Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 by Mikkel Winther Johansen
Development of the OMNIA® e-meter included unprecedented customer involvement. This approach delivered insights that shaped the final product to enable more efficient rollouts.
When developing a new meter, we naturally build on what we know and our existing portfolio. But the development of the OMNIA® e-meter began with a free pass to revisit any design choices we deemed optimisable – a great opportunity and privilege, but also a huge responsibility that required the right data.
Data collection 2.0
We wanted to get input directly from the market using an approach based on the Value Proposition Design methodology for gathering insights. Rather than asking our customers what they want, it relies on first-hand observation of the users in their daily work to understand what they need.
In addition to visiting eight customers in Sweden, Finland and Turkey, we went on field trips with three different installers. Part of the trick with this methodology is that most people are unaware of the hassle involved in tasks they have performed maybe thousands of times, like installing a meter. So, when you ask them, they say what’s top of mind, whereas this approach allowed us to highlight their pains and needs in a more authentic and valid way.
We didn’t share with them the ideas we already had for the new meter or ask what they would like their next Kamstrup meter to be able to do. Instead, we were curious about their tasks, asked them to elaborate on why they did certain things in certain ways. And more than anything else, we listened. Detailed knowledge of e.g. how the installers worked, enabled us to break down how much time they spent on the different parts of a meter installation and examine whether something could be improved.
Involving our customers at such an early stage was a valuable learning experience. For me, it was eye-opening to learn how parts of our electricity meter used to be very time-consuming – like the terminal cover that must come off and be reattached to connect wires to the meter.
On the OMNIA® e-meter, the cover simply slides out and back into place, and the installer only has to turn a wheel using his fingers before the meter can be sealed. In the physical design, this is one of the challenges I am most proud of having identified and solved.
Small changes with big impact
The insights we gained from our customer visits and field trips have directly influenced the final product. Some of the improvements might seem like insignificant tweaks to how a meter is installed. But when you consider the scale of most smart meter rollouts, saving just a few seconds per meter has an enormous impact on our customers’ bottom lines.
We did a calculation based on the 1-million-meter turnkey project we completed in 2019 for one of our biggest customers, Radius. At its highest, 170 installers installed 16-18 meters daily – just imagine the logistics required to keep up that pace. But if each installer could install just one more meter every day, this would reduce the rollout by eight weeks. Eight weeks!
From our field trips, we knew the average time it takes to install a meter, so one more meter a day would require cutting 90 seconds per meter. That became our goal, and with the user-friendly design of the OMNIA® e-meter, we have achieved it.
Time, money and trust
The new terminal cover alone accounts for maybe 30 seconds saved, and we’ve eased the overall handling of the meter so that it only requires one tool.
Another significant improvement involves the task of connectivity verification. In the OMNIA® e-meter, information about signal quality is available after only a short time giving the installers an early indication of the need to install an external antenna – even before the meter is installed.
Getting the right information at the right time also reduces the number of revisits. I was surprised to learn that unconfirmed connectivity causes revisits to 3-5% of rural meter installations on average – and at an average cost of EUR 70, they represent a huge savings potential.
In addition to the price tag, our customers naturally want to avoid revisits because they inconvenience their customers. This is a key part of having a brand their customers respect and trust, which is really important to them. And that makes it important to us.
About Value Proposition Design
At Kamstrup, our strategy for customer involvement follows the methodology described in Value Proposition Design. This methodology is based on understanding the customer’s key jobs and workflows to design a product to fit this, rather than asking directly what the customer desires.
The insights into the key jobs are obtained by spending time with the customer (e.g. interviews, observations etc.). This approach secures a better match for the actual customer needs and reduces the risk of missed value propositions.