Braun Ag: the Kf 40 Coffee Machine

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DESIGN MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE

CASE STUDY
Braun AG: The KF 40 Coffee Machine

This case study came from the Case Study Research and Development Program at the Design Management Institute’s Center for Research. The Center conducts research and develops educational materials on the role of design and design management in business success. Case studies, the Design Management Journal, reprints from the Journal, and other educational materials are available from the Design Management Institute Press. Design Management Institute Press The Design Management Institute 29 Temple Place, 2nd Floor Boston, MA 02111-1350 USA Phone: 617-338-6380 Fax: 617-338-6570 Email: dmistaff@dmi.org Web site: www.dmi.org Harvard Business School Publishing is the exclusive distributor of this publication. To order copies or to request permission to photocopy, please call 617-495-6117; in the U.S. call 800-545-7685; or write: Harvard Business School Publishing, Customer Service Dept., 60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to all the people at Braun AG whose generous participation made this case study possible; to Earl Powell, Director of the Design Management Institute, whose ideas and insight enriched the case at various points; to Lisbeth Svengren, University of Lund, Sweden, who contributed to the field research and initial case development; to Karl Ulrich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who first taught the case and critiqued it carefully; and to Steven Wheelwright, Harvard Business School, who read and critiqued the early drafts. Karen J. Freeze, Director of Research

This case study was partially funded by the Design Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

© Copyright 1990 December 1991/Version 2 The Design Management Institute All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission. 2

Design Management Institute Case Study

Braun AG: The KF 40 Coffee Machine
“If we’re going to do it, we’ve got to quit stalling,” exclaimed Albrecht Jestädt,1 head of development for a new coffeemaker at Braun AG. “I’ve said all I can about polypropylene, and I’m convinced we can go with it,” he added, taking another sip of his beer. At the end of a day in February 1983, Jestädt and his colleagues were discussing Braun’s newest design: an elegant, cylindrical coffeemaker, called the “KF 40,” destined for the mid- and upper end of the mass market. In order to meet management’s cost targets, however, they would have to use a much less expensive plastic material than Braun had traditionally used. Whether the material, polypropylene, would destroy Braun’s reputation for quality was a matter of intense debate throughout the company. Unlike the very expensive polycarbonate, Braun’s traditional material, polypropylene could not be molded into large, complicated parts (like the KF 40’s “tank”) without suffering so-called “sink” marks on surfaces that were supposed to be flawlessly even. The designers had come up with a solution that involved a major departure from the smooth, winter-white surfaces characteristic of all Braun household products. (See Exhibit 1.) “The decision is obvious,” claimed Gilbert Greaves, business director for household products. “We need this product now, and we have to stop being quite so picky.” 3 1 See Appendix 1 for identification and pronunciation glossary.

s This case was prepared by Dr. Karen Freeze, Director of Research of the Design Management Institute for the purposes of class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.

Braun AG: The KF 40 Coffee Machine

Exhibit 1 KF 40

2

AG=Aktiengesellschaft (joint stock company).

“I think we should be picky,” said Hartwig Kahlcke, the industrial designer on the project. “But we feel that the rippled design for the tank actually enhances the surface appearance, without compromise.” “Maybe,” said Hartmut...
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