Opinion

Sir James Dyson – the man, the company and the vision

Dyson

Sir James Dyson founded Dyson in 1991 – ostensibly to build a better vacuum cleaner. Since then, Dyson has been answering questions that others have not yet even thought to ask.

Dyson applies science to everything it does. Sir James is an engineer and probably describes his daily cornflakes as desiccated corn baked at 350° and rolled and crisped. I would hate to see his ‘Dysonised’ 140,000 RPM toothbrush!

James Dyson
Love those purple ‘Potter’ glasses

Today Dyson is a global technology company with engineering and testing operations in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and the UK. Dyson employs over 12,000 people globally (over 4000 in the UK) including more than 5800 engineers and scientists – with an increasing proportion in South East Asia.

The more I review Dyson products, the more I appreciate the Dyson formula.

  • Always finding better ways to do things
  • Harnessing young engineers not constrained by old ideas
  • Absolutely no design compromise – properly or not at all as evidenced by the number of design prototypes and scientists involved
  • And Dyson’s next model always manages improves on its last which was damned good in the first place

Dyson has leading-edge technology in

  • Aerodynamics, airflow and air multiplier – application of the Coandă effect and aerodynamics in designing things to use airflow effectively like its fan/heater/purifiers, Supersonic hairdryer and Dyson Blade dryers
  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) and air treatment/filtration like its fans, humidifiers and purifiers
  • Vision systems including AI and machine learning
  • DC powered digital motors that can scale up or down to fit a car to a hairdryer
  • Developing DC battery technology is key to portability in vacuum cleaners to electric vehicles
  • Beginnings of robotics and automation relating to household appliances
  • Lighting and well being
  • Hair science – Supersonic and Airwrap
  • And the application of electronics for sensors and control

So, whether it is a vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, bladeless fans/purifiers/heaters, hand dryer or lighting, it is leveraging Dyson’s patents.

Innovation inspired by a Harrier Jump Jet – which Dyson happens to own!

The company started in the UK but in 2019 moved its corporate headquarters to Singapore to be closer to its Malaysia and Singapore manufacturing base.

Dysons new Malmesbury UK Campus

Dyson has also established the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology. It is a £44m investment based at its Malmesbury Campus in Wiltshire UK. Students work in a position in the Dyson company for three days a week, receive a salary, and have their tuition fees paid for.

The Dyson Undergraduate Village has 63 pods inspired by Habitat 67, a model community and housing complex in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. At the centre of the village is the ‘Roundhouse’, with a café, bar, screening room and study space. Joe Croan, the former Head Chef at Marco Pierre White’s, Michelin starred restaurant L’Escargot restaurant in Soho manages the cafe.

Malmesbury Campus

The adjacent ‘Hanger’ has a fully equipped gym, multi-sport pitches, and free classes ranging from boxing to yoga.

Hangar

A further 3,000m2 teaching hub on the Malmesbury Campus will open in September 2019.

Director of The Dyson Institute, Duncan Piper, said,

“The Dyson Institute of Engineering is a new model of education combining the rigour of degree education with the advantage of working alongside world-experts on real products. Embedding our Undergraduates into our Global Engineering Team does not just benefit their academic learning, the teams benefit too. It is incredibly exciting to see our UK campus evolve into a centre of academic, as well as technical expertise.”

Research

Dyson is always trying to invent a better way to do something – everything.

The company invests in long term research like vision systems for robots (Imperial College of London); Fluid mechanics (University of Cambridge); Digital motors and drive trains (Newcastle University); solid-state battery technology; and it previously secret electric vehicle project due for release in 2021.

It has funded numerous projects that may lead to a better ‘mouse-trap’.

Being a good corporate citizen

A substantial portion of the price you pay for a Dyson product goes to charitable and education causes.

The James Dyson Foundation, James Dyson’s charitable trust supports ventures that budding inventors need so that they can get hands-on with problems, think differently, and find solutions.

It supports the Dyson School of Design Engineering at the Imperial College London.

It also supports the James Dyson Award is an international student design award running in 18 countries. Its mission is to encourage the next generation of design engineers to be creative, challenging and inventive. The James Dyson Award is presented jointly to students and their university.

James Dyson Awards

In 2018 in the US alone the Foundation gave $11.7 million in grants to encourage economic vitality, strengthen the regional non-profit sector, engage in public policy work, enhance education, and provide health and safety net services for those most in need.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – not

Dyson design is unique. It’s business model is unique, and the price is the price. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the ‘fake’ stakes are high. You can read Dyson’s take on counterfeiting here.

There is a huge business in fake Dyson Supersonic hair dryers. The copycats have the cheek to charge just under the Dyson price to make it look kosher. The goods look the same but break down quickly, harm hair and are a fire risk.

Supersonic fake
Dyson on the left – fake on the right

Dyson filters are another facing a raft of fakes. The so-called ‘genuine’ HEPA and activated charcoal filters sell on AliExpress, eBay and Amazon offer free postage and sell for 10-20% below the genuine article so as not to raise suspicion. A Dyson engineer I spoke to said. “The fakes claim to be HEPA and activated charcoal but are as effective as a disposable baby nappy. And you can’t buy genuine Dyson on those market sites anyway”.

Also popular are fake replacement batteries for Dyson Cordless vacuum cleaners. The genuine Dyson battery replacement costs $95 (3600mAh). Fakes sell for about $60-$70 and are 3000mAh using low charge cycle batteries that will wear out in a year or so. Note the Dyson V11 now has a micro-chipped battery that is required to enable the smarts.

Fakes are often sold under the guise of a ‘Dyson Factory Outlet’ – there is no such thing.

You can even find fake Dyson V10 and V11 vacuums at around $800-900 when the genuine ones range from $1099-1249. Ditto for fan/heaters etc.

It is not just the fake angle but the scam angle where crazy prices lure in shoppers who end up losing money or facing ID theft. One site oyrvj.com is continuously shut down but reappears with a different DNS to trap shoppers. Beware of so-called Black Friday specials – they are usually fakes.

Dyson Outlet
A typical Dyson ‘Factory Outlet – all fakes

James Dyson is a frequent critic of ‘foreign students’. He said, “Britain is very proud about the number of foreign students we educate at our universities, but actually all we are doing is educating our competitors. […] I’ve seen frightening examples. Bugs are left in computers so that the information continues to be transmitted after the researchers have returned home.”

GadgetGuy’s take – The more I study Dyson, the more I appreciate him and the company

This is a unique company led by a unique, approachable man.

His eldest son Jake is now the companies Research and Development Director as well as Chief Lighting Engineer.  He is a chip off the block – an accomplished inventor, designer, and entrepreneur in his own right.

Jake Dyson

I think the man sums it up so well

“The beauty of a family business is that you worry about getting the product right, not about any investors with short-term views or what others think. I would hate to be a public company. We can be very long-term, developing technology that can take years to come to fruition. We can be patient.”

“Dyson is completely unafraid to go into an industry where there are very established companies that have been doing it for decades – we don’t care about that. We are not afraid about that. All we want to do is solve a problem. Invent things and solve problems. Develop technology, invest in technology, to solve those problems, and make much, much better products. This is why, through the investment in technology and being focused on that, we can go into new areas, to design different products, to solve more problems, and to enter into new industry areas, and disrupt. I wouldn’t do a product if there’s no problem to solve”

I, for one, will never complain about the price of a Dyson product.