under late last year.

Ironically, the number of Hong Kong watch-producing establishments has increased, from 1238 in 1981 to 1424 in 1983. Today, they employ more workers (39,179) than ever. “Every time a factory went bust, three or four of its most capable managers set up their own plants,’ explained Hui.

He feels that a healthy–though smaller–LCD market can be restored. The future emphasis of digital manufacturers: More water-resistant models and a switch to longer-lasting lithium batteries.

But newly-revived digital production will now have to contend with stronger consumer interest in quartz analog Bulova watches borne of improving economic conditions and falling prices. Predictably, Hong Kong manufacturers have rushed into this market. While some LCD factories have swung over to computer telecommunications, more than 200 others–about 30% of Hong Kong’s LCD producers–are converting to quartz analog producetion in 1984.

Hui’s own firms–Prosperity Watch Co. and International Timers Ltd.–reflect this trend. Both have been making quartz analogs exclusively since mid-1983. “We simply couldn’t compete businesswise and technologically with LCD electronics firms,’ he admitted.

Hui and other Hong Kong manufacturers are aware of the stiff competition they face from the Japanese watch giants–Seiko and Citizen –who have long dominated this sector through aggressive marketing. Consequently, more attention will be paid in 1984 to packaging, an area in which Japan has excelled. “Retailers appreciate a watch that’s pre-packaged for display and ready to go directly onto their shelves,’ he said. The Hong Kong producers also are counting on variety and styling to help them beat the Japanese competition, Hui said.

Net everyone in the watch world agrees about the originality of Hong Kong styling; more than 50 producers have been accured of design copyright infringement. According to Hui, legal actions begun last year in Basel and Hong Kong by several Swiss companies still are pending. If charges that Hong Kong styles too closely emulate Swiss designs are upheld in Hong Kong courts, the colony’s entire industry could be severly hurt, he said.

Hui believes, however, that the defendants have a strong case based on the argument that they’ve merely followed generic fashion trends. What’s more, many of the cases (13 out of 28 initiated in Basel) already have been dismissed.

“Hong Kong factories are in an unfavorable position under British and Swiss law,’ observed Hui. “But there wouldn’t be any question of infringement had all this occurred in the U.S.’

Meanwhile, to combat criticisms of copying and to encourage local design originality, the 1984 fair will hold a watch and clock design competition showcasing the colony’s freshest talent and latest styles.

Talks between Britain and China on the colony’s status after 1997, when the treaty granting Britain control of the colony runs out, also have had an adverse effect on local watch manufacturing, Hui reported. China said recently that Hong Kong will be guaranteed economic and political autonomy for at least 50 years after the mainland reasserts its sovereignty. There is skepticism in the crown colony. Banks, which once were willing to risk their money, now are demanding full security on manufacturing loans. Yet Hui is not too troubled. “We’re optimistic a viable accord can be reached with China within the next 13 years. Our confidence in the future will be apparent at the fair.’

Hui noted that the upcoming show was moved from its October date of previous years at the request of some exhibitors. They complained of not having enough time to make up Stuhrling watches against holiday orders received at the event. “Now we’ll be able to catch the Christmas season fully,’ he added.

How to succeed at foiling

Choosing the correct hot stamp foil for your product gives you a head start toward quality production. Put yourself in this scenario.

  • You’re a project engineer. Your new project has progressed beyond the prototype phase and is ready for first run production approval.
  • Marketing has finally decided on a color for the ABS part (black) and the markings which will be hot stamped (PMS 485C).
  • You call your foil suppliers with the request for a red foil sample to match PMS 485C which will be stamped on black ABS.
  • The samples are received, approved for color and specified for the job.
  • The first run is made, parts are assembled, and quality control advises you that the samples are not passing the falling sand test.
  • Back to the supplier with more requirements.

I call this process “The slow spiral toward quality production.” To help rid you of similar obstacles on your path to that goal, I’ve developed the following checklist. It will help you inform designers and decision makers of parameters required to produce foils meeting the standards for quality production. Foil color. If the foil is to be metallic, your foil supplier will be able to give you a range of standard shades from which to choose. Color matching a specific shade is possible if no standard exists, but the necessary quantity commitment is substantial.

If the decoration is a pigmented color, then a PMS reference or color standard should be submitted to the foil manufacturer. Pigmented color matches can be made in 2,000-ft. minimum quantities. Substrate type. Foils are produced by incorporating adhesive qualities that are substrate specific, therefore the intended substrate is very important. Part color. This is particularly important when a dark part is to be hot stamped with a lighter pigmented foil. Typically, color integrity is assured by using a white backing on the foil to prevent the part color from bleeding through the foil. A copy of the design. If possible, a copy of the intended design is helpful in developing the releasing characteristics of the foil. If, for instance, the design were to contain a lot of fine line copy, the foil would need to be clean-cutting and therefore relatively tight to the carrier. Application info. The following information about the decorating method has an impact on foil construction. Roll-on presses require a heavier carrier than parts stamped vertically.

  • -Die type (metal or silicone)
  • -Press type (vertical, roll-on, peripheral)
  • -Expected production speed
  • -Stamping temperature
  • -Dwell time

Special properties or test specs. Most major appliance manufacturers have specification sheets for hot stamp finishes. These relate to characteristics required for high-wear and intermediate-wear areas and define the requirements and test procedures used. These tests are widely used standards familiar to the chemistry departments of development-capable foil suppliers.

