A lot of college students who don’t have an access to their personal cars are facing with problem of grocery transportation. They need to take public transportation to move their groceries which have led uncomfortable issues such as plastic bags are easily broken, etc. Even though there are existing grocery transportation solution in the market ranging from basic reusable bags to personal shopping cart, there is a lack of large capacity and versatile options, which creates a market for our product. Easy Carry breaks paradigm by providing predominate bag form that can be converted into cart.
1 Product Designer
2 Human Factors Specialist
Sep 2017 - Dec 2017 (4 months)
Product design process
Our design process was long and exhausting but we had a chance to go through each of these phases to find insights that would support our product.
Analyzing the grocery cart market
Grocery shopping can be quite difficult and time-consuming, depending on access to a personal car. American cities and towns are usually spread out and there is often a lack of public transportation. Even with reliable public transportation, grocery stores are often not on direct routes, resulting in many transfers and long commute times. In addition to the task being time consuming, the physical act of carrying the groceries is difficult without a personal car.
Design needs for students
Students who use public transportation and/or bike may experience even more difficulty. They must follow strict bus schedules, including reduced frequency on the weekends, and must carry heavy grocery bags to and from bus stops. Carrying heavy loads via public transportation may result in addition problems like tearing of bags under heavy weight and discomfort due to overcrowding.
The important findings include:
The common issues noted include:
1. Groceries being difficult/heavy to carry and
2. Bags breaking under the weight of the groceries.
The target consumers for this product are students who travel to purchase groceries without access to personal cars. The base is incoming and current students who find transporting groceries difficult and welcome a solution to improve the experience. Future targets may include city dwellers who take public transportation and/or people with disabilities who might have difficulty carrying groceries.
We created two primary personas based on the survey results and interviews to model user scenarios and use cases.
Key attributes and characteristics
The key attributes and characteristics can be mapped below. The characteristics are analyzed against attributes to understand total impact. Based on this diagram, specific characteristics are classified as requirements or objectives, which is denoted by color in the diagram shown above where the requirements (color-coded green) are:
Analyzing the product market
There are many options for grocery transportation, ranging from the basic plastic bags to the more refined personal shopping cart and grocery delivery services. However, there is a lack of effective and versatile options, which creates a market niche for Easy Carry. Easy Carry will gain market share by providing an easy to use and versatile solution that resonates with consumers without a personal car looking to reduce the physical strain of grocery shopping.
The product positioning map shows Easy Carry’s position at the intersection of being easy to use and extremely versatile. The consumers are looking for an option that is easy to use (in terms of capacity, durability, steps required for assembly) and versatile enough to be easily used in a variety of scenarios.
Thinking through previous designs
There are relevant patents associated with previous designs in this space including one reusable shopping bag with collapsible expandable soft sided bags that can be rolled into a compact shape (Strom, 1996). The gap with this product is although it gives an easy way to carry groceries without using arms, it does not consider aesthetic aspects of the product, which survey results indicate as an important factor (i.e., color option). Another relevant product is a multi-plastic bag holder which alleviates an individual’s pain by simply increasing the point of contact between user’s fingers and the plastic bags (Barbier, 2007) which enables users to carry many plastic bags. However, this solution does not resolve the issue of plastic bags breaking with the heavy weight of groceries.
Easy Carry plays in a space with previously patent art, but will be an improved solution for an existing problem. Initially, the product will be marketed towards college students, particularly those who must travel to grocery stores via means other than a personal car. In following expansion, the product will be optimized for other groups including city dwellers who take public transportation and disabled individuals who might find carrying groceries difficult.
User research for specific attributes
A conjoint survey was utilized to gauge what aspects of product design were most important.
Most desirable solution would have:
1. Capacity equals to 5 gallons of milk
2. Length of use is 3 years
3. Mode of carrying should be by hand
4. Cost of $30
We also found that 35% respondents care about price over all other features provided by the solution.
Concept generation for bag
Multiple concepts were generated, and the most promising concept was identified as the one containing features essential for ease of use and versatility. We brainstormed to create concepts to focus on physical objects that can carry the appropriate amount of groceries and provide maximum versatility for use in multiple scenarios. The top six features which were deemed essential for our personas can be mapped to the prototype as follows:
The team discussed and assessed each concept for the six essential features as seen above. The green denotes the concepts fulfilling all six essential features, and light yellow denotes the ones fulfilling five of the six features. Based on our analysis, we decided to prototype the 'All in one solution' for cart and backpack.
We went through three rounds of prototyping for creating a usable grocery transportation solution.
The alpha prototype is primarily a backpack that can be converted into a cart for use in carrying groceries. A hidden compartment allows for the bag to expanded for higher capacity. Detachable wheels and expendable handle can be attached for the bag to be converted into a cart to be rolled, which reduces physical effort for the user to carry groceries. Having the product be in bag form predominantly allows for easy carry and storage when not in use for transporting groceries. It also provides extra utility as a regular backpack, which increases value. The adoption of this product will also have a positive sustainability impact, as use of plastic bags will be reduced.
The beta prototype deviated and is revised from the initial alpha prototype. The beta prototype consists of two wheels, since engineering analysis identified imbalance issues associated with having a single wheel that was initially proposed. The prototype consists of two sub-systems: a collapsible frame and an expandable backpack. For expandable function, our team use a zipper which is cost-efficient and easy to expand and collapse a bag. The intent is for the collapsible frame to fit inside of the backpack when there is no need to carry heavy groceries. And bag has strap for shoulder to hold this bag by shoulder. This allows for more convenience in carrying. In addition, the bag may be expanded in size to accommodate a bigger load and allow for carrying as a smaller item when not in use.
The assembly and use of the beta prototype can be seen below:
Explanation of solution
Beta plus prototype
This is a completed version of the beta prototype where we produced a custom bag that could be used as a backpack and a grocery transportation cart. The beta plus prototype can be assembled and used as follows.
Engineering functional analysis
The following steps were taken to carry out the engineering functionality analysis:
Design specifications for the bag
The next step was to construct a functional decomposition chart in accordance with the used case scenario. The object and aspect based functional decomposition tree is as follows:
Design optimization and stress analysis
Based on the Kansei results shown above., the team chose a handle design with curved shape and smooth texture among the four different handle types, which is the most perceived as comfortable. In terms of modern perception, it was difficult for the user to feel modern with the handle alone.
Other design considerations
Emotional and aesthetic design
Considering our user group which is young college student, the Easy Carry was designed with aesthetic design in mind. The cart mechanism was designed by engineers interested in optimizing the functionality of the cart, while a designer created an attractive bag pattern. This bag pattern might be customized depending on the premium label. The design implements a rigid structure of a foldable cart and an attractive customized bag pattern, which can attract the customer.
Alternative methods in case of failure
In case of design failure, the first step would be to conduct a Design Failure mode and Effect analysis (DFMEA) to understand the possible failures modes that may have occurred due to the initial design. Once the critical features causing maximum damage to the function are obtained, they would be examined for further improvement in terms of material, dimensional parameters and assembling mechanism. Additionally, user tests will be conducted in order to understand problems in the qualitative aspect of the design so they can be modified to improve functionality.
Reflection of personal values
The Easy Carry team