Product Design Case Study: Matco Tools Revel and Revel XRedefining the automotive toolbox with a modern look and technology integration
“That’s a sweet box.”
“I need to get one of those!”
“Those are bad a–.”
“Well hello beautiful!”
How do you get seasoned auto mechanics to gush like teenagers on social media about an automotive toolbox? By asking them what they want, then giving them more than they ever imagined, in both form and function.
We have a longstanding relationship with Matco Tools, which is why they came to us with their biggest industrial design product challenge to date: re-inventing the professional-grade toolbox and delivering excitement for modern mechanics.
Using Customer Insights to Reinvent the Toolbox
We started in the field, meeting with mechanics working in different types of shops, for auto repair, body work and painting. We watched them work. We asked them to show us what they liked and disliked about their current boxes. We noted the ways they had modified their boxes for convenience. We observed how the boxes fit (or didn’t) in the work area.
These visits gave us ideas for concepts that Matco’s team helped us refine into functioning automotive toolbox prototypes for more formal focus groups. From these we produced quantitative studies showing which new features would be most popular with and useful to mechanics. These product innovations included:
- Back wall for hanging tools
- Pneumatic and power storage
- Sturdy slide-out work surfaces
- Drawers within drawers
- Built-in lighting
Matco toolboxes have always been the best-built toolboxes—you can stand in the drawers—but we found ways to add even more welds. We also figured out how to hide them for a sleeker appearance. Matco invested in a new manufacturing system at its Jamestown, N.Y. plant, including a robotic welder, which made it possible to avoid visible welds on the front of the box.
The mechanics in our focus groups did not state preferences for colors, even when asked. But we suspected they’d like some options. A new tool box is a major investment; many mechanics save and shop around for years. In some ways it’s akin to buying a new car, and we wanted to give them the same excitement by putting as much emphasis on styling as we did on ease of use and durability. There are more beveled surfaces and chamfers on the corners that sport the brand logo and lend the box a high-quality, vault-like appearance. The casters’ automotive-inspired wheels have chrome hubcaps. The body is available in 11 colors, and the trim in six
Product Innovations Deliver Excitement for Mechanics
Designing for manufacturing was a massive undertaking, with NS and Matco working closely on steel bending techniques, tooling, endcaps, the strongest casters on the market and countless other details. All the effort paid off when the Revel and Revel X debuted at vendor shows and the excitement was palpable. NS and Matco are continuing to work on future enhancements.