Product differentiation supports client’s successful foray into cryogenics

Worthington Industries was creating a new division in a marketplace with many established competitors on the belief that cryogenic tanks could be made better. Design Central joined them to help prove that belief true. The tanks are used to store super-cold liquids—like oxygen, hydrogen, helium and more—for everything from beverage carbonation at restaurants to chemical processing, to use in hospitals and science labs. Our challenge was to understand the “lives” of these tanks, from how they’re filled with their designated liquid to their transportation to the customer and their subsequent storage and handling. We identified opportunities for improvement throughout each phase of “life,” which ultimately led to a  more effective and easier to use product—and the building up of a new business for Worthington Industries.

  • Worthington Industries
  • Commercial
  • Strategy
  • Research
  • Product Design
  • Engineering
  • Prototyping

Objective: Support client’s new division with the design of a differentiated cryogenic tank.

Comprehensive analysis sheds light on opportunities for improvement

If we want our earliest concepts to be rooted in reality, we know we need a full understanding of who touches the final product and how. We acquainted ourselves with every stakeholder, which meant on-site observations at manufacturing facilities and expert interviews. We identified pain points and what works well on competitor cryogenic tanks. This research, along with our day-in-the-life analysis, gave us a firm foundation in our innovation session with Worthington Industries’ team, where we talked through our findings and brainstormed ideas to set our design apart.

Key features make client’s final product an industry outlier

Much of our design focused on making interacting with the cryogenic tanks more intuitive, robust and safer for every user, from lab workers to restaurant employees. We knew from our research that the vacuum space was easily compromised if the heavy tank was dropped or dented, which led to loss of product, so we included the option for a vacuum status indicator. Human factors led to a curved design of the handling ring. This allowed for easier use, as a gloved hand had more clearance to access connection points and valves. It also gave the client’s product distinctive branding. We included separate interfaces for the supplier side and user side plus a fill level indicator, as it was often difficult to know how much fuel was left in a tank at any given time. These key features and more made it through to our final models—and still exist, six years later, in Worthington Industries’ now well-established cryogenic vessels division.