From Quality Control to Aftercare, the Hands+ (Hands Plus) Light Series Suitcase Is Packed with a Higher Level of Commitment than Ever!
For those considering buying a new suitcase for travel or business trips comes Tokyu Hands' original Hands+ (Hands Plus) Brand Light Series. Here, we ask the development team not only about this model's features but about quality control and repairs as well. It is brimming with the kind of commitment only found at Tokyu Hands!
The Reason We've Come to Toyooka, Hyogo
This time, we interviewed Hiroshi Yabushita, in charge of quality control for Tokyu Hands' original products and involved in the development of Hands+ suitcases. "There's somewhere I want to take you," said Yabushita, as our staff headed to Hyogo Prefecture
Hiroshi Yabushita, Business Strategy Section
- Mr. Yabushita, thank you for granting us this interview!
It is my pleasure.
- First of all, could you tell us where we are?
We are in the city of Toyooka in Hyogo Prefecture. I wanted to show you Hands+ suitcase repairs, which are performed at the Trio Corporation headquarters and factory here in Toyooka.
- I see! We're looking forward to it.
Right? Let's head to the headquarters straight away.
(A few dozen minutes later)
- Could this be...?
Right, this is Trio!
- Wow! So this is where Hands+ suitcases are repaired.
That's right! By the way, Trio is originally a suitcase and trunk manufacturer, so their repair factory handles not only Hands' products but all kinds of broken suitcases. You can see that each one is carefully fixed by a craftsman.
Today, in cooperation with Trio, we have been granted an interview with one of the craftsmen! However, before we do that, could you please tell us a bit about the Light Series suitcases?
Hands+ Light Suitcase Front Open Type 38 L, ¥19,900 + tax
Hands+ Suitcases, Passing Rigorous Tests Before Making Their Way to the World
- Once again, thank you.
As the name Light Series suggests, this product is characteristic for its light weight and is one of our most popular items.
Demonstrating how light it is
- What is the secret behind its lightness?
The main reason is that we use polycarbonate for the body. Polycarbonate is extremely strong, meaning it can be made thin. Furthermore, there are different kinds of polycarbonates, but we choose virgin materials rather than recycled ones. That said, simply making something light is not that hard. The challenge is seeing how light you can make it while still maintaining durability.
- What sort of solutions did you come up with to make it both light and durable?
Even suitcases that claim to use polycarbonate are often not 100% polycarbonate, but we only use polycarbonate for all three layers of the body. To be honest, we had many challenges before we were able to accomplish this, but I think we've achieved the lightness and durability that satisfies our customers.
- The fact that it is lightweight means it is easy to use regardless of age or sex, doesn't it?
That's right. I believe we have created a model that we can recommend to a wide range of people. In terms of making it easy to use, we have also focused on making the wheels quieter, and we have cut the sound of the wheels rolling to about half that of our conventional models. That is why it remains quiet even on roads that are not flat, like cobblestones, for instance, making it convenient for those traveling early in the morning or late at night.
- Who makes the wheels?
We use sound-suppressing wheels from Hinomoto Jomae, a company specializing in suitcase wheels which is very famous in the industry. Besides the fact that they are quiet, a part of the appeal of these wheels is that they run smoothly and last a long time.
- I see! It's lightweight, durable, and what's more, it's quiet! What an overachiever!
What I have explained--the durability and locomotion--have been tested for quality in a variety of scenarios and situations in which the customers will use the suitcase, before putting them out in stores.
- Can you give specific examples of the kinds of tests that are performed?
For durability, assuming the suitcase will be packed, we put weights inside, then dropped it from a height of 90 cm 3 times each on the side with the wheels and the side with the hinges, once each for the sides with the main handle, side handle, and then on each side of the body.
Image of the drop test
- That's quite a drop! Does that mean only suitcases that can withstand these kinds of shocks are sold?
That's right. Also, for the running performance test, we put in weights like in the drop test and run it at a speed of 4 km/h, then check for abnormalities in the wheels.
Image of running performance test
- So there are a variety of tests performed on the suitcases.
We perform strength tests as well, in which weights are put in the case and the suitcase is lifted up and down by the handle hundreds or thousands of times.
- Are these tests the same as other suitcase manufacturers?
In general, all companies perform tests, but the contents, such as the weight or how far the suitcase has to travel, varies from company to company. Tokyu Hands standards are made rigorous to hold our own against other manufacturers.
- The price is incredible considering how well-made they are!
Thank you! That makes it worth going through the trouble to make them.
Other than that, "Light Series" also have recommendations regarding the function.
- We now would like to ask the craftsman about the repairs...
Oh, but wait, there is still more I want to tell you about the Light Series features.
- Oh, I'm sorry! What kind of features are those?
First of all, it opens in the front. Although this feature is only available for the 38-liter suitcase from the Light Series, you don't have to go through the trouble of laying the suitcase down when you want to open your suitcase. For instance, you can put a wallet or a folding umbrella in the suitcase and easily take them out when you are out. Also, since the pockets are lined with cushions, you can stow computers or tablets without worrying.
- So you could easily put in bottled drinks you bought while you're out. That's convenient!
The next thing I would like you to pay attention to is the stopper attached to the side. While the Light Series was originally introduced in 2012, it was dramatically improved in 2016. One of the new features added during this revamp is this side stopper. The stoppers flip down easily just by sliding down the button.
- Why were stoppers put on the side?
While many stoppers are attached to the wheels and are put down by stepping on it, we received comments that it was difficult to use this type of stopper, for instance, when you were standing on a train. That is why we put it in a location that would be easy to reach whether you were sitting or standing.
- I see! You're right, switching the stopper on and off is easy when it is on this part.
The final thing I would like to introduce is the inside. Both sides of the suitcase have zippered partitions.
- So this means the things inside the suitcase won't get all jumbled up.
What's more, since what you have packed is hidden by the partition, you can open it up at the station, airport, or even department stores without worrying about the people around you. Furthermore, the inside is made of water-repellent fabric, which also has deodorant and antibacterial tags, meaning we've put considerable effort in the suitcase interiors.
- The checkered design is lovely!