You know the feeling when some everyday product lets you down. You wish someone could solve the problem. James Dyson does that. He is a man who likes to make things work better. With his research team he has developed products that have achieved sales of over $10 billion worldwide. In 1978, while vacuuming his home, James Dyson realized his bag vacuum cleaner was constantly losing suction power. He noticed how dust quickly clogged the pores of the bag and blocked the airflow, so that suction dropped rapidly. He set to work to solve this problem. Five years and 5,127 prototypes later, the world's first cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaner arrived. James Dyson offered his invention to major manufacturers. One by one they turned him down, apparently not interested in new technology. They seemed determined to continue selling bags, worth $500 million every year. Later, Hoover's vice president for Europe, Mike Rutter, said on U.K. national TV, "I do regret that Hoover as a company did not take the product technology off Dyson; it would have lain on the shelf and not been used."
Thinking about the issue of core competency and strategic capability, what is the secret of James Dyson’s competitive advantages?
The Sea Truck, Dyson's first product, was launched in 1970 whilst he was at the Royal College of Art. Sales of the Sea Truck amount to $500 million. His next product, the Ballbarrow, was a modified version of a wheelbarrow using a ball to replace the wheel. Dyson remained with the idea of a ball, inventing the Trolleyball, a trolley that launched boats. He then designed the Wheelboat which could travel at speeds of 64 km/h on both land and water.
In the late 1970s Dyson had the idea of using cyclonic separation to create a vacuum cleaner that wouldn't lose suction as it picked up dirt. He became frustrated with his Hoover Junior’s diminishing performance: dust kept clogging the bag and so it lost suction. The idea of the cyclones came from the spray-finishing room's air filter in his Ballbarrow factory. While partly supported by his art teacher wife's salary, and after five years and 5,127 prototypes, Dyson launched the 'G-Force' cleaner in 1983, the world's first bagless vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, no manufacturer or related distributor would launch his product in the UK as it would disturb the valuable cleaner-bag market, so Dyson launched it in Japan through catalogue sales
A key task for an entrepreneur like James Dyson is to give innovation the right look, literally and metaphorically. Brand image comprises the product, its attributes and its brand personality. Customer perception of a product and its attributes are inextricable from its perceived superiority that derives from a range of factors including technical excellence and value for money.
▪ Has he been able to appropriate the rewards of the value he has added? In an attempt to maintain their competitive advantage, Dyson and his colleagues at Malmesbury have continued to develop new innovations. Determined to create vacuum cleaners with even higher suction, they have developed an entirely new cyclone system. Dyson has developed the robot cleaner that not only makes cleaning easier but guides itself even more logically than a human being would. Then, in November 2000, he launched the world's first two-drummed washing machine, the Contrarotator. Dyson's engineers constantly re-examine products of all types, including the washing machine. They found that in the traditional automatic washing machine the fabric is not flexed all that much and that washing by hand gave better results than the single drum machine. So, Dyson developed a machine that would 'even improve on hand washing'. Reputedly, it took four years, a million man hours and £25 million to develop the machine, which comes with a built-in jack and trolley and a coin trap to capture buttons and loose change.