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Challenging status quo leads to new industry standard
Today, no one thinks twice when they see a condenser dryer with a Class B energy rating. But it took a young, Italian engineer who challenged the status quo to make the first one possible.
“People thought I was crazy,” recalls Elisabetta Bari, now Vice President Product Portfolio and Program Management for Fabric Care at Electrolux Major Appliances EMEA. “But they let me run my experiments. That’s the beauty of this company—you can find your own way of working.”
The goal seemed out of reach
Back then, Bari was a 24-year-old engineering graduate and junior project manager on the Electrolux Group’s Advanced Development team. With Electrolux always looking to lessen the environmental impact of its products, the team was grappling with how to raise the efficiency of condenser dryers from Class C to Class B. It was a goal that many thought was out of reach.
Enter Elisabetta Bari. Being fresh from university without a deep knowledge of the product, she first decided to study how—exactly—tumble dryers worked.
A new, theoretical approach
“I needed to understand how the drying process worked from a theoretical perspective,” she recalls. “So I analyzed the thermodynamics of the drying process to understand the energy balance in the different phases. Then I compared the maximum theoretical efficiency with the actual efficiency measured on the machine experimentally.”
The project involved a lot of theoretical calculation as well as experimental work in the lab, using sensors and various type of meters to measure the different parameters. “I had to disassemble tumble dryers, set up the experiments, attach sensors to the machine, analyze the data, combine them and draft conclusions—it was a lot of fun,” she says with a laugh.
Elisabetta Bari in brief
- Nationality: Italian
- Title: VP Product Portfolio and Program Management
- Location: Stockholm
- Joined Electrolux:
- Favorite Electrolux appliance: The Combi-steam Pro oven. “I love baking, and that oven allows a different level of performance when making all my cookies, cakes, pizza and bread.”
Bari explains that the outcome of her analysis was that there were significant differences in theoretical and actual efficiency at various points. By recovering part of the losses, the target seemed to be within reach. The next step was to analyze the root causes of the differences and understand where it was possible to intervene and how much energy could be recovered.
“The outcome of this phase was a list of areas to be improved,” she continues. “Each one was given a potential action for improvement and a hypothesis on how much it would contribute to efficiency improvement.”
The last step was then to make tests by modifying the machine. In some cases, it was a small improvement like adding a seal. In other cases, it was something more complex like modifying the geometry of an air duct.
“But the outcome was very promising, since the experimentation confirmed the hypothesis and triggered the next phase, which was the formal development process.”
A world first
The result was the world’s first condenser dryer with a Class B energy rating, which is now an industry standard. Only advanced heat-pump dryers—also invented by Electrolux—are more efficient.
More than a few people were surprised that this young woman with no experience in the industry had succeeded in solving a problem that had frustrated others. But the fact that her colleagues immediately embraced her conclusions and went on to take the next steps to make the product a reality is typical of the Electrolux culture, she says.
“You can be entrepreneurial and challenge what is believed and accepted,” she says. “Of course, you also have to be a bit bold. But if you are fact-based and can demonstrate you are adding value, people will jump on board. Performance is recognized.”
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