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Industrial Strength And Looks Like It


Annual Design Awards

INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH--AND LOOKS LIKE IT

Black & Decker PowerShot Heavy Duty Staple Gun

Designer: Gary Grossman ofInnovations & Development

Sometimes, looks make all the difference. When Black & Decker Corp. marketed a novel heavy-duty staple gun in the early 1980s, it won awards for a design that reduced "kickback." But the tool flubbed in the marketplace. Its fatal flaws: The tool looked too flimsy for serious users, and it wasn't easy to see how to hold it.

Now, B&d has form and function right. Its PowerShot staple gun uses the same concept--moving the grip forward so you squeeze directly over the stapler's "hammer" instead of at the back as conventional lever-type staplers do. That eliminates kickback and makes it a breeze to squeeze. And Gary Grossman, a principal at Innovations & Development Inc. in Edgewater, N.J., made the device still more user-friendly with a soft-rubber handle and finger holes that guide the user to the correct grip. He and the B&d team also substituted zinc-aluminum alloy for plastic, making it more durable.

Such durability is crucial, since the PowerShot is aimed at professionals as well as homeowners. Its silvery look and lightweight but sturdy feel appeal as much to the full-time carpet installer as to the weekend putterer.

The stapler offers several other novel touches. A "staples remaining" window tells you when it's time to reload. And an easily accessible "staple chamber" makes it simple to clear jams and load. One small flaw: Some standard staples come in rows too long for the PowerShot, so users have to break off a quarter-inch or so. That inconvenience is a concession to compactness. But B&d offers its own branded staples that come in the right length.

For B&d, another plus is that the device is fairly easy to manufacture. Because it is die-cast, it uses relatively few parts, a touch of simplicity that appeals to B&d's manufacturing folks.

With a retail price of $20 to $25, the PowerShot has moved fast in the $100 million-a-year market. Since its launch last August, the tool has snared more than 10% of the market, B&d Product Manager Diane DeOssie says. At some retailers, she says, the PowerShot is matching sales one for one with the industry's leader, the Arrow T-50. Now, that's a bottom-line impact for design.Joseph Weber in Philadelphia


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