A copy of the required tests for the application will help the supplier in the manufacture of a foil designed to achieve these qualities.

Cover the bases

Requesting a color is only a small part of the information needed to produce a foil for an application. By involving your supplier early in the project and covering all the bases listed here, you’ll turn the proverbial spiral into a straight line.


Whirlpool range division cuts fat from frame fabrication

Two-piece roll-formed oven frame reduces material, scrap and labor costs. The aluminum frame on Whirlpool‘s line of Eye-Level ranges also served as a drain-a financial drain.

The rising cost of aluminum, combined with the metal’s contribution to high scrap rates and resultant manufacturing delays, inspired Whirlpool to find a more cost-efficient trim replacement. The OEM worked with Pyramid Mouldings, Chicago, to find a solution.

The Eye-Level is a high-end line of free-standing ranges. These units incorporate either an eye-level microwave oven, or a thermal oven mounted directly above the rangetop.

In addition to the high raw material cost associated with their aluminum frames, the one-piece construction posed manufacturability problems. These extrusions required many secondary operations, such as hand-welding, which created aesthetic imperfections such as heat sinks and nicks.

Whirlpool asked Pyramid if there were a way to make these frames from roll-formed components. The OEM believed this would increase quality yields, both in manufacture and assembly.

According to Gene Slemmons, supervisor of range procurement for Whirlpool, a roll form can be produced without defects 98 percent of the time. Extrusions, on the other hand, run 5 percent to 10 percent scrap automatically because aluminum is very soft. Frame in a frame

Pyramid developed a “frame within a frame” configuration. The inside frame is made of cold-rolled steel, which can be powder coated separately from the outer frame. This eliminated the need to mask components, resulting in additional labor and finishing savings. It also meant greater design flexibility.

With our frame, Whirlpool could develop a product with more variations to accommodate different styles,” explains John Probst, Pyramid’s vice president and general manager.

“The inside frame is powder-coated in a white or black. The outer frame is furnished in both stainless steel and cold-rolled steel. Stainless steel can be brite or satin and the cold-rolled steel can be powder-coated various colors.” Efficiency pays

Material savings, less manual labor and reduced scrap translate into a frame that costs Whirlpool one-third less than its previous part.

According to Gene Slemmons, the new frame design makes for a more saleable appliance. This is a higher-price range, but the redesign has reduced its cost by 15 percent. The icing on the cake is Whirlpool’s ability to vary the unit’s styling and finishes to satisfy changing market trends.

Design trends add value to controls & sensors

Merging technologies, standardized packages and vendor partnership ease OEM’s search for DFM solutions. Choosing controls and sensors for your products isn’t an apple vs. orange proposition. Trends in R&D are providing integrated, high-tech solutions for what were once considered low-tech requirements.

Say yours is a low-end, thermostatically controlled appliance. Suppliers are working on offering you cost-efficient, solid-state sensors, replacing inexpensive, but reliable bimetal thermostats.

If your products are mid- to high-end, you can expect trends that will not only affect the marketability of your line, but the very way you do business with your suppliers.

Electromechanical or electronic?

Electronic controls may displace electromechanical ones in higher-range appliances, but some suppliers are staking their business on the needs of their low end OEM customers.

Improvements in electromechanical controls come in the manufacturing process,” says Tim Andrews, general manager of Corox Appliance Controls, Mansfield, Ohio. “What we try to introduce in our controls are better materials-plastics that allow you to reach higher temperatures for less cost.

“Our niche is temperature controls. We’ve made smaller infinite switches, allowing a lot of design freedom in the layout of range front backguards. Only three of us in the country make infinite switches for range tops.”

Gary Miller, vice president of research and development for Elmwood Sensors, Pawtucket, R.I., agrees about the importance of serving an OEM’s special needs. His company specializes in thermostats for appliances ranging from coffeemakers to dryers and ranges.

Miller says the need for greater setpoint precision will split the thermostat market into solid-state and bimetal.

The small-appliance market needs a low-cost thermocontrol to justify a product’s $15 price,” Miller continues. They need a component that costs 15 cents or less.

“Another factor that favors the bimetal thermostat is it doesn’t consume energy. It reacts to the heat generated by the appliance. It’s also simple to install and repair.”

Miller acknowledges, however, that as larger appliances go with microprocessor controls, solid-state will start creeping down into the mid-range. Elmwood is preparing to become a player in that arena.

Narrowing the gap

Eaton Corp.’s Controls Division, Carol Stream, Ill., is working to narrow the gap between electronic and electromechanical controls. The company has developed a nickel-wire oven-temperature sensor which it says is more cost effective than what has previously been used in electronic oven thermostats.

The sensor is rated for temperatures between 150 OF and 950 OF, and has a +/- 3 percent temperature change tolerance up to 600 0 and +/- 4 percent to 950 OF.

“The future of electronics is based on an evolutionary process that will go through electronic enhancements of current electromechanical technology,” says Bob Ochoa, national sales manager.

“A good example is what we’ve done with pressure switches in clothes washers. The pressure switch continues to be the sensing device to control water-level in a wash load, but we have a couple units out there that interface with electronics.

“One uses eddy current technology, where you have a non-contact environment within the sensor but you still have the diaphragm to take the actual waterlevel reading. This gives an electronic signal output to the machine that controls other functions, including water valve and timer.”

