In our tech-driven society, it is easy to overlook the needs of an industry that still exists entirely in a physical environment. Much hasn't changed in regards to hand tool design and innovation in the recent past—and for good reason. Hand tools have evolved to reflect the needs of humanity's desire to create with physical means. Stone tools served humanity for millennia before we were ready for an improvement, and this same ancient technology is still in use in many hand tools today.
Much like our prehistoric ancestors, many veterans of the American labor force seem reluctant to change, akin to the reasoning of "if it isn't broke, don't fix it." This presents a problem unique to this industry and others that adhere to convention. Without innovation, an emerging workforce will be less likely to adapt.
When it gets right down to it, the construction industry thrives on efficiency. A construction company is only as good as the hands that do the work, regardless of whether those hands are young or old.
DUIT attempts to bridge the gap between generations of workers on a construction site, while remaining an intuitive tool for the DIYer.
FALL 2016 / WESTERN FORGE + AUBURN UNIVERSITY
What is the Future of the Labor Force?
Based on research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it seems there is a downward trend in labor participation, namely from younger generations. This is expected to continue in the coming years.
The Laborer's Current Experience
"Tying off [safety harnesses] is required, but not always possible"
Safety harnesses, albeit necessary for a safe work environment, typically limited motion and storage one a worker's person.
A common element among all trades was the need to improvise. This ranged from creating quick fixes (like temporary ramps) to more permanent tool modifications that aided in regular use.
HVAC technicians and electricians were observed struggling with cutting and fastening conduit and copper piping, and were vocal about the need to carry different versions of the same tool, even if these weren't regularly used.
"We typically carry 8 different lengths of screwdrivers in our toolbags... and if we forget one we have to step off of the ladder to find the one we need"
"I wish there was a better way to transport our materials"
HVAC + electricians
Near the end of one site visit, I noticed an electrician struggling to accurately bend a piece of conduit to fit into a corner. Though it can be a learned habit, bending conduit can require several attempts to achieve. This leads to frustrated worker and an inefficient use of time and materials.
Bringing the Insight to Reality
I immediately began prototyping in an attempt to mitigate the aforementioned frustrations. Initially, these prototypes began as rough and functional, intended to provide a proof of concept. Eventually, I 3D printed several full-scale models to better test usability and ergonomics.
Ultimately, DUIT received an excellent reception from the younger laborers I showed it to, and an admittedly less-than-excited reaction from the older, more experienced laborers. In a sense, this proved my direction and allowed me to pursue it further.
2018 Benton Humphreys | Designer (ID, UI/UX). All rights reserved.
Industrial + Product Design