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Devices clear a path to profits.

ROBOTS ARE TAKING OVER THE EARTH! No, it's not the tagline for some summer Hollywood blockbuster, it's just the latest tactic that household product marketers are using to boost profit margins. For years, Happi has been telling our readers how more companies are turning to cleaning devices to boost profits. It started more than a decade ago, when industrial and institutional cleaning product companies began offering equipment to help make the entire cleaning process faster, cheaper and nearly fool-proof. Now the trend has spilled over to household cleaning product companies in a big way ... courtesy of MIT.

Back in the late 1980s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence Lab was developing robots. Three researchers, Rod Brooks, Colin Angle and Helen Greiner, left academia to create a new class of consumer products to make life easier and fun for time-strapped consumers. Hmm, sounds exactly like the corporate mission for a lot of consumer product companies.

A couple of years ago, their company (iRobot) rolled out Roomba, a robot that vaccuums floors, and since then, the company has sold more than 1.2 million units. Now, iRobot is back in the news with Scooba, an artificial intelligence-based robot that roams the room, scrubs the floor with cleaning liquid, rinses it, then sucks up the excess water and stores it to be dumped later. According to the folks at iRobot, Scooba will clean better than a mop, which often redistributes dirty water. The company worked with Clorox to develop a special cleaning fluid that allows the wheels to grip. The robot, expected to cost about $300, will be available in time for Christmas.

Whether Scooba is a hit, its development signals a new chapter in household cleaning. Successful marketers such as Procter & Gamble and Clorox have recognized the important role that devices play in expanding profit margins. To compete effectively in this brave new world, marketers must step up their efforts to think out of the box when it comes to delivering products that capture the attention of consumers.

You'll find a range of successful ideas--and a few clunkers, too--in this edition of The Top 50. Once again, P&G is No. 1 on our list, while Colgate-Palmolive is a distant No. 2. Rounding out the top 10 are S.C. Johnson, Estee Lauder, Avon Products, Ecolab, Johnson & Johnson, Alberto-Culver, Clorox and Johnson Diversey and Access Business Group, which tied for 10th.

We hope you enjoy this edition of The Top 50. As always, we welcome your comments on our ranking, as well as anything else that appears in Happi. Be sure to read our August issue, which will include The International Top 30, our annual look at the largest manufacturers of household and personal products with corporate headquarters outside the U.S.


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Title Annotation:The Top 50
Author:Branna, Tom
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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