I’m still very excited about the assignment I turned in today yesterday for my Advanced Brand Management class. That I turned it in on my way to New York through the wifi in a Chinatown bus is a story for another post perhaps. A senior product manager from Hamilton Beach spoke to the class (damn! I missed that; was in NYC for the Advertising week job fair). So the assignment leading to the class was finding an unmet need to be satisfied with either a new small kitchen appliance or by redesigning a traditional appliance. Here’s my idea: a toaster with bread slice feeder (excerpt’s from the assignment.)
There was one kitchen problem I mostly run into that I did not find solved in the stores. I usually make four toasts of bread but don’t enjoy waiting for the first two to be done before throwing in the next two slices. If I leave the toaster area with the first two slices in, the world would engage me such that by the time I’m back to toast more the first batch is cold. This is surely not the most efficient method to toast bread for anyone wishing to toast more than two.
Apart from me, large households like families with several children, restaurants, cafeterias in schools and colleges, professionals rushing to work multi-tasting with tying a tie, would benefit from a toaster that facilitated toasting several slices without human intervention. This can be achieved by incorporating the paper feed mechanism most copy machines and printers are built with.
While designing such a device I wished to achieve:
- scalability, and
Structure: The device has three main parts: the feed chamber, the toaster, and the collection chamber. The feed and collection chambers are vertical columns accommodating horizontally placed slices in a stack. The columns can be extended vertically (just like a copy machine feed tray can be extended to accommodate longer sheets) to accommodate taller stacks of bread – this ensures both portability and scalability. A vertical, scalable design is important as it saves precious platform space.
- User leaves a stack of slices in the feed chamber.
- User enters number of toasts required and degree on an electronic keypad similar to ones on microwaves or printers.
- The gears at the bottom of the feed chamber rotate to separate a single slice from the stack and move it downwards.
- The slice is pushed into the toasting area.
- Once toasted as required, the toast is moved sideways under the collection chamber.
- Gears rotate to pickup the toast and push it upward, creating a toast stack till required numbers of toasts are made.
- Toaster beeps alerting user to come back to collect all toasts at once.
Surely electrical and mechanical engineers can refine the design far more.
I checked if such products were already out there but I didn’t really find any. I found some industrial size bread toasters that reminded me of the ones used by Quiznos. Here’s an interesting toaster I found featured on engadget: the slice glides through a toasting loop and collects at one end.
This one still involved a lot of human intervention so I didn’t think it killed my idea.
Then there was the toaster that burns a message on your bread!
Also check out cnet’s kitchen appliances gadget blog
Any gadget gurus who’ve already seen a small kitchen toaster with a bread feed tray, please let me know.It’s just so obvious I won’t be surprised if it’s been out there hiding from me for a very long time.
What do you think about the product? How can this be refined? Would this benefit you? Comments welcome.
P.S. While brainstorming for this assignment I thought of another little design improvement but in a different product category. That post is coming soon.
Update: As feedback Kelly said, “interesting thought; might be overkill.” To some extent I agree but still believe there is a market for such a product at a higher price point but smaller volumes.