It all started from a request for reducing the burden on doctors
Hideyuki Fujisawa is the second-generation president of Nitto. Co., Ltd.,
an SME manufacturer mainly engaged in metalworking. Nitto, established 54 years ago,
specializes in manufacturing its products under an integrated production system from development to mass production.
One day, Fujisawa had an opportunity to meet with Hiroshi Kawahira, M.D., Ph. D., and Ryoichi Nakamura, Ph. D. in Engineering, both of whom served then as associate professors of Chiba University's Center for Frontier Medical Engineering.
They consulted Fujisawa about new product development, asking, "Wouldn't it be possible to reduce the burden on doctors who are forced to stand for long hours during surgical operations?"
Fujisawa, a pro in engineering, and the two professors, experts in their respective areas, hit it off right away and enjoyed a lively conversation about the new product. They even generated some specific ideas on the spot.
Looking back the reasons behind this, Fujisawa believes that all of the people there shared the same strong passion to help doctors who face tough work every day.
Development in unknown territory
there can help from the requester
Before getting down to the development, Fujisawa had a lot of concerns.
He knew that the most important thing for product development is not to make what you want to develop, but to work on development by putting yourself in your user's shoes.
However, the medical sector was a completely unknown territory to Nitto. The company had had no experience in such a field at all.
Although he came up with fresh ideas that day, Fujisawa soon found himself at a loss what to do.
Then there came help from the requester.
As Kawahira himself performed an operation as an endoscopic surgical specialist, Fujisawa was able to learn the details of what was going on at the site from the viewpoint of doctors.
Then, taking advantage of the company's integrated production system, the development team gave it a try and quickly succeeded in building up the first prototype, based on Kawahira's idea of a "wearable chair allowing a user to walk." He advised that such a chair could support surgeons without obstructing them at an operating room where a typical chair could not be used.
Fujisawa named this prototype "Archelis" so that people could easily imagine its function as a chair allowing a user to walk (in Japanese, this kind of chair is pronounced "arukeru isu," which is directly translated into a "walkable chair").
Attaining a product with a human-friendly design,
departing from a machine-looking device
As the development team was advancing improvements on the prototype gradually, Nitto began to feel the possibilities of the Archelis.
Fujisawa then contacted his old friend designer Hiroaki Nishimura to ask him to join the project to accelerate the development.
After being engaged in product design at Japan's electronics giant Panasonic Corp., Nishimura set up his own business and promoted partnerships with SME manufacturers. So Fujisawa was confident that Nishimura would help him and bring new life to the product.
As expected, the designer proposed an overwhelmingly appealing design that showed what the "new" Archelis looked like, while maintaining the functions the team had developed thus far.
This marked the rebirth of the Archelis, which had incorporated the concept of ergonomic design.
TV viewers made them realize the possibilities of the product
Around that time, the Archelis under development started to be covered by various media such as TV and radio.
The original purpose of the development of the product was to alleviate the pain of doctors performing an operation in a long-time standing posture.
However, immediately after the Archelis was introduced by media, the company received a flood of inquiries from people in other industries than the medical field who wanted to use the product in their standing works.
This proved the fact that people in every line of work, including plant operators, security guards, farmers. hairdressers, and cooks, were in trouble with painful standing work.
Then I thought, "The Archelis will definitely be accepted in the market!" and "This product will be able to relieve many people from pain!"
That was the moment when he felt much more motivated toward the commercialization of the Archelis.
The team ran into many development difficulties
-it was hurdle after hurdle-
Even though Nitto was a professional manufacturer that had undergone various product developments, the development of the Archelis involved difficulties it had never experienced.
The development team encountered hurdles one after another. The problems included:
- Human body shapes differ from person to person.
- A fit is an individual's sensory attribute, so measurement is not possible.
- As the joint movement of human bodies is complex, it is difficult to create an articulated structure that did not obstruct the user's movement.
- A product that makes you feel good while worn can make others feel uncomfortable.
and many more.
These kinds of challenges, as it turned out, could not be solved by using sophisticated measurement equipment and analysis software.
The approach to the solution the team members took was to make a prototype, have many people wear it, and then add their feedback at the next development phase.
They had no choice but to improve the product quality step by step in this way.
This development activity, in which they took two steps forward and then one step back, seemed a daunting work in a sense. I sometimes got depressed thinking that the development would not be finished forever.
Reaching the final form
-removing pain from standing works-
Even amid the long-lasting dead-end situation, Fujisawa found that many people involved in the Archelis project did not get discouraged at all.
Employees at the manufacturing site of Nitto, who were not members of the development team, helped Fujisawa by bringing his breakthrough idea into shape instantly. I also received ideas about relevant mechanisms and processing from people in the same manufacturing industry.
Furthermore, staff of the Yokohama municipal government and members of Yokohama Industrial Development Corporation (IDEC) took great care of the project and supported the development in various forms, and cooperated in conducting a monitoring survey.
Thus, the Archelis was eventually completed through the fabrication of up to the 14th prototype and wearing trials on over 1000 people.
In February 2020, Archelis Inc. was established by spinning off Archelis Department from Nitto to swiftly promote the widespread use of the Archelis.
The Archelis, which was commercialized through various difficulties, has begun to be used not only in the medical field but also in plant sites requiring standing work.
A flood of inquiries has come in from overseas, too.
In today's society, labor shortages and an aging population are major issues. In addition, due to the trend of work style reform and the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, reforms and improvements beyond conventional working practice are being promoted.
Archelis Inc. is continuously striving for product development for further evolution and working toward the realization of a society where people all over the world can lead long and healthy lives.
To remove pain from standing works.