Are household appliances geeky?

I must confess when Panasonic asked me to be one of their “Intelligent Living Mums” I hesitated for a split second. Whilst I do possess all the basic skills needed to run a household, I wouldn’t say I was really known for my domestic ability. However they seduced me with their offer of a trip to their Home Appliances Innovation Centre in Bracknell to see loads of their products in their test kitchen, to give feedback to their product development team, and maybe even get to try some out for myself. So I signed up, hoping I could pull off that air of someone who knows what they’re talking about when I got there…

It was with a slight feeling of trepidation that I arrived at the Panasonic Head Office in Bracknell with the lovely Monika who I had travelled part of the way with. We’d taken a slightly scenic route, complete with my satnav announcing “you have reached your destination” in the middle of a dual carriageway (yes, I’m running the new Apple Maps app!), but luckily Monika has a much better sense of direction than I do, and she figured it all out. We weren’t really sure what to expect.

What we got was a really interesting day. The Intelligent Living Mums programme is going to run over the next 12 months, and a good chunk of this first meeting was a chance for us to learn about the history and ideals of Panasonic. We learned how the company was formed by a young Japanese entrepreneur, Konosuke Matsushita, in 1917. His first invention was a double adapter – this was back in the days of the only electric source in a room being the light socket, when people could plug in the light bulb or an electric fire but not both – Matsushita’s invention allowed them to be both warm and able to see at the same time. It was easy to see that a lot of Matsushita’s philosophies and standards are still at the heart of the company today, with inspirational quotes from him on the walls, and each of us handed a little leaflet detailing the company’s “seven principles”. The company has a very simple philosophy, set down by Matsushita – “if it doesn’t make life better, don’t make it”.

As the day progressed we saw a selection of Panasonic products from through the years, had the chance to learn more about some of their current range and had a delicious lunch prepared with Panasonic products. And over the course of the whole day it became clear that it is possible to be a geek about domestic products in the same way that I geek about technology. The team gave us so much information about their products – take a look at the list of notes I made:

  • Panasonic is the largest consumer electronics corporate in the world
  • Panasonic washing machines are the only ones that have detectors in the drums that vary the spin speed if clothes are sticking
  • The Panasonic tumble dryer consumes 24% of the energy of other tumble dryers
  • Panasonic have a 60% share of the bread machine market, achieved with no advertising, just word of mouth
  • The Panasonic bread machine has just won another “Which?” Best Buy award. The only negative point the Which? team came up with was the lack of a viewing window. Apparently Panasonic don’t think this is a negative, as a viewing window can cause condensation on the inside of the bread machine which can affect the loaf!
  • The brand of flour that you use can make a huge difference to the loaf that you get out of your bread machine. Panasonic have a team who test all kinds of flours and they can tell you which ones are good!
  • Panasonic have been making shavers for 60 years
  • If you have blood-stained clothes you should wash them on a cold wash
  • Panasonic made the GameCube for Nintendo – the shining silver one in their museum was absolutely gorgeous!
  • Panasonic made the first CD-based games console. It had a clever way of detecting who was playing based on the way they interacted with the controller, and would dynamically adjust the game difficulty to suit.
  • Panasonic have created the Ideas Kitchen website – a fantastic free resource with recipes, videos and product information, all designed to help you get the best from your Panasonic product.
I really enjoyed learning more about Panasonic and their products, and I think I’ve found a completely new way to be a geek as a result! If you’re interested in hearing more about this event, or future events then please check out the blogs of my fellow Intelligent Living Mums: Claire, Emma, Filipa, Laura, Lucinda, Marianne, Monika, Penny and Sara.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Panasonic. They paid my travel expenses, fed me, and sent me away with a goodie bag.

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