Sunday, August 21, 2011

Top Secret

Not a lot of people know that after Fisher and Paykel closed their Taieri manufacturing plant, they moved into Dunedin and now employ well over 100 highly skilled engineers and designers in a design and testing facility above Wall Street Mall. They create cutting edge kitchen appliances for the world market, hiding in plain sight. When somebody mentioned that maybe they should be careful about industrial espionage, they came up with a wonderfully Dunedin solution: They bought some blinds for the design part of the office.

Top Secret

Last week I was given access to the premises for my book celebrating Otago businesses. F&P bought out Dunedin's historic Shacklock company years ago, so I'm profiling them. I never knew whiteware could be so cool. They've got some cutting edge stuff in there, so cutting edge that I'm afraid I can't reveal it. But what I can share is the lengths F&P go to in testing their products.

Test Bed.

Crash Test TurkeyOf course they do the thorough safety testing you'd expect, making sure emissions from gas hobs are within various international standards, or ensuring that oven windows have no dangerous hot spots. Then there's the destructive testing, running rows of dishwashers continuously until a part fails, or surrounding one with an array of microphones in a soundproof room to find out just how silent they run. It's the unexpected stuff that really tickled me, like the crash test turkey.

It's a polystyrene model, seen here next to a typical Kiwi oven. Big eh? It's the size of a standard American Thanksgiving turkey, something pretty important to know if you want to make ovens for the US. I expected them to use pH and temperature controlled water in their dishwasher tests, but not the exactly prescribed spinach or ketchup for their soiled dish testing. It's logical, as is the rigorous toast browning test they subject their grills to.

Toast testing

It's a fascinating place, but like a lot of industrial premises it's made for results, not for aesthetics, so to tart a few shots up, I threw a bit of light and colour around, like the red-gelled flash inside the oven in the turkey shot above. Here's another example, a wide shot of part of the prototyping area, a rather dull space under the ambient fluoro lighting:

Prototyping area - before

All I needed was a wide shot to reveal some of the space the facility occupies, and I didn't have a lot of time to arrange lights, but with just a couple of gelled flashes and a Nasty Clamp or two (See my last post about these, they're suddenly my favourite piece of kit. They make flashes quick and easy to arrange in this kind of environment where light stands are inconvenient to lug around and erect) I was very quickly able to lift the scene.

Prototyping area - after

Much sexier. And the bonus? Otago colours!

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