Solution, or Mess? A Milk Jug for a Green Earth

Who says you can’t improve on years of well-established tradition? Wal-Mart and Costco have adopted a new gallon-sized milk container that looks to save the companies lots of money. However, there may be some usability issues they’ve overlooked!

A New York Times article describes the following impressive improvements in business metrics:

* 180% higher utilization of coolers
* 125% better delivery truck productivity
* 50% increased storage space utilization
* 16% lower milk prices for the end consumer

However, customers are reporting that it is very difficult to pour milk from the containers, resulting in constant spilling and loss of milk.

Here’s the full scoop! Video included – New York Times, June 30, 2008

3 Responses to Solution, or Mess? A Milk Jug for a Green Earth

  1. Dr. Pete says:

    That gets into a very interesting question that you don’t hear much: how much is usability worth when you have to trade it against other factors? I’ve used the new milk jugs (from Costco) and they are a bit harder to use, at least in the sense that I’m not used to them. On the other hand, being a bit green and concerned about the economy, it’s a tradeoff I happily make. In other words, I feel that it’s a better product, even if it’s a bit harder to use. Thinking about it, that’s a pretty complex equation.

  2. Theo Mandel says:

    I agree that you need to weigh usability with (hopefully not against) other factors, such as cost benefits. However, I would hope with the skills and expertise involved in the design of the new containers, they even addressed the human factors issues of actually using the containers and not just the other issues of storing, shipping, etc. If they did, and found these usability issues before completing the design, maybe they could have come up with a design and met the other requirements AND was actually usable by human beings just trying to pour a glass of milk without making a mess!

  3. michael says:

    But if the new design causes you to spill, which then causes you to buy milk more often, where’s the downside for Wal-Mart? It’s not like their customers are going to go elsewhere just because they don’t like the milk containers.

    Sounds like *smart* design to me!

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