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Sara Pepitone | September 13, 2012
Product: GE Café / GE Profile
Before launching a product, GE spends months and years of observing how people use appliances, in research labs with their products and competitors, and in kitchens themselves. "We're big believers in consumer-inspired design," says Lou Lenzi, FIDSA, Director, Industrial Design, GE Appliances. One major finding: people use refrigerator water dispensers to fill coffee pots, sports bottles, and pitchers, not just 8-oz glasses. It's clear why - GE's water filtration system is lauded for its removal of 98 percent of five trace pharmaceuticals from drinking water and ice.
So Lenzi's team redesigned the dispenser cavity to accommodate the depth, width, and height of larger vessels. They also noticed the frustration caused by waiting, so they created Hands Free Autofill, which employs technology similar to back-up sensors in a car. If you need an exact measurement, say one pint for a recipe, they've provided PreciseFill. Users can toggle through the LCD-screen menu to select the amount needed, and control temperature from there too. These are standard features for the 29-cubic-foot GE Profile, which came to market in July with additional sizes on the horizon.
This fall, the GE Café will be the first refrigerator with a hot water dispenser, able to heat up to 12 ounces of water in two minutes (a counter-intuitive rotary knob was designed to protect kids).
Both models sport french doors, which Lenzi says appeals aesthetically while providing space for technology and innovation. The full width is available for items like party trays and odd-shaped products, and there's more door space for condiments, which researchers noticed people stock aggressively. On the exterior, seamless stainless steel stamping is not just attractive, it eliminates seams where food and grime traditionally builds up. The cabinet design around the dispenser has the same flowing style Lenzi applied throughout: simple lines and angles that are neutral enough not to distract from their surroundings.
But that's not all. Rebuilding a factory in Kentucky to manufacture GE's highly advanced refrigerators created 600 jobs. Very cool.