Cleveron’s product portfolio is diverse: from parcel lockers to robots, we’ve also developed an autonomous delivery robot. The Product Designer gives shape and form to the vision of the future and carefully considers user convenience in the process. This July, Cleveron celebrates its 15th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, we are putting our award-winning product design into the spotlight and sat down with our Design Lead Lauri Hirvesaar, who will celebrate his 10th work anniversary at Cleveron this fall.Parcel Lockers Already Exist. What Else Is There to Do?!
It’s no secret that this is exactly what Lauri thought when he got a job offer from Cleveron ten years ago. He was asked the same from his friends once he announced he was taking the next step in his career. After the first few chats with Cleveron’s founder Arno Kütt, Lauri’s mind was put at ease. The forward-thinking direction to move on from regular parcel lockers to developing parcel robots was the reason he decided to join the company. His friends were sceptical at the beginning of his journey. “Cleveron wasn’t well-known at the time, and I contemplated the job offer for a long time. One day, Arno introduced his idea to develop parcel robots, and I understood that the company had a vision beyond manufacturing lockers, and the plans for the future were big. Arno has always been a visionary, and his vision of the future was convincing,” explains Lauri. “In my first year, my friends would ask if I worked in the Secret Service, and Product Designer was just my cover since we hadn’t released any new products. Eventually, when we launched the Cleveron 401 robotic parcel tower, I could breathe a sigh of relief – we finally had a physical product, which we could publicly speak about and demonstrate.”
The first parcel robot quickly gained a lot of attention, and it can be regarded as Cleveron’s signature product. “The Cleveron 401, then known as the PackRobot, was unique and the first of its kind in the world. If I remember correctly, there was a similar first attempt made in Germany, but we made the first marketable robot that clients actually purchased. It’s truly an awesome product,” describes Lauri, “now I don’t get asked what we’re doing, but instead, people ask when we’re planning to come out with something new and exciting.”
“Now, I don’t get asked what we’re doing, but instead, people ask when we’re planning to come out with something new and exciting.”
When Lauri’s first interaction with Cleveron happened while he was studying Product Design at the Estonian Academy of Arts, during a project to create an outdoor parcel locker, then in reality, that solution made it into Cleveron’s product portfolio many years later. Before that, Lauri joined Cleveron, many parcel robots and indoor lockers were created, and we had begun developing our autonomous delivery robot. How many Estonian Product Designers can say that they have designed a car? Cleveron’s Product Designer can. Lauri considers that same autonomous vehicle to have the biggest curve in the development process. The project was internally named “Lotte” and is now being further developed by Cleveron Mobility. The name has also changed from Lotte to Clevon. “Five years ago, I made a one-off design solution to show onstage. It was a white vehicle with a retractable robotic arm, which could place a parcel into the at-home parcel locker we had designed at the time. If you compare it to the product that Cleveron Mobility is getting ready to start manufacturing, it has reached different extremes when it comes to design. It has shrunk down to a compact vehicle, comprised of bicycle parts, and has also been the size of an actual car. I think the changes we’ve made to this product outweigh the adjustments made to any other Cleveron product,” and adds, “the Product Designer has to take into account that out of any ten ideas, nine of them end up in the trash. That's something you already learn in school. You have to understand that sometimes you have to go through tens of stages to get a good end result.”
Creating Solutions of the Future
„Design thinking should be an integral part of the new product design process. As a designer, I do it constantly, I don’t always have to create something new, but I always do research and find out what else needs to be designed. Before putting pen to paper, I evaluate if I’m solving the problem. Sometimes you have to find an aspect others haven’t discovered yet and solve that part,” explains Lauri. “In 2012, we reached the point where the market was asking for a solution that could fit more parcels on a smaller surface. From that, we started thinking towards robotics,“ describes Lauri the starting process of innovation, “we can’t change a person to be able to reach for parcels from even higher up, and we can't change the environment, where PUDO points (package pick-up and drop-off points) are located since buildings are quite standard in sizes. I was certain we had to do something differently. The entire team is involved in developing new products. With this project, my task was to work out the form and ergonomics.” That’s how the 5-meters tall (16 ft) parcel robot Cleveron 401 was born. “The striking design of this product is its allure but also a pain point because at one point we realized we needed a more modular option that companies could adjust according to their parcel volumes and would also be lower,” says Lauri. From there, Cleveron 402 was created, now used by Zara and Falabella stores to automatically hand out online orders.
