2010 IPD Challenge: Pooper Scoopers
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- What's so special about a Pooper Scooper? Don't most folks just use a plastic grocery bag? Ten teams of students at the University of Michigan proved otherwise as they researched, designed, and marketed their solutions to potential consumers at a trade show. Professor Bill Lovejoy from the Ross School of Business and Professor Shaun Jackson, who has appointments in the School of Art & Design, The Taubman College of Architecture and the Ross School of Business, jointly teach a course which puts cross-disciplinary teams from Business, Engineering and Art & Design in competition with each other in an instructor-defined design challenge. This year, the challenge was to "beat the bag" as the pooper scooper of choice when people walk their dogs. The course started 15 years ago with Business and Engineering students, but five years ago added the Art & Design students."The inclusion of Art and Design students was seminal," says Lovejoy, "and a very successful event for the course development. A&D students bring a different skill set to the table, and in many cases are able to teach the other students (even the engineers) how to actually make something. The web sites, product designs, and graphical displays at the trade show have all been significantly upgraded since their inclusion. And, the team dynamics learning moments with these different cultures interacting are even more pronounced." After Lovejoy and Jackson gave the initial product specifications in early September, students worked to research, prototype, design and refine their final creations. "I've never put so much work into one class," claimed second year MBA student Lindsey Kritzer. "It's the best experience I've ever had. It's given me an opportunity to actually make something myself rather than just market a product that someone else comes up with." Kritzer and her team of four Engineering and Art & Design students came up with the "The Caddy", a pooper scooper that makes use of a barrel-shaped plastic-molded grip into which a plastic grocery bag is inserted, enabling the pet owner to scoop Fido's poop without seemingly touching the mess. "The best part about The Caddy is that it has pouches to hold your keys, phone, more plastic bags, and even some dog treats or a ball. Most of the time when I'm out with my dog I don't have pants with pockets, so the The Caddy serves multiple purposes. Plus, when you're done picking up your dog's mess, you can store the plastic bag in a Velcro pouch until you get to the nearest trash can." Picking up on the environmental trend, three of the student teams designed pooper scoopers using post consumer recyclable materials (think cardboard) which also provide tasteful holders for your pooch's mess and allow you to be environmentally conscious at the same time. The cleverly named "DooDad" billed as "Number One for Number Two" was touted as "a better, sustainable and cleaner alternative to the plastic bag." For $19.95, you receive 60 bio-degradable Doodads which come in 4 logo colors.
Not surprisingly, some of the scoopers made use of the ubiquitous plastic grocery bag, while others opted for using rolls of biodegradable bags.The "Pooch Pouch" was one of two glove-type picker-uppers, looking like a large oven mitt, yet including many hidden features such as a pocket for your plastic bags, a pocket for doggie treats, a carabineer clip to hang the mitt from your leash or a belt loop, and a lining made from microfiber fabric which doubles as a towel to clean your pooch's feet when coming in from a messy outing. The team added friction pads to their mitt giving the user extra control in using a plastic bag and, as Master's Industrial & Operations Engineering student Tracie Teo put it, "your hand is insulated from feeling the temperature and texture of the poop, which allowed for a simple and yet effective improvement to the most commonly used hand-in-bag technique." Another take on the whole process of disposing of doggy doo-doo, the "Canine Canteen" looks more like a coffee travel mug and boasts that you don't need to look like you're carrying the offensive poop (heaven forbid!). The high-tech Canteen is made from fully recycled aluminum, holds a small roll of the biodegradable bags, and "cleverly conceals its contents."
Asked if any of the multidisciplinary designs will make it into production, Lovejoy says, "No products that I know of have gone beyond IPD, for several reasons: (1) the students would essentially have to drop out of school to run the company, and (2) we choose consumer products that, for the most part, would be better launched via licensing than a stand-alone company, and that process is time-consuming and politically charged within companies. Again, it becomes a lifestyle that the students, with other courses, do not pursue at this time." Lovejoy adds, "We would use a different model (i.e., each team can build whatever they wish) if we wanted to maximize the chances of something being launched."
When asked what the next steps were for The Caddy, MBA Kritzer replied, "I'm taking an entrepreneurial-heavy course load next semester and may well try to launch the product. We designed it to fill a need that isn't currently met in the market and I think we have a great product!"
The Integrated Product Development class is sponsored by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations (www.tauber.umich.edu). Results and additional commentary about this year's competition from Professor Lovejoy can be found at www.tauber.umich.edu/News%20and%20Events/IPD/2010/. More information about past Integrated Product Development class challenges can be found at www.tauber.umich.edu/News%20and%20Events/IPD/.
Written by Diana Crossley