MINIA - The best choice
OEZ is just now launching its new Minia series of modular devices that carry on from the preceding group of devices for building installations. Ing. Jiří Lipenský , manager for product management, research and development at OEZ s.r.o., talks about the overall project.
What prompted Product Management several years ago to set about designing new devices? After all, sales of LSN circuit breakers and other related products were growing at that time.
It is never easy to guess the right time to begin developing a new generation of products. This depends upon a whole range of conditions – from the changing situation on the market, to the expected life of the particular product, the anticipated track of the new development project, and to the current availability of development capacities. In no case can one wait to begin developing a new product until the sales growth of the current one slows or even turns downward. Considering that developing a brand new circuit breaker or other device – including all tests and preparing the technology for mass production – may take up to fi ve years, we must always keep one eye to the distant horizon and make timely decisions. Looking back, I believe that we chose the right time to start the development.
Back then, when you prepared the development objectives, what were the diff erences between the original and new products supposed to be?
I commonly draw a comparison between circuit breakers and automobiles. Cars are being developed continuously. This results in really noticeable improvements, but their fundamental principle remains the same. Similarly, and although circuit breakers are purely technical products, they also have their outward appearance or characteristic design, if you will. This also plays a role in the decision to buy or use, as it signifi cantly infl uences the appearance of the fi nal switchboard.
For the newly developed generation of circuit breakers and other devices, we did not presume to make any fundamental break with the past from the technical viewpoint. Nevertheless, we insisted that the change be visible at fi rst sight and that the development result in modern devices meeting all the known requirements with regard to characteristics and parameters.
Take development of the circuit breakers as an example. A requirement emerged that the circuit breakers should be smaller in order to save space in the switchboards, but, at the same time, higher performance was required so that they could disconnect from higher currents in case of short circuit. Also required is better mechanical and electrical endurance so that the circuit breakers can last through more switching cycles without being damaged or wearing out.
To sum up, the main objective was to prepare for our clients modern devices meeting the highest demands in terms of both appearance and usage.
How long did the development take? Did you experience any diffi culties during the development that you had not envisaged? Did the designers and developers come up with any unique solutions?
Collecting and sorting through the information to establish the development objectives is a continuous and never-ending process. Therefore, the preparation started soon after we launched our original product line onto the market. The offi cial beginning of the development project was in July 2003, almost fi ve years ago.
As in every development project, of course, the development team members struggled with diffi culties and obstacles of all kinds. They had to go back and look for new ways, new solutions. While we had some tough issues to resolve, we never had to go back to the very beginning and change the development concept. We endeavoured to develop really top-notch products meeting all the specifi ed requirements. We did not want to accept a halfway solution. Maybe that is why the development itself took a little longer than we had originally envisaged. We spent a lot of time on resolving the external design alone, but the reward is seen in products that are attractive at fi rst sight. They look good and project the image of a high-quality and reliable series of devices that is characterised by excellent workmanship.
Although the principles of the new devices remain without any revolutionary changes, the designers nevertheless created several unique solutions at critical junctures for which we are seeking patents. The fi nal version of the circuit breaker, for example, embodies seven patents and two utility models, all of which are owned by OEZ.
What does OEZ expect from the new MINIA series?
When we speak of the MINIA series, this takes in not only circuit breakers but also residual current circuit breakers, surge voltage arresters, installation contactors, control and signalling devices, and additional modular devices comprising an integral product range that meets the specifi c needs of electrical installations. And what do we expect from that series? First of all, we expect that MINIA will continue the success and popularity of the previous product group off ered by OEZ and that the products we off er to our satisfi ed clients will be new and better. Moreover, we expect to persuade new customers that the devices in the MINIA series represent the best choice for them, too.
With the introduction of the new series, OEZ has also changed its terminology. Where you used to say “Devices for building installation” you now say “Modular devices”. Why is that?
Even though the term “Devices for building installation” that we have used until now is relatively long, it is not quite accurate. The group of products we are talking about is used not only in building installations, but also in infrastructure applications, industry, and the power sector. Although their functions vary greatly, they have in common a characteristic design. In particular, all are adapted for installation on a DIN rail and their widths are always a multiple of 17.5 mm. This unit of width is indicated as 1M (for “1 module”), and thus the name “Modular devices”.