Studying Bretford's TechGuard Connect Lockers

Entrepreneurial Internship - Product Management | Spring 2020

The Challenge

Bretford Manufacturing’s flagship product, TechGuard Connect – a family of charging locker solutions, were already released into the market but were not turning out to be as popular as the business leaders thought they’d be among customers.

The Solution

Research and design a cost-effective and efficient way to monitor and track assets being stored within Bretford TechGuard Connect lockers. Deliverable: Market Research Document highlighting customer feedback, competitor analysis, and viable technical solutions that can be integrated with the product.

Quick Summary

For this internship, I worked in a team of 6 students from various majors — Economics, Business, Computer Science, Arts. We worked directly with C-suite executives and were briefed about the different versions of the product, expectations, and outcomes when the product was released into the market. My contribution to the team included: 

  • Primary and secondary research (product use research)
  • Studying similar products in the market (competitive analysis research)
  • Studying and finalizing a reliable and cost-efficient RFID solution that would solve the biggest pain point when it comes to locker usage

Defining the problem

Since the product had already been in the market for some time, our work followed the exploratory research the stakeholders had already done and was focused on learning more about the identified issues (i.e. security concerns about leaving personal equipment in charging lockers). We specifically wanted to explore Makerspace in schools, libraries, and public spaces. As college students, finding the target audience was relatively easy. 

Understanding the customers (Qualitative Research)

Interviews

As a first step, we started learning more about the potential customers through some of the closest sources. Since I worked at my college library (called The Ames Library) for 2 years, I knew the staff very well and that connection helped me get started with one-on-one interviews. We didn’t use any lockers at the library for storage or charging, so my interview questions focused on a typical day for the staff, where they spent the most time, if there was something they spent considerable time doing (of course, avoiding leading questions), and getting a sense of their day-to-day activities. Next group I focused on was fellow college students who would probably find charging lockers very convenient in large campuses. 

Surveys

While I and one of my team members were collecting information through interviews, the rest of my team focused on reaching people at other universities and getting some customer opinions through surveys. We identified 18 schools where we were trying to reach either a librarian or a Makerspace coordinator. This part of the research was still focused on understanding the customers first and figuring out if there are any additional pain points. 

Identifying the Competitors

We identified direct and indirect competitors and found that there was really only one product that was doing exactly what Bretford hoped to accomplish — provide the customer the ability to track their items when they are in the charging lockers. Once we completed the competitor analysis, we were ready to draft our solutions for the problem at hand. 

Technical Research

This is the part where I and one other team member put on our computer science hats and researched the hell out of wireless technologies. It was the most tech-heavy aspect of our internship — understanding how different technologies that could solve our problem are implemented, how the data is transferred to the customer and back, the cost vs value analysis, and explaining the technology to our non-technical counterparts. As a 2-member team within our larger team, our goal was to make sure that the rest of the team understands how the technical parts fit with each other and that they feel as confident as we did with the recommended solutions. 

Final Solution

Goal: Research and design a cost-effective and efficient way to monitor and track assets being stored within Bretford TechGuard Connect lockers. 

Result: The final solution we presented to the executives at Bretford was an RFID solution. The deliverable — Market Research Document — included everything from market research to competitor analysis, technical research, and SWOT analysis. This upgrade to the lockers would allow Bretford to expand their target market and provide enhanced capabilities to existing customers.

To recap, the part where I played a critical role was in market research, technical research, and project justification. The things I wasn’t involved with but that also contributed immensely to the success of this internship was sketching (ideation phase) and project financials.