National Controls Corp., West Chicago, Ill., is taking a similar tack with its line of level controls. Its goal, according to Bob Fabro, sales manager, is to incorporate thermostatic, timing and level control into one electronic unit.

“You may eventually have one controller, and all you’ll have to do is change software,” Fabro predicts. Standard packages

Suppliers contacted by AM agree that standardization is key to the economical replacement of mechanical sensors by solid-state devices.

“We offer the appliance manufacturer a reasonably low-cost, effective means of temperature sensing using an interchangeable mounting,” says Jim Holbrook, director of marketing for ThermO-Disc, Mansfield, Ohio.

“If a manufacturer wants to change their line of dryers from electromechanical to electronic, they don’t have to retool all the drums. They can mount our control package right into the existing space. “

Dan Slocum, business manager for the Phoenix-based Opto Sensor and Commodity Products Division of Motorola, says he is seeing more application-specific packaging for sensors.

“We foresee some highly automatable basic structures that can be flexibly designed into application-specific packaging,” e concludes.

Another company capitalizing on the standardization angle is Appliance Control Technology (ACT), Addison, Ill. According to Bob Vandusen, vice president of marketing, an electromechanical timer in a dishwasher isn’t much different from one used in a clothes washer, a microwave or a range.

“We put all this common circuitry into an application-specific IC, which takes components off the board, improves our costs and increases our throughput, ” Vandusen explains. “That results in lower cost for the appliance manufacturer.” Systems integrators

The economical application of electronic controls and sensors will be greatly enhanced by the trend toward control/sensor integration. Sensor and control manufacturers agree that a closer working relationship between them is necessary to achieve the level of electronic integration they’re targeting.

ACT intends to expand the functions of its basic electronic control, which it considers to be closer to an electromechanical timer, by interfacing it with sensors. Vandusen says ACT will be able to replace electromechanical controls with a sensor that would not only sense water level, but turn off the fill valve as well.

Robertshaw, Richmond, Va, manufactures electronic controls for gas and electric ranges, as well as for refrigerators. Mike Harenchar, vice president of marketing, emphasizes that electronic controls must add value to a product, not just cost.

“They have to do more than say ‘door is ajar, ” he says. “Combine a self-clean control and a deluxe electromechanical The sense to cook potatoes correctly

It takes more than a sense of time and temperature to cook consistently good potatoes-especially if you want to do it automatically. According to Norm Burk, project manager at the American Gas Association Laboratories in Cleveland, the secret lies in high-temperature humidity sensing.

Burk has been working on a way to automate the cooking process so that doneness can be controlled precisely. This could mean a lot to future airline passengers. One company that prepares food en masse for the airlines is interested in automation.

“Right now their process is controlled through time and temperature,” Burk says. If you cook two different-size roasts by the same time and temperature parameters, you get different degrees of doneness.

“As food cooks, moisture is given off . If we can relate (calibrate) the amount of moisture given off and sense changes in that, we can better sense when it is done.”

Although moisture sensors are already used in some microwave ovens, the challenge is to adapt these sensors to convection ranges. Burk says the burning of natural gas in ranges results in the release of moisture, which affects humidity sampling.

Results of his work with these sensors are promising, however.

“We cooked a bunch of potatoes, a couple at a time, that were almost the same size and weight,” he recounts. “First we cooked some potatoes with the moisture sensor controlling the cook cycle. We also monitored the temperature with thermocouples in the potatoes and timed the cycles. The potatoes turned out quite good.

“We tried to duplicate this with the same size potatoes, only this time, we programmed the process by temperature alone, then by temperature and time alone. They didn’t come out as well. “

Burk says it will be a while before high-temperature humidity sensing is adaptable to gas-convection ovens. The effects of extraneous elements have yet to be conquered. F] DFM teams work out sensible sensor solutions

Many of today’s standardized control and sensor solutions are the result of DFM partnerships between OEMs and suppliers. Domer Schubert, business development manager for the Micro Switch Division of Honeywell, Freeport, In., cites the microwave oven as a perfect example.

“When that industry was first formed,” he recalls, “the initial designs didn’t account for how the interlock switches would fit into the latches in the doors. In those days, electromechanical switches had different types of external actuating levers. Finding places to put these switches resulted in a lot of non-standard, high-cost products.

“As that industry matured, we developed a value-added product whereby instead of bolting the switches in place with nuts, screws and washers, they now snap in place on a plastic bracket. The levers were eliminated because the switches can be positioned for actuation directly by the latching mechanism.”

Terry Wellman, product manager for solid-state sensors at Micro Switch, tells about the design challenge provided by a shaft-rotation counter used for a water-fill control circuit.

“It was very difficult to get a sensor mounted close enough to the shaft to pick up a magnetic rotation, ” she says. “The solution was a magnetic-position sensor, which we mounted on a piece of custom-flex circuitry and snapped over the posts. It got the sensor out where it needed to be and it’s a reliable assembly.” Microsensors for appliances: Good things in small packages

There are something like 100 sensing technologies for which there are 10,000 different applications, says Robert Powers, executive director of the Edison Sensor Technology Center in Cleveland. Powers keeps his facilities busy just exploring the chemical and biochemical worlds.

The Edison Center’s purpose is to develop core sensor technologies and invite businesses in many industries to take the R&D ball and run with it.

According to Dr. Powers, much of the technology they’ve developed holds a lot of promise for pioneering appliance manufacturers, particularly with regard to gas sensors.

