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Engineering a Harness for a ProTeam Backpack Vacuum

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Alex J. Wall

Alex J. Wall
Lead Industrial Designer
Emerson Tool Company

Q: You are the Lead Industrial Designer for Emerson Tool Company. How did you come to work on engineering a backpack vacuum harness for ProTeam?

About thirty years ago, ProTeam introduced the original lightweight backpack vacuum to the cleaning industry, and it immediately raised the bar for vacuuming. It was simply a better mousetrap for a number of reasons. Most importantly it provided greater cleaning power, productivity, and user comfort. Due to the popularity of the ProTeam backpack vacuum, Emerson heard about ProTeam and acquired the company in 2009. Since then, we have joined forces to keep creating solutions that make cleaning pros lives easier.

Q: When you set out to create a new harness for the Next Generation backpack vacuums, what were your goals?
Our goals are always to provide solutions, to improve efficiency, and to give the user the best product experience possible. In designing the new harness, we specifically wanted to improve comfort for the cleaning professionals who use our backpack vacuums for more than six hours a day. By striving to increase comfort and longevity for those users, we knew that every other user would benefit from the improvements as well.

We set another ambitious goal: to design a harness that could be adjusted to fit the 95th percentile, meaning that users of any size, from very large to very small, can expect a consistently comfortable experience. That included increasing comfort for the female user.

Q: How did those goals translate onto the new harness?
The new harness is simpler and less cumbersome. We reduced the twisting of the shoulder straps by removing the adjustment at the top of the strap and sewing the strap directly onto the back plate. This has the added benefit of holding the shoulder straps upright, making the vacuum easier to put on. In efforts to reduce chafing, we sewed the edge piping of the shoulder straps, then turned them inside out so the piping was no longer protruding and rubbing on the user.

On the previous harness, the lumbar padding was pretty minimal. On the new harness, we beefed up the padding, providing greater support to the lower back. This pushes the unit a little further away from the body, creating better airflow to keep the user cool. The sternum strap is easier to adjust without twisting, and it adjusts to fit a broader range of users. I don’t think we quite reached the goal of designing for the 95th percentile. We probably achieved closer to the 85th or 90th percentile with the new harness, which should still be an improvement for most users, especially female users.

Q:In your opinion, what is the impact of a comfortable harness on the task of vacuuming?
We start with the cleaning worker in mind - more so than just the task of vacuuming. I think that whenever we can make a task more comfortable, especially something as labor intensive as cleaning, we can help make someone’s life easier. By increasing comfort, we can reduce downtime from taking the vacuum on and off and help cleaning professionals get done with vacuuming tasks faster. Then, ideally, they can move on to other tasks and improve their overall standard of cleaning.

posted on 6/28/2016