Photocopier drum inspired by beer

A product innovation example offered in 1991 by Ikujiro Nonaka and Martin Kenney in the Journal of Engineering and Technology Management involved a key part of a photocopier — its drum. A team of engineers at Canon Inc. was considering how to redesign the drum in order to ease photocopiers’ maintenance requirements. The challenge was cost: A number of key parts needed to be redesigned at a low enough cost so that they could be replaced at certain operating intervals. The team members claimed that the task was impossible; but the team leader, Hiroshi Tanaka, engaged his colleagues in a comparison between the photocopier drum and the prosaic beer can. How was it possible to manufacture beer cans at a low enough cost to make them throwaways? This analogy created the conceptual breakthrough the team needed: to make the photocopier drums disposable.