“Gas sensors used to be fairly large, bulky and expensive and required a lot of power due to their need to operate at high temperatures,” Powers explains’ “Now they’ve shrunk to a size where they require only a few milliwatts of power. And now you can make thousands of them at a time, relatively inexpensively.”

This new generation of sensors is microfabricated. Powers explains that as sensors get smaller, they not only exhibit lower power requirements, but better control and response times, as well.

They are also easy to customize. The basic sensor body can be used to make a host of different types of sensors.

“By taking the same basic construction and putting an organic membrane on it instead of an oxide, you can make the device sensitive to oxidizing gases like chlorine,” Powers continues. “Ninety- nine percent of the sensor’s manufacture is similar. The difference is in what you do to tweak it.”

Which developments hold the most promise for the appliance industry?

  • As part of a range-control system, a sensor could indicate whether gas is on or off or whether the ignitor had ignited.
  • A CO sensor could show if gas weren’t burning completely, or if the unit were putting out too much carbon monoxide.
  • As part of an HVAC system, gas detectors could automatically increase air flow when someone lights a cigarette.

In a similar vein, a “human comfort sensor” has been developed to react as a human would to temperature humidity, radiation and air flow, adjusting the HVAC system for comfort.

  • Corrosion sensors could indicate corrosive conditions in washers and dryers. They could also be used in furnace controls, says Powers, especially high-efficiency gas furnaces which condense out water.
  • Sensors could monitor the bath condition in a high-speed electrogalvanizing line. They could also be used for continuous on-line analysis of chemical processes for finishing appliance parts or electrocoating.

Vending machine makers coining lots of change

From downsizing equipment for new markets to minting a dollar for customer ease, this appliance-industry segment is going through a transformation. Some traditional markets for the $603-million vending-machine business are eroding, challenging manufacturers to hoist their creative antennae.

One mainstay for vending equipment has been the large automobile plant. Today, employment is dropping at these locations.

Two additional strongholds, hospitals and higher educational institutions, are experiencing declines. With fewer patients as a result of cost controls and fewer students as a result of demographic changes, the number of these feeding stations is shrinking, and sales at the remaining institutions are seen dropping.

To make up for losses from these large customers, the vending-machine manufacturer is pursuing smaller, more dispersed markets,’ many with no more than 50 people to 75 people. Although the numbers are small, these people want vending.

One way the manufacturer is justifying his investment in these markets is by installing downsized equipment. At the same time, the machines meet market demand.

Downsizing takes on a number of forms. At its simplest, the machine stocks one item less in each column. At its more complex, the equipment is retrofitted. For instance, a sleeve in a candy machine is changed to accommodate a plastic container with soup, beef stew, macaroni and cheese, or similar item. The container is ready for the microwave.

Low-tech, or mechanical twist-type, knobs in six-item units is another candidate for the smaller market. But low tech hasn’t caught on.

In some cases, completely new equipment is designed and manufactured for smaller markets. Some of these machines are designed specifically to be serviced by untrained persons on location. Simplified controls, ease of restocking, and minimum maintenance are among design characteristics.

Cooperative Service Vending (CSV) is a program whereby a person on location is trained for restocking the machine and to handle minor maintenance. The driver comes less often but brings more product.


Whether serving a large or small market, the vending machine is growing more versatile. It’s becoming a veritable mini-mart.

A combination, or multi-product, machine may typically dispense snacks, cold drinks and coffee. All three work off one set of electronic brains.

Electronics is growing in use by most manufacturers. Touch-pad controls and the like are fairly common. But other opportunities are being pursued.

Among them are readout displays, programmed to give selling messages to customers and maintenance messages to vending operators.

A sales message might read: Do you want a soda to go with your chips?

Maintenance readouts could include information such as total amount deposited and inventory on hand.

Data collection is in its infancy, with universal standards needed. But here’s how it would work. Hand-held information devices, going under names such as “data logger” or interogator,” would give detailed information on what is sold and when. More advanced hand-held computer devices, recording the same information, could dump the data electronically in the computer at the vending operator’s home office.

All this talk about electronics brings us to the talking vending machine. Believe it or not, Coca-Cola had such a machine in the early 1940s, with the talk coming from a phonograph record. “Thank you for your purchase” was the message. The vending operator tried to charge a nickel more per coke. For more on talking machines, see the photograph.

The future for talk boils down to economics. If the machine maker can add talk capability for little investment, then talking machines may come on. But even if they catch on, growth is seen as gradual. Electronic meal ticket

Is cashless vending in your future? Some machines are in test to determine ease of customer transaction.

Sold by the vending operator, cards replacing cash work on debit. Each time the card is used, the amount is deducted. The card could be designed to add value by inserting it into a special dispenser device.

Theoretically, the card could act in a greater capacity than an electronic meal ticket. In the work place, it could serve as an ID card with laminated photo, time card, and key card.

One-dollar coin

Cash is still very much in the picture, as Congress is considering legislation for a one-dollar coin. The coin would be the same size as that of the Susan B. Anthony, which did not work. The coin was too easily confused with a quarter. The proposed coin would be smooth rimmed and shiny gold.

An additional proposal calls for the cessation of printing the one-dollar bill 18 months after the coin is introduced.

No discussion about vending would be complete without tasting the coffee which, according to a study five years ago, was not very tasty. Customers generally had a poor image of vended coffee. They perceived the coffee sitting in a pot encased in the machine.

