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OEMs Using Female Perspective to Develop Products
Jul 22, 2005
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Major electrical equipment manufacturers such as Sony Corp. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. are promoting the appointment of female employees to workshops to develop household electrical appliances from a woman's point of view.

Some of the commodities since developed have become hits, turning the viewpoints into new intellectual property for business enterprises.

One such appliance is "Happy Vega," an LCD TV set marketed by Sony in February. Female employees had wanted a TV set that could be easily lifted when a floor is being cleaned. The 32-in TV weighs about 20 kg, which is about 10 kg less than a conventional set.

The development work was joined by women in charge of commodity planning, sales and advertising. They introduced ideas rejected while trying to develop new appliances with male employees.

To reduce costs, they removed high-tech TV functions that are used less frequently and added inexpensive and helpful functions such as a switch to automatically control the volume so as not to wake up sleeping children.

"Men are liable to pack high-grade technologies into goods, but we considered how they change our lives," said Izumi Takanashi, an official with Sony's TV business headquarters.

In one month after 22- to 25-in TV sets were marketed, their shares doubled to 40 percent, contributing to sales increases.

In March, Pentax Corp. marketed the waterproof digital camera "OptioWP," on whose liquid crystal screen appears easy explanations about picture-taking modes, such as "best suited to take pictures of moving pets" and "beautiful skin," enabling users to operate it without reading a complicated manual. The camera was developed by seven female employees.

"Hereafter, we would like to produce goods to be used easily by women and elderly people," said Maiko Takashima, who is in charge of planning.

Women give top priority to user-friendly commodities without worrying about high technology and complexity. For enterprises, women are becoming a "large asset" in bridging the gap with consumers, a Mitsubishi official said.

With the approach of 2007, when baby boomers are expected to start retiring en masse, "We would like women to be active as a core force," said one official at a major manufacturer.

At Hitachi Ltd., which created a system in 2000 to give more paid-holidays and extend a period of shorter working hours to women raising children, the number of female administrators has increased to total about 10 this year, nearly four times larger than before.

Sharp Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. have also created systems to promote female employees to give them opportunities to develop more user-friendly appliances. (Kyodo)

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