The folks at the Sears Home Services blog have provided this unique behind the scenes look at the KCD Product Development Laboratory at the Sears Holdings headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois to learn how some of the industry’s most award-winning products make it from development to home installation.
The lab, which dates back to 1911, is a hub of innovation, where engineers and designers like Mike Saubert, group industrial design manager for Kenmore small appliances, design and develop smart new products. One of his favorite tools in the lab is the 3-D printer, which prints prototype parts, like knobs and handles, to test ergonomics and fit for new products. “We can modify and tweak as necessary and ‘grow’ a new one overnight,” Saubert says.
Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3
Once new products are created, they’re put to the test and compared to other top brands to make sure they’re ready to hit homes. “We do enough testing in our labs to be smart about our products,” says Tom DeSalvo, division vice president with Kenmore Product Development.
What does all this mean for you? Sears is making it easier to find the best, most reliable appliances for your lifestyle. For example, all dishwashers are tested by a third party and given a consistent decibel rating. So rather than having to choose between a meaningless “whisper quiet” or “library quiet” label, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.
As a part of the testing phase, Sears Home Services technicians are granted full access to the lab, where they do product teardowns — literally taking the appliances apart — to see how easy that new fridge or washer is to service. “The techs are part of the development process,” DeSalvo says. “That’s what makes Sears unique.”
In the Kitchen
The lab’s test kitchen is where Sears engineers run kitchen appliances through the paces. Test ovens and stovetops compare the performance of gas vs. electric, determining how fast water boils and how well an oven holds its temperature.
In the Laundry Room
With the push of a button, engineers can run test loads with varied water temperature, water hardness, amount of water used and more.“This allows us to create the story of why an appliance is performing well or not,” DeSalvo says. “It helps us know exactly what the machine is doing, and why it’s good or bad.”
Packaging Testing Center
Right before the final products are ready to be rolled out, they undergo a series of heavy-duty tests to make sure they arrive at your doorstep in perfect condition.
• Vibration test: A machine vigorously shakes products to simulate the drive in the delivery truck and make sure packaging can hold up to bumps in the road.
• Drop test: Another machine drops small packages from up to 3 feet in the air to test durability.
• Velocity test: Larger packages are strapped onto a sliding metal platform, raised up a ramp and slammed down into a wooden wall at various speeds to test incline impact.
• Clamp truck simulation: To account for human error, a clamp is secured both correctly and incorrectly — up to 60 times — to help decrease damage rates.
Once the products are in homes, Sears Home Services techs compile even more data from service calls to help make the next generation of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard products even better than the last.
For more information about Kenmore appliances, visit the new About Us page.