Tinsel, parties, gifts and last minute rush. We are full on in the 2014 Christmas season. This is the time of year when sales professionals are biting nails and eating antacids as if they were grandma’s fudge. The rest of us just have the “normal” holiday craziness. In the midst of all the stress there is one activity that makes all of that go away for me.
I look forward each year to the week or two before Christmas when I get to spend the late evenings putting together what will become my kid’s favorite gifts. A time-honored tradition of covering the windows of my shop, clearing the floor and setting aside the array of designated tools that will be my instruments in the fantastic symphony of toy assembly. Screwdrivers, hammers, wire cutters, battery chargers and a few custom tools to help get all those stickers just right…no air bubbles or wrinkles allowed!
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, as we are acquiring each of the items, I will take the instructions out of the package and start to study all of the techniques needed to complete these very important tasks. Yes, I am aware that I may be one of the few that actually reads instructions anymore. More often than not, I find the included documents to be more comical than helpful. Anyone that has purchased furniture from Ikea knows exactly what I mean. Working in the mechanical design industry for years has lead me to find instruction documentation to be lacking in many ways.
Something has changed in the last couple of years. I have spent less than 2 hours this year putting items together. I didn’t think much of it last year but for it to happened again this year – I’m not quite sure what to do about it. This is normally a set of activities that would have consumed multiple nights and now, here I am, done? My wife said I look like a kid that has lost a puppy. I used to be pumped with pride as I watch the kids tear into their gifts. I could stand tall because I knew I put those items together. The kids of course, never knew how many hours it took to make sure things like part “1B” slid into part “8C” BEFORE being fully tightened. But I knew it and I loved it!
I’m aware that we now have a class of designers that prescribe to “easy assemble” and “smart packaging”. They prefer instructions that are accurate, easy to read or even watch in a video! One item came with a video walking me through the whole process presented by a pleasant and knowledgeable product manager. What is this world coming to? Even the items that don’t require assembly, but take hours to unpackage, are now significantly easier than in the past. I even have a tool bag set aside that contains all the tools needed, just for Christmas morning, but now it looks like I’ll have to retire it.
I guess it’s our fault. We have been hard at work helping companies with their designs and documentation tools like SOLIDWORKS and Composer. Virtual product visualization, getting other departments involved and change management are also culprits in what looks to be a steady improvement in product design & packaging. It’s all very exciting but I am not sure what I will do to fill that void that efficiency has left.
I hope that this story, albeit a very true story, has added a moment of humor to your busy day. May each of you have a very blessed and stress-free holiday with those you love. Merry Christmas!