Designing the future

Designing the future

The process of designing and developing cutting edge bathroom products is a time-consuming but ultimately rewarding process. From initial concept to finished product, the design process ensures high standards of efficiency, reliability and aesthetics are maintained.
The constantly-changing demands of the UK homeowner for bathroom products means that both manufacturers and installers need to be ready to adapt to every situation. From wet rooms to converted spaces, every installation project brings its own challenges that need to be overcome with the correct solutions. Add to this an increasing need to reduce water consumption, and the demand for improved products becomes even greater.
The catalyst for the development of a new product often comes from the identification of a gap in the market, either because there is no suitable product or because an existing product can be improved upon. On-going research allows manufacturers to discover these areas and identify areas of new development.
iflo holds regular focus groups with installers and showroom managers to discuss product development ensuring common issues such as ease of installation can be addressed, but also so they can share their product knowledge to identify new gaps in the market. This feedback is valuable as it leads to the creation of products the installer can work with and the homeowner wants.
For example, iflo changed their bath range to zero tap holes because, in a mid-market position, installers want flexibility on where they could position the taps in accordance with the bathroom they were working on.
As well as installer feedback, it is essential for pro-active manufacturers such as iflo to continually analyse – and react to – key market drivers, ranging from style trends to improved convenience.
Moving with the times
The changing approach to how consumers choose bathrooms means that the look of products has become more important than ever – and it is essential that manufacturers are constantly updating their ranges to match new styles and trends. Equally, as the UK’s population gets older, bathroom products need to take into account an increased need for comfort and functionality. For example, the new iflo Rhea suite features a Comfort Height WC pan, adding 5cm to the height.
Currently, however, the biggest market driver in bathroom trends is water efficiency. As UK consumers become more aware of wasting water and Building Regulations outline specific water usage limits for new-build properties, the demand for products that lower water consumption has increased.
At iflo, new product development has been focused on meeting the new demand for water efficient products. From WCs with dual flush and delayed inlet valves, through to a range of taps with eco-click technology with which the end user has to make a conscious decision to click to a higher flow rate, ECO products deliver the reductions that more and more customers are looking for. Importantly, ECO does not just concentrate on reducing water usage but also on using less energy. The new iflo shower range features an energy efficient valve performance that enables the hot water inlet to be set to 50°C, providing a significant energy saving.
The design process
The product development cycle for ceramics can take between 12 and 18 months, with the WC usually having the longest lead-time due to the need to bring together natural organic materials, highly technical processes and skilled craftsmanship.
It is important to point out that with many products there are quality standards to adhere to – for example, all WC suites manufactured in vitreous china must comply with European Standard EN997, which specifies both performance requirements and testing methods. This means that regardless of any market trends or customer feedback, any new product must always reach the required standards of quality this is a constant consideration during the design and development stages.
As part of its thorough testing process, iflo employs a Quality Assurance (QA) department who are tasked with, not only the testing and building of all new products and fittings prior to launch but also in the on-going assessment to ensure that they are fit for purpose and as easy to install as possible. iflo do not believe it is sufficient to simply produce products that pass the relevant standards; instead they are supplied with unbeatable guarantees so installers and end users can have confidence that the products will perform.
The right result
As a final part of the development of an iflo product, the QA department liaises closely with the after sales team to ensure that any problems that have been experienced on similar products are eliminated in the testing process to avoid repeat issues.
Bringing a new product to market is far more than just spotting a gap or thinking of a solution to a common problem. It requires expert insight and input at every stage of the process to ensure that both the product works as it should but also that it passes the necessary standards. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it must appeal to the end-user otherwise it will never be chosen – regardless of how clever its technology is or effectively it performs.