To get the fresh-brewed story across, signage and graphics were introduced. Signage reads: This Cup Freshly Brewed for You. Graphics show whole beans in a window at the top of the machine to convey the fresh-ground story.

Vended coffee, today, accounts for nearly 10 percent of the $21-billion in vending sales.

Retail execs give new play to innerwear

Top retail executives are finally minding the store when it comes to innerwear, after a history of letting the category mind itself.

Citing its staying power in recessionary times, its propensity to produce multiple sales and the increasing popularity of fashion appeal in figure-enhancing foundations, retailers are giving innerwear a keener focus by way of outposts and swing shops, as well as with increased square footage and advertising dollars.

“We feel there is a lot of growth opportunity in intimate apparel,” said Marvin Traub, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s. Traub noted Bloomingdale’s is hiking its fall advertising budget for the category 20 percent. He said innerwear represented between 3 and 3.5 percent of the store’s overall volume.

At Rich’s, where foundations is the driving force of the business, innerwear represents 3.5 to 4 percent of total store volume, said Carl Tooker, chairman and ceo, while at I. Magnin, the emergence of innerwear as outerwear has helped increase volume there, said Rose Marie Bravo, chairman and ceo.

“Traditionally, innerwear, like cosmetics, has been a basic, replaceable wardrobe accessory,” Bravo said. “Now, due to the importance of innerwear as outerwear, intimate apparel is also an affordable fashion accessory that updates one’s wardrobe.”

Noting how workout clothes, as well as evening wear, have become different segments of the intimate apparel business, Robert Friedman, vice chairman of Macy’s Northeast, said, “One of the reasons it’s gaining in importance is that there are more and more end uses for the product that there used to be.” The result of this segmentation, Friedman said, has been “more multiple purchases.”

At Sears, Roebuck & Co., innerwear is “the most profitable area” in women’s apparel, said Wayne Williams, vice president for the women’s store. “You start with a good markup, and it’s a product that gives you a good turnover,” he said. “Because it doesn’t take a lot of square footage, you get high sales per square foot.”

Williams, who reported that 90 to 95 percent of intimate apparel at Sears is private label, said he planned the fashion category to grow by 20 to 30 percent this year. Sears hopes to capitalize by expanding the space allotted the department by 30 to 50 percent, with the real estate coming from reclaimed nonselling space such as stock rooms. It’s part of a plan to give more space to all women’s apparel.

A year ago, Macy’s Northeast gave approximately 40 percent of its intimate apparel space to foundations and daywear, but this fall, the allocation will be up to 50 percent. volume for the category is targeted at 60 percent of Macy’s total intimate apparel business, up from 50 percent a year ago.

“The bulk of our expansion has come from foundations,” said Freidman, noting how fashion colors and silhouettes have rejuvenated the classification. “We’ll adjust accordingly as we go forward, but this is an enormous shift for a business that has been fairly stable for a long time.”

Friedman cited inventory investment and presentation as keys to growth, noting the new “swing shops” that create emphasis within a department.

Bloomingdale’s has also brought intimate apparel to the forefront by launching Body Language shops in each of its 15 stores. The shops, ranging from 100 to 250 square feet, highlight figure-enhancing garments such as push-up bras, slimming waist trainer and bodyshapers.

Bloomingdale’s body Language shops average approximately 100 to 250 square feet and emphasize bras and foundations. The shops, which opened the first week of August, carry Hip Slips, Thighslimmers, panty girdles, control briefs and the best waist trainer from resources such as Subtract, Lily of France, Olga, Lady Marlene, WaisttrainerAZ, Smoothie, Lilyette and Laracris.

The innerwear expansion, Traub said, “is a result of the changing direction of the fashion foundations industry — the changing silhouettes, the growth of the control garment area and clearly the couture news from Europe with the innerwear influence on outerwear.”

At Cincinnati-based Lazarus, where innerwear contributes 5 percent of total apparel volume, executives are planning at least a 4 percent increase in each of the next four or five years.

Mark Cohen, chairman and chief executive officer, said intimate apparel has always been a high-profit-margin business, but has become even more so with the influx of fashion-conscious styles. He said the mainstream customer, not just the fashion-forward one, is buying fashion items.

“The department store was a place to find a white bra,” Cohen said. “It had a utilitarian mentality. Basic pieces are still the biggest part of our business, but the fashion is the fastest growing area. We are buying fashion more aggressively and more often with more sensitivity to trends.”

As an example, Cohen said Lazarus is bringing in printed panties three to four times a month. In the past, replenishment shipments of basic panties would arrive every 30 to 45 days.

The three growth categories at Lazarus are knit sleepwear, foundations and control pieces. Sales of moderate-price knit sleepshirts and sleepwear in boxy, full-cut silhouettes jumped 30 percent this year. Foundations, particularly colors and prints by Lily of France and Christian Dior, are planned for 4 to 6 percent increases this year. Shapewear projections] are up 6 to 7 percent.

Cohen said the idea is to “pay more attention to the business as a fashion business rather than as an accommodations business.”

Sales of thongs jumped from 200 units a week to 518 when the store gave the scanty garments signage and aisle exposure. Lazarus plans a similar idea for control pieces this fall.

At J.C. Penney Co., Dallas, sales of innerwear — the number-two gross profit-producing entity behind fashion jewelry — are up this year by high single digits.

