You might have heard, Gillette are releasing a new razor; the Gillette Fusion ProGlide. Ape to Gentleman brought you an exclusive UK first hands-on review back in August. The new Gillette ProGlide is due for release on the 25th January 2011 and in light of this I was invited to Gillette’s Reading Innovation Centre (RIC) to see where it was created.
RIC is essentially Gillette’s chocolate factory – have you seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Okay, so the RIC might not be as tasty but for me it follows a similar pattern… it’s not run by a mad man called Willy Wonka but it is run by scientists who are as mad-passionate about razors and razor blade performance as Mr Wonka is about chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, RIC is a serious place but there’s a side to it which is no doubt termed ‘research’ where the scientists beaver away at all aspects or razor-creation from razor design through to hair cutting angles at the minutest of detail, testing and retesting and trying and retrying everything until they arrive at the holy grail, the everlasting gobstopper.
I’m not saying the new Gillette ProGlide is an everlasting gobstopper nor the holy grail of shaving because technology will advance and new, better ingredients will emerge but for now, the men and women at RIC have meticulously analysed every aspect of shaving to deliver their newest and best creation to date, the Gillette ProGlide. The broad range of scientists, engineers and technologists at the RIC, perhaps more than 100 people are all working towards one (essentially) goal… the best razor they can possibly conceive. In a way it’s kind of crazy, all these exceptionally clever people trying to create this small device just to help men achieve a better shave.
My day started with an introduction to the RIC followed by a tour of the centre. Perhaps the most surreal part of the day was at the beginning of the tour where I witnessed a man shaving (1 of 20,000 a year at the RIC), looking head on at him through a two-way mirror – quite strange. This is all done in the name of data, analysing how men shave which can then be translated in turn into product design i.e. shaving comfort. I was then shown slow motion videos of how real hair and skin interacts with a razor blade, to designing and prototyping razors and blades through to a very cool machine that builds razor handle prototypes from layers of materials to blade manufacture and extensive quality control.
Despite the initial disappointment of the RIC being a fairly dull looking red brick building and not a futuristic contemporary styled building like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, I left feeling like my beard’s future was in good hands. RIC is a place with Wonka-like vision but oozing scientists with Ph.D.’s, futuristic equipment, a can-do attitude and no Oompa-Loompa’s in sight.
My lasting thought from the Gillette Reading Innovation Centre was from Dr Nigel Kermode, Director of Global Blades and Razors Research and Development at the RIC. I asked; what if you conjure a thought but don’t have the mechanical ability to turn it into a real product? He simply said, “we make it happen”. The Gillette Fusion ProGlide and all the RIC’s might is available to the world from Niven & Joshua.