An insight into the Innovation of the Versi-Tubs
Written by Matthew Tojic – National Category Manager for Blackhawk Fasteners
When the decision was made to expand their current product range into fasteners, ITI (Blackhawk Fasteners parent company - Innovative Timber ideas) not only wanted to offer the best quality fasteners possible, they wanted to improve the process of buying and using fasteners.
THE IDEA STAGE
While the process of sourcing the fasteners was underway, the team at Blackhawk started to work on ideas for the packaging. The question was asked - “How can we repurpose the plastic tub that most screws come in and make it into something useful after the screws have been used?”. The answer to this question was quite simple. Storage. It is something that everyone needs, uses and can’t really have enough of.
With the main repurposing idea for the packaging decided, the team needed to take the key factors of a great storage container and incorporate them into a package to carry screws. So what are those key factors?
- Strength – Being able to withstand continual use
- Versatility – Stackable, hangable and easy to carry
- Safe – Having a lid to keep items safe
Blackhawk now had to find a way to bring these key storage factors together with its primary purpose of transporting screws. Fortunately, these factors mostly overlapped with each other.
One of the key storage factors stood out – "Hangable". This is something that has not been seen in fastener packaging before (excluding smaller, retail packs of screws that come in blister pack – not suitable for storage). Looking at different storage options, the team found the answer right under their nose. In the ITI warehouse in Sydney, they have a rack with different sized storage bins that hang from a backing plate. These bins did not have lids but the principal design of the tubs could be transferred over to the screw packaging.
When designing the tubs, the Blackhawk team used the agile method. They would start from an initial idea and then develop and adapt the design to add in new ideas. The base of the design centres on fitting the required number of screws. There are four sizes available – 100 screws, 250 screws, 500 screws and 1000 screws. These sizes were loaded into a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program and the design process started.
Reviewing the shape of the storage bin borrowed from the ITI warehouse, the tub needed to have a tab on the back so it could hang from the backing plate. While this was fairly easy to design into the tub, it was far more difficult to get the tub to hang with the lid on. The lid must overhang at the back which initially prevented the tab from being able to hook on to the backing plate. After some tweaking and a few prototypes were made on their 3D printer, the tab design was finalised. Another distinctive feature of the storage bin was that the front was angled at 45 degrees. This allows easier access when there are bins hung on top of each other. This was added to the tub design but reduced the amount of screws that could be stored in each. The dimensions had to be increased to account for this design aspect.
Originally the lid was a basic idea. Clip it on and take it off. Was there a better way to do this? There were 3 key features that the lid had to have:
- It needed to allow the tubs to be stackable. This meant having some way of connecting to the bottom of the tub so a tub can be placed onto the lid securely. An indentation was made into the top of the lid which was the same size as the bottom of the tub. But due to the rounded edges of the tub, the indentation was not deep enough to hold it securely. We needed more grip so 4 bolt heads were designed into each corner of the lid. With corresponding indentations on the bottom of the tub, they could now connect securely. We added ITI to the top of these bolt heads to show the relationship between ITI and Blackhawk.
- We wanted the lid to fold, giving the user easy access to the contents. We had to come up with a hinge design that had no moving parts. Avoiding moving parts was important for the longevity of the lid and to simplify the manufacturing process. A simple solution to this was to reduce the thickness of the plastic where it was to fold. This is quite common in foldable plastic packaging. Cut-outs had to be added to the side of the lid where the indentation was made to make the lid stackable. Without these cut-outs, the lid would be restricted in how far it could have opened.
- The lid needed to remain open by itself. Opening the lid each time you wanted to get a screw out could become quite frustrating. To hold the lid in the open position, some small clips were designed into the side cut-outs. After speaking with the manufacturer we found that they would be too small to be effective and impossible to make. We decided to make a small hook on one side that the user could latch. This way the user has the choice of keeping it open.
With the lid and tub design complete, it was time to make it all work. The back half of the lid that did not open needed to attach tightly to the tub so it would not come off when opening and closing the lid. But it could not impede the hanging tab on the back of the tub. A few different designs were tested and we finally had the right design. Then we needed the front section of the lid (the part that opened) tight enough that it would keep the screws in the tub when it is thrown around the back of a tradies ute, but still easy to open. Quite a difficult task. We ended up with a design that was tight enough that it could be dropped onto concrete from 1.5 metres without opening but still easy enough to open when needed.
DRIVER BIT STORAGE
With that done we were up to the final design touches. But then we realised… where do we put the driver bits for the screws? We planned on giving away one free driver bit for the 100 and 250 packs of screws and 2 driver bits for the 500 and 1,000 packs. We didn’t want our users to have to dig through the screws to find them. We also wanted a place to store them so they wouldn’t get lost. We came up with the idea to clip them to the inside of the packaging. We first put them on the side of the tub but found when the tub is full of screws, the user would have difficulty getting the drive bits out. We then moved the clip to the underside of the lid. This kept them out of the screws and made them easily accessible when the lid was open.
The last process was to design a handle for the bigger tubs (500 and 1,000 packs) to make them easy to carry. There would be quite a bit of weight in the 1,000 pack so the handle had to be strong. It also needed to be long enough to clear the back of the lid so it could be moved out of the way. This caused an issue with the 500 pack as the handle was able to spin almost 360 degrees around the tub. This was an issue as when the handle fell under the tub, it got in the way when putting the tub down. We fixed this by designing some small tabs into the holder the handle connected with.
With the functionality taken care of, it was time to look at security. We had to make sure the tub could not be tampered with (screws or driver bits taken out) without the retailers being aware. There are a few ways to do this but we found the best way was to use security tabs. We needed to have four because of the opening lid (two on the opening section and two on the fixed section). These four tabs are moulded onto the lid in the manufacturing process. They slide into a corresponding hole in the tub when the screws are packed and cannot be removed unless cut. Having holes in the tub also creates ventilation for the screws. If water gets into the tubs while they are being used, the holes will help the water to escape through evaporation.
To add some design (and advertising) into the tubs, the Blackhawk Fasteners logo was moulded into the front of the tub and the underside of the lid. We also made the decision to make the lid matte black. This would make it stand out when in the store and throw back to the Blackhawk name. We wanted the tub to be black as well but know that it was important to be able to see the contents of the tub. We tried a few different transparency options and found one that looked good, but still kept the screws visible.
After we received some prototypes from the manufacturer, we were very happy with the result and mass production could begin.
After seeing the final product, I hope our customers can appreciate the effort that went into the design and functionality of what is usually a throw-away product. We look forward to using the Versi-Tub in the new ranges of products that Blackhawk will release.