“Innerwear is a small indulgence for a small price, an inexpensive way for a woman to splurge. And it’s good multiple-sale vehicle,” said Marilee Cumming, divisional vice president and director of merchandising — women’s. “Our research shows that if a woman buys innerwear, she’ll usually buy a second article somewhere else in the store.”

Penney’s, which does about 75 percent ofits innerwear business with private-label goods, hopes the addition of such national brands as Bali, Henson Kickernick, Warner’s, Vanity Fair and Maidenform will lure even more customers to its innerwear counters.

Last year, Penny’s opened Delicates, small in-store innerwear boutiques stocked with about 95 percent private-label contemporary styled goods, including bras, panties, teddies, robes and nightgowns. Delicates boutiques will be in about 400 Penney stores by yearend.

Penny’s is having good luck with outposting. Sport bras are displayed in the dance and exercise area, and leggings, bustiers and stretch lace camisoles have gotten play in places like the junior sportswear department.

Marvin Goldstein, ceo and chairman of Dayton’s, Hudson’s, and Marshall Field’s, said foundations remain one of the strongest innerwear classifications, with fashion innerwear the biggest growth direction.

“We have to be more creative because of all the specialty stores, i.e., Victoria;s Secret,” he said. A second growth area for DH/Field’s is shapewear, aimed — for the first time in a long time — at younger women.

Foundations have had sales increases in the high single digits for the year to date, and designer bras and full-figure bras have been two of the fastest-growing categories.

Overall, the innerwear business at DH/Field’s has been stable for the last several years, with occasional 1-to-2 percent increases, but the company expects sales jumps to be even higher in the next few years. The Flexees UnderWonder slip-girdle, popular with new mothers and women wearing body-hugging dresses, is experiencing a weekly sell-through of 15 to 20 percent. Shapewear sales have gained in the low single digits so far this year.

At I. Magnin, San Francisco, space for innerwear is not increasing, but the product mix is changing, with hot categories such as daywear, foundations and sleepwear gaining more emphasis.

Intimate apparel constituted 3.7 percent of total store volume for the first six months of 1991, a slight incrase from the same period last year. Of those figures, innerwear contributed about 38 percent.

Bravo said three key innerwear items — Hip slips, Thighslimmers and suit camisoles — are being sold in accessories and sportswear departments to maximize sales. Other hot selling items for the store include outwear chemises, outerwear evening bras, bustiers and backless, strapless and convertible bras.

Bravo said innerwear is profitable because of the strength of the basics business. Designer and brand labels dominate at I. Magnim, but Bravo said private-label items are important because they offer catalog exclusives that make the store special.

At I. Magnin tries to gain an edge over competitors in innerwear by holding a “lingerieweek,” combining sales promotions with special events, once or twice a year. The store also trains sales personnel to do personalized fittings of bras at any time without an appointment, Bravo said.

At Gottschalk’s, based in Fresno, Calif., innerwear space is being increased 2 to 5 percent at key stores, said Joe Levy, chairman and CEO.

“We are bringing [innerwear] into the fold of fashion and taking it out of the back of the stores, where it has lived for many years,” said Levy.

Innerwear is the most profitable area in the ready-to-wear category and constitutes 6 percent of the store’s total volume. Sleepwear and loungewear are the two categories of innerwear given the most emphasis at Gottschalk’s. About 75 percent of the store’s business is in branded and designer labels.

Levy said the recession has shown the store how much potential the category has. Innerwear, like accessories, has remained strong during the past year, while some other categories have declined.

Sheila Kamensky, fashion merchandising director at Rich’s, Atlanta, said the store has been successful with what she called “in-posting” or swing shops — placing a special display of an item or a color story within the intimate apparel area.

“It’s a little shop within a shop, instead of an outpost somewhere else in the store,” she said. A recent bustier in-post in selected stores was very successful, she said. For that display, about a dozen styles of bustiers in a variety of price points, colors and fabrications were grouped together on walls, fixtures and tables in an alcove of the innerwear department that occupied less than 200 square feet.


“High-Touch” Appliances the Next Generation?

A voice-controlled microwave oven and a remotely controlled vacuum cleaner are two of the “high-touch” appliances that may be available soon if U.S. consumers want them, according to Dr. Andris Freivalds, associate professor of industrial engineering at Penn State.

He defines “high touch” as “providing consumers with the high tech and the feel or touch they want in modern electronic appliances.”

Freivalds is conducting response tests to five high-touch appliances-the vac and microwave, as well as a television, audio system, and videocassette recorder-under development by Daewoo Co., Seoul, Korea -based appliance maker.

“I haven’t seen anything like any of these products at the last two consumer electronics shows, and I think the public is ready for them,” says Freivalds. He is in touch with both students and adults and sending evaluations and suggestions back to the manufacturer.

“High-touch appliances would be useful to the elderly or physically disabled, allowing them more control over their world,” says Freivalds.

Here is a brief on each of the five high-touch appliances.

*Microwave oven: The appliance can be programmed with two voice commands, one to open the door and one to close it, solving the problem of full hands. One display screen calls up prerecorded recipes. Another shows a picture of the completed dish.

* Vacuum cleaner: By attaching the power head directly to the underside of the canister, the appliance can be operated by remote control.

* Television: Adjustments for tilt, swivel, and forward and backward motion are added to normal remote-control options. A microprocessor records addresses, telephone numbers and messages. The TV can be programmed to turn on at a specific time, serving as a calendar-reminder system. Four preset video options include modes for viewing in bright or dark rooms, a standard setting, and romantic setting. The audio’s four preset options are narrative, music, sports and romantic.