At Cleveron, we’re accustomed to doing things differently and looking beyond the standard solution, if possible. Lauri has a colorful example from the beginning phases of the autonomous vehicle: “During the creation of Lotte (now known as Clevon), Arno had the idea that the vehicle definitely shouldn’t have four wheels. Be it three or five but not four. So we tried different options: we built models from LEGOs and tested prototypes we could actually drive. Finally, we came to the conclusion that for some reason cars have been constructed like this for a hundred years.” He confirms that testing these crazy and sometimes stubborn ideas makes work exciting.
In addition to a new approach, a good end result is also important. “High-quality materials and a striking product appearance are what set us apart from the competition. We don’t attempt to make the cheapest thing on the market. We have tried but we’re not good at it. We have such a great team here who know how to make complex and detailed things, and that’s how high-quality products are made.” When creating a product, it’s important to consider the customer journey and how we want people to use it. When it comes to parcel robots, all parcel inductions and withdrawals are completed through a single user console, as opposed to a parcel locker, where each parcel is placed behind an individual door. That’s why the console has to stand out from the rest of the machine, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be too dominating in its environment. “The console is the main touch point for the customer: they see it and touch it and therefore has to be easy to use. It’s also important that it differentiates from the ten meters wide robot enough so that people would intuitively find it. The contrast of materials comes into play here,” comments Lauri the minimalistic and streamlined design of the console.
“High-quality materials and a striking product appearance are what set us apart from the competition. We don’t try to make the cheapest thing in the market. We have tried, but we’re not good at it. We have such a great team here who know how to make complex and detailed things, and that’s how high-quality products are made.”
When Does The Product Design Process Begin?
Lauri can also be described as a visualizer of ideas. If someone has an idea in their head, the Product Designer is the one who gives shape to the idea. “Arno has historically had a strong vision of the future. I have helped him conceptualize his idea, consisting of three pen lines on a piece of paper. It’s needed to start validating – does the product have market potential or what could it even look like,” states Lauri. “I am often on board even before the engineers. I help the owner of the idea to put his thoughts onto paper because three bullet points as a starting point might be too little to go off for engineers. But we all know a picture is worth more than a thousand words. We do have opposite examples of receiving feedback from the market and making technical adjustments based on that,” says Lauri, who has been involved in the life cycle of every Cleveron product. “We don’t have much experience with so-called facelifts (cosmetic changes made to a product). Usually, when we start making big changes, we create an entirely new product because the technology and market develop so quickly in our field, and putting everything new together into an old shell is not even an option by that point.” After the visualization of the initial idea, the concept is handed over to Team X, where a team of engineers works on turning new ideas into a reality. But the Product Designer is not just a visualizer. To test out how moving parts work together, Lauri first tests them out on LEGOs, but when it comes to parcel lockers, he makes them out of paper or cardboard, since they bend similarly to sheet metal. That’s how he validates ideas – are they conceivable or not.
To come back to the question stipulated at the beginning of the story that parcel lockers already exist, Lauri states that parcel lockers have changed a lot over time. “If you compare our indoor locker Cleveron 301 to our grocery locker Cleveron 503, they are completely different in shape and functionality,” says Lauri and confirms that during his ten-year tenure at the company, he hasn’t gotten bored yet, “during these years I have had the chance to do many things: design, moved on from furniture to high-tech robots and have even gotten to design a car. That variety of work has kept me active. Of course, there have been difficult moments, but I have never felt that okay, now that's enough.”
While he can’t shed light on our future products just yet, Lauri is sure that if the team is as capable as it is, we can remain ahead of the market. “We’ll see where we’ll be in another 15 years. Maybe by that time, we will have put traditional parcel lockers behind us, and parcel robots will be as common as lockers are today. But lockers are products upon which we can further develop new ideas. If we hadn’t made lockers to begin with, we wouldn’t have made it to robots. I think it’s a normal progression of things. The revenue of online stores keeps increasing and people’s shopping habits have changed a lot in 15 years,” debates Lauri. He is currently working on the design process of three new products. To find out what they are, keep an eye on Cleveron.
Cleveron celebrates its 15th anniversary on July 25, 2022.