Safety is always a concern for industrial designers and companies that distribute products to consumers. Protection of the consumer, the design team’s intellectual property and the company’s brand come second nature to the team at Philips who shared some of their philosophies and systems.

Icsid conducted an interview with Cheaw Hwei Low, Head of Product & Service Design at Philips headquarters in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) where he explained Philips’ quality control measures and processes in the event of a product recalls.

Q: Who is responsible for product safety at Philips Design? Is there a quality control centre or department that works with designers to test for safety?

Product safety is a top priority for every branch at Philips. Every discipline contributes to a product’s integral safety and quality standards.
Our design department works closely with other disciplines based on established industry safety guidelines as well as standards set by the company, and at Philips we are stringent.

These rules and guidelines are first taken into consideration at the beginning of the design process, and followed through each iteration that seeks to harmonise the design intent without compromising on safety.

From product interface, handling, material and finishing choice, detailing right down to the product graphics including the user’s unpacking experience, design needs to consider performance and functional safety as well as take care of consumer’s ‘emotional safety’ i.e. peace-of-mind and confidence in the product.

Philips has a diverse portfolio from healthcare equipment to consumer appliances, touching on all aspects, degrees and requirements of safety, which demand our full time attention. Hence, each product category has an established and highly experienced quality control department that guides and is fully weaved into the set-up of our product creation process, including the identification of potential safety risks especially for new product propositions and archetypes we will bring to market.

Q: What steps or tests are taken to ensure safety?

We have a comprehensive, robust structure from the following of safety standards and experience-based information to the testing of products in all conceivable situations before it is cleared for production and released to market.

Even during the course of production and duration of a product life cycle, safety checks are regularly carried out to ensure standards are met.

Q: What happens in the event of a product recall, on the consumer and producer side?

Needless to say, an event such as a product recall will cause an enormous inconvenience and disappointment to our customers.

On the producer’s part, a recall must be avoided at all costs and huge efforts and full attention are paid in getting the product right before it is dispatched.

In the event of a product recall, swift action is taken to identify if consumers’ safety is compromised, identify the problem and limit further exposure, followed by recovery to repair or replace the portion that was defective.

These actions are accompanied by clear and transparent communication to consumers and learnings are immediately captured in the next generation of products.

Q: Where does the responsibility lie? What does a product recall mean for Philips financially?

Everyone behind the brand is responsible for any product failure or recall! The company must actively learn from mistakes to avoid repetition.

In such an event, there will always be financial implications but more important is the impact it has on the brand, the treasured relationship built with our customers, which is much more difficult to measure.

Q: What processes are in place to prevent this?

More than processes and tools, which are well established within Philips’s structure; it is the attitude, discipline and responsibility of each employee that is critical in ensuring the products we bring to market are of a high quality and respect safety standard.

This stems from our core value and desire to improvement the lives of people; fundamentals such as safety is second nature and top priority.

Q: Philips must also protect its own products and designers from intellectual property theft. How does protecting the designer and designs integrate itself in the production process?

We have a strong history of invention and through the years, we have built a comprehensive setup as part of our behavior and creation process to protect innovation, inventions and designs we create; we believe this is also a way to contribute to intellectual progress at large.

Operationally, support comes from in-house IP experts in the various disciplines to advise the most effective and sensible ways of protection. In the design department, we have such an expert that works closely with designers on what, how, when and where to protect their work.

That said, the best form of protection is to keep innovating and create quality designs that are one step ahead of the market.

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