* Audio system: A tuner, amplifier, tape deck, compact-disk player, turntable, and six speakers offer a full menu. The stacked, round units rotate by remote control, with only the unit in use visible. The system comes with a wireless earphone remote-control option. Two of the six speakers are wireless cubes that can be moved into another room.

*Videocassette recorder: The TVCR is a combination television and VCR with an expert system that guides users through programming functions. The TVCR has a flat TV screen about the size of a paperback book that can be removed from the recorder and carried into another room. An earphone plugs into the remote-control unit providing the user with wireless audio. The VCR, complete with a tuner, can operate as a TV or VCR.

Cooking out; working out

Design dynamics in grills and tools. What’s cooking?

The Genesis Perma-Mount (TM) gas barbecue brings Flavorizers to outdoor cooking. The Flavorizer system replaces old-fashioned lava rock or pumice stone with angled bars. These bars direct cooking fats away from the meat, while vaporizing juices and drippings for real barbecue flavor.

Three individually controlled burners light quickly with the touch of a button for direct searing or indirect slow roasting.

The unit’s stainless-steel gas-supply lines are hidden below the grill’s storage area that is enclosed with tempered-glass doors.

The grill is easy to assemble and install on a deck or patio or over the stump of a cut-off post-mount unit, according to Weber-Stephen Products Co.

Designing-in safety

Good design makes safety the centerpiece for gas grills from Ducane Co.

Take materials. Hoods and fireboxes are of all aluminum, with no viewing windows that can crack or shatter. Heavy-steel cabinetry stays stable.

Vis-U-Glo* safety system tells the user if the grill is lit, even in the brightest sunlight. Each grill is factory fire-tested.

Rotis-A Grate burner, which sears in juices with no flareups, allows the user to leave the grill unattended while rotissing.

Sure-grip handles are side mounted to keep arms clear of the cooking surface and heat when opening the grill.

Hansen Gas-Mate II safety plug snaps the gas line into the tank. No tools. No poor connections that can cause gas leaks. Quick disconnect is also available in natural gas.

Top-Ported burners give each burner its own lighter. No gas crosses over from one burner to another. Cordless power

A high-powered line of yard and garden grooming tools includes a trimmer/weeder, hedge trimmer and power blower. A hand-held variable-focus spotlight is part of the line from Toro Home Improvement Division.

The cordless products deliver at least 40 percent more power than any other cordless tools, according to Rob Beachy, marketing manager.

“We were very serious about performance when we designed the line,” says Beachy. “For example, the cutting speed on the cordless trimmer/weeder matches the speed on many gas-powered trimmers. It easily outperforms most of the corded products now on the market. “

The line is powered by a heavy-duty power pack. The tools plug into the pack through a standard cigarette-lighter connector. Any equipment capable of hooking into a car cigarette lighter can be run off the power pack, including stereos and vacuums.

The power pack is encased in a soft and flexible nylon-carrying case which can be adjusted and worn over the shoulder or on the chest, back or belt for maximum operator comfort. The pack weighs less than 7 lbs. and recharges overnight.

“This is the largest and most powerful battery you’ll find with cordless power equipment,” says Beachy. “It even has the power to run two of our competitor’s cordless power tools simultaneously.”

Another example of power is running time. With a single charge, Beachy says, consumers can:

  • Trim around an entire football field with the trimmer/weeder.
  • Manicure a 40-ft.-Iong hedge with the hedge trimmer.
  • Clear 60 ft. of sidewalk with the power blower.
  • Then use the halogen BriteLite to find all the tools left in the yard after dark.

Xerox snap roller/shaft assembly

Redesign of copier component was driven neither by marketing nor engineering. At most companies, repairmen fix machines, and that’s pretty much it.

Not so at Xerox.

There, repairmen sometimes go beyond the normal call of duty to provide Xerox engineers with solutions to recurring service problems.

In 1986, for example, Xerox service technicians found themselves regularly answering complaints concerning a roller/shaft assembly in a paper transport assembly, says Tony Polletto, technical specialist/project manager.

Because the paper transport assembly moves paper, paper dust and dirt can eventually collect in the rollers,” says Polletto.

“When that occurs, it breaks down lubrication and the machine starts to squeal. If left unattended, it jams.”

Manufacturing woes

Not only was the Xerox roller/shaft assembly a service headache, it was a challenge for manufacturing from the time it was developed in 1982.

To assemble, Polletto says the procedure went like this:

First an E-ring was placed on the inner groove of the shaft, followed by a washer, then a roller, then another washer, then another E-ring.

“So you were looking at four washers, four E-rings and two rollers per shaft. “

Once in the field, paper dust began getting in between the shaft and inner diameter of the roller, says Polletto.

When this led to service problems, the component’s design was as cumbersome for Xerox service technicians to take apart, as it was for manufacturing to put together.

“A repairman would have to pull an E-ring in order to pull everything else off,” says Polletto.

E-rings are not easy to change and the paper transport assembly is one area where you don’t want loose E-rings. A loose E-ring could drop and rip photocopies. And customers tend to be rather sensitive when it comes to their copies.”

Teamwork encouraged

Service technicians investigating the ins and outs of a possible redesign is no fluke at Xerox.

“Basically anyone at Xerox can come up with a design idea,” says Polletto.

“Typically, the idea is presented to the person’s manager, who then evaluates whether Xerox should invest time and resources in furthering the idea.”

But even if the benefits are not obvious, Xerox doesn’t discourage the individual from refining the concept.

“The people behind the idea can form a team and develop the concept in their spare time, if they’re committed. Some of our people work on redesign ideas during lunch or after work.

“This is encouraged. Because sometimes, when you’re presenting things quickly, you may not be able to show all the benefits, or you may not be showing them in a way that is obvious.

“So someone who doesn’t receive management backing after the first proposal can continue developing a concept until it is ready to submit again.”

There are also established groups throughout Xerox that practice “skunk works,” says Polletto.

“One such group is field sales. They take existing products and try to re-engineer them for better serviceability and reliability, and lower cost.”

Areas of concern

The idea for the redesign of the roller/shaft assembly was good from the beginning and didn’t require much refinement, says Polletto.

There were areas, however, that were subjected to careful analysis, says Clyde Williams, senior project engineer.

“Lubricity of the bushings was something our plastics guys were very concerned with as they were evaluating materials,” says Williams.

But the key to the redesign was designing a way for the roller not to ride on the steel shaft, but in its own plastic bearings.

“We had to design features that would capture the shaft and channel dust away from areas where it tended to collect. “

Maytag’s Dependable Drive

Transmission redesign began nine years ago as a low-priority project. Today it’s a star. When one of Maytag’s research and development engineers stepped forward in early 1981 with an idea for simplifying the transmission in Maytag washers, the concept was put on the back burner.

Eventually, however, the idea resulted in Maytag’s Dependable Drive (TM) transmission, introduced last fall.

Maytag is so pleased with this redesign effort, it extended the transmission’s warranty from five years to 10 years. In the beginning …

So why was Maytag slow in moving forward with the redesign?

“In 1981, it was a matter of priorities,” says John Mellinger, vice president of research and development. “We were involved with developing our stacked washer and dryer.

“Plus we had a transmission out there for a lot of years (35 to be exact) that was doing an awfully good job. So we let the 1981 concept coast as a low-priority project, even though the concept showed a lot of potential.”

The concept called for converting the rotary motion of a single gear (the previous design had three gears) to the back-and-forth rocking of the agitator.

One of my engineers came to me with an 8-in.-high, 4-in.-wide, handmade wooden mockup, ” says Mellinger.

A working model was soon developed to prove the legitimacy of the principle.

But it wasn’t until 1983 that Maytag’s research and development engineers began working with the company’s manufacturing engineers on design evaluation. This work continued through 1984.

“As soon as we are seriously considering a design concept,” says Mellinger, “manufacturing engineering is in on the evaluation because they also have to speak to reliability and productibility issues before we go into production.” Black art

During the evaluation process it became evident that if the transmission redesign was to be successful, Maytag engineers would have to rethink another key component-the agitator.

The new agitator moves to and fro at 153 strokes a minute, as compared to the 64 strokes of the previous design. More strokes means there’s a greater chance that clothes may snag and tear, so the agitator was designed to be much smaller.

“We started out with a lot of agitator designs,” says Mellinger. “This is very much a black art. There aren’t exactly any textbooks on the subject. We spent a lot of time designing an agitator that would wash clothes very well without requiring more power so it could be used on all Maytag washers produced since 1956.” Task force formed

in early 1985, a multifunctional task force was formed to review the transmission for efficient manufacturability and reliability.

The group consisted of 12 persons representing research and development, manufacturing, design, marketing and finance, says Bob Faust, vice president of manufacturing.

“The transmission is the key element of our washing machine so we approached the redesign very cautiously,” says Faust.

Throughout the investigation phase, Maytag conducted extensive life tests on machines that house the new transmission.

“We were washing the equivalent of 10-lb. loads and were looking to accomplish a 10,000-machine cycle life (approximately 1,800 hours), the equivalent of a 20-year life,” says Faust.

While Faust and his manufacturing engineering group were conducting their tests, marketing was also evaluating product performance.

We manufacturing engineering) were looking at reliability of components,” says Faust. “Marketing was evaluating washability.”

Marketing was also concerned over the possibility of a negative reaction from our dealer network, says Mellinger.

“They (marketing) have their own product evaluation laboratory and spent much time evaluating whether a new agitator stroke and speed might scare away our retail customers.”

Meanwhile, Mellinger’s research and development group was busy investigating and evaluating materials, tooling and serviceability.

“We really took a good look at both reliability and washability,” says Mellinger.

One of the more important benefits we realized early on was that the entire transmission could be serviced from the front of the machine without removing the transmission.”

The redesign allowed all parts to be lifted out of the transmission by removing the front panel and transmission cover plate.

“Most gearcases require you to start at the top of the washer by taking off the tub and spinner, and working your way down before you can get the transmission in your hands to service it. This simplicity of service is one of the things we were quite enamored with early on,” says Mellinger Greatest DFM effort yet

When we formed the task force, we got very involved in design for manufacturing,” turing,” says Mellinger.

We evaluated die-cast gears, plastic gears, plastic components, castings. We evaluated a variety of different ways of manufacturing the few parts (40 as compared with 65 in the previous design) in the gearcase at the lowest cost possible without sacrificing quality.

“This project represents our greatest DFM cooperative effort between manufacturing and research and development in anything we’ve ever done. “


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