Photo: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2016.
The global furniture distributor and retailer Ikea commits substantial efforts to design its products. A fundamental design element relates to how each product can be optimally packed in a limited footprint, preferably in a box. This involves the design of the shape of the parts as well as the selection of materials composing them. For instance, the above photo depicts mattresses rolled into vacuum-sealed packs. The growing prevalence of memory foam technology which is replacing standard spring-based designs, is offering a product that can be packed, compressed, and rolled without damaging its properties. This substantially reduces transport and inventory costs in addition to the convenience for customers to carry the product away on their own. In its product design and packing strategy, Ikea faces the conundrum where the greater the number of parts, the easier it is to pack a product efficiently (reducing its transport and warehousing footprint), but the more efforts customers must make to assemble them.