Exercise 37 – Design a Washer and Dryer

Post and review answers and feedback to answers in the comments section of this post.

See also:


How to answer a product design question in a product manager job interview

List of product design questions for product manager job interviews

Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Bijannabspm Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

There are a lot of washers and dryer combos out there and the one that has recently made a name for itself is Xeros – which saves water and detergent.

I would like to take the standard washer and dryer product and try to address some basic pain points that I would like to solve in priority order:

1.What should be my wash/dry cycle?- Having to figure out whether you need a gentle wash cycle, a standard wash cycle or a heavy-duty wash cycle. Similarly – how long should I dry my clothes without damaging them? How am I impacting the life of my clothes by washing/drying them as often as I do?

2. Mixing colored and white clothes – Many of us have done this. We have accidentally added a colored piece of clothing to a load of whites or have not bothered with separating the whites and the colored clothing and gotten a pile of tie-dyed clothes. I would like to figure out a smart way to solve this problem.

3. Noisy sounds to indicate that my washer or dryer is done with its job – Many washer- dryers have noisy alerts at the end of a cycle to indicate that the cycle is complete. I would like to have a quieter and more subtle indicator that the job is done

4. Folding clothes – This is a little bit of a moonshot but its harder to find time to sort, fold and put away clothes as compared to washing and drying them.

5. Moving clothes from the washer to the dryer – One of the other pain points for washer-dryer systems is moving clothes out from the washer and moving them to the dryer. I would like to have a way for clothes to either wash and dry in the same system. Or if its not optimal to design a system to be a washer and a dryer – I would like to build a capability to automatically move the clothes from the washer to the dryer

Problem 1:
a. I would use camera vision to determine the nature of the clothes (silk, cotton, etc) that are being put in to the washer and to understand how dirty they are – and recommend a wash cycle for the clothes.
b. I would have a capability to weigh the load (and use information from #1 to automatically to determine the amount of detergent and water required to wash them.
c. I would also have a container/module to store the detergent from which the right quantity of detergent can be extracted based on on the nature, weight and soiled condition of the clothes.
d. Depending on the outcome of the wash – the user can provide feedback about the wash which would help improve the quality of the wash recommendation going forward.

Customer benefit: That way- you take the guess work out of the process and the machine can help make the decision. The algorithm gets better with customer feedback. You would train the module with manual input – with image recognition, time prediction, detergent and water quantity prediction data

The entire UI can be on the mobile device of the user and can be operated through the washer-dryer mobile app.
Once you load the machine, you dont even need to stand there to set your wash cycle.

Cons – This could be very expensive from a implementation and hardware perspective.

Problem 2: Again, I would use camera vision to determine if there is a colored piece of clothing in the load that might affect the whole load and provide mobile alerts to the user to remove the clothing. Better yet, if we have a eject capability to take out the suspect piece of clothing from the load.

Pros – You can rest assured that the machine will detect any mistakes that humans might have made. You can stop the cycle from your phone in case you/machine are not in a position to take out the colored clothing from the machine.
Cons – While it is fairly easy to detect colored clothing amidst white or vice versa via camera vision, what if the clothing is hidden amidst the pile? Have to think through this capability. As with any camera vision product, tech is still nascent here and will need to be improved before a full scale launch can be done.

Problem 3- As mentioned in 2, if you have a mobile interface to your washer/dryer- you can get alerts and notifications right on your mobile device and do not need noisy alarms waking up your whole house and neighborhood.
I dont think this has any cons. This should be the easiest to implement as we now have the capability to lock doors through mobile as well. I havent done my research but perhaps this capability already exists for some washer/dryers.

Problem 4 – Folding clothes- I would like to have a robotics capability built in to the dryer to automatically take freshly dried clothes and fold them after the cycle. This can be an optional attachment to the unit. I remember seeing an innovative product like this on a youtube video once. Dont know if this is available yet for mass production. I would certainly like to explore it.
Pros – Its a great feature
Cons – Implementation might be hard depending on tech capabilities available

Problem 5 – Moving clothes from washer to dryer – I would like to have the same unit do the washing and the drying so that you dont have to remember to move clothes between them. This should be fairly doable but would require additional capabilities and horse power in the same mechanical/electrical unit.
Other option is to have a mechanical chute which uses electricity, gravitational mechanics to move the clothes from one unit to the other once washing is done. The user should be able to control on his/her mobile device which clothes they want to send to the dryer vs not.
Pros – By setting the right relative height between the washer and dryer and building the mechanical/electrical capability, this seems very doable
Cons – The mechanical chute solution could be very cumbersome and bulky and perhaps could damage clothes. Needs to go through R&D and testing.

Overall these solutions would be expensive except for the #3 solution. I would recommend partnering with detergent vendors who can have their advertising on the body of the washer/dryer which can have an LCD screen to show live ads. These vendors can also compete to have their detergent pre-filled in the detergent module of the washer (#1) – to help fund and reduce costs overall.
I am not going in to pricing and go to market strategy here as this is a design question.


Hi Nabspm,
Thank you for the answer. It’s very detailed, structured, and easy to follow. The only feedback I would have is to say I would first ask what the goal of the design of the washer / dryer is. Do they have a particular objective in mind? (e.g. do they want to enable faster wash, increase lifetime of clothes, or something else) If they don’t have an objective in mind, I would select one particular objective and focus on features that help achieve that particular goal.