How Ensto’s Jari Silvennoinen and Harri Turunen did what others could not and made homes and offices a lot less ugly.
One might be tempted to think it’s a conspiracy. For the last three decades the European standard of double socket outlets has been 85 x 100 millimeters, with the first socket placed directly over the second.
A major manufacturer created an 85mm square design with sockets set at a 45-degree angle, but this design still meant a rat’s nest of sprawling wires, with cables running opposite directions when both sockets are engaged.
Then Ensto’s Jari Silvennoinen and Harri Turunen came to the rescue.
In 2013, Ensto Key Account Manager Jari Silvennoinen approached his friend Harri Turunen. Jari felt the existing 45-degree design was simply not acceptable and wanted to create a product that served the end user.
He had been playing around with a hand-sketched idea of how two outlets could be placed diagonally, yet allow the cables to run in the same direction. It had never been done before, and he asked Harri, Ensto Senior Product Designer, if he thought it was possible.
Harri had been designing outlets and switches for decades. If anyone would know whether it was possible, it would be Harri.
Harri lost a lot of sleep trying to figure it out. But, then again, not sleeping was just Harri’s way of working.
“When I get an idea my brain works 25/7 – that’s lunchtime and at night,” says Harri. “I can’t sleep. I keep thinking ‘Why can’t this be done?’ All night I try to find a reason why it can’t be done. Normally I can’t and then the solution comes!”
Harri did find a solution. It took him weeks, but he found a way to set the sockets in an 85mm-square frame at 48 degrees. The competition had a patent on 45 degrees, but their solution was not elegant. Harri also removed a couple of double plastic walls inside the socket, and he had his solution.
So why had no one ever done it before? “So many people told me it was simply impossible to do,” says Jari.
“Also,” adds Harri, “Big players in the market would not have wanted to do it. Consider the amount of investment they have wrapped up in products that already dominate the market.” But it was an ideal product for a mid-sized, agile company like Ensto.
As fate would have it, about this time Ensto decided to re-enter the wiring accessories business, so Jari and Harri applied for a patent as Ensto searched for a distribution partner. Jari and Harri knew they needed a partner where their double socket outlet would fit into an existing product line.
Jung’s LS990 series seemed a perfect fit, and it served as the base for the new Ensto Intro series which was launched with assistance from Hubertus Wernsmann of Albrecht Jung GmbH, the iconic German company specializing in switches and socket outlets.
In September 2016, Ensto launched the double socket as part of its Ensto Intro product family, approximately one thousand different products. The new double socket is already popular with customers.
Harri’s design is one which works in Finnish- (54 mm box), Scandinavian- (60 mm rotating ring), and German (64 mm box) standard openings, which means it could potentially conquer most of Europe. It’s already being produced in multiple colors for hospitals, as well as office tones, and additional new products are on the horizon.
So why would any consumer want the old socket after seeing Jari and Harri’s new one? a visiting journalist asks. “I have no idea,” Harri answers, though he’s admittedly a little biased.
Without trying too hard one can imagine the double socket as the subject of a Hollywood thriller. Tom Hanks will play Harri, who’s pitted against an international consortium of bad guys who’ll stop at nothing to eliminate the double socket outlet.
But it’s too late already. Thousands of units have already sold. And so the world will enjoy Ensto’s double socket outlet. And Harri may now finally get a good night’s sleep.
Author: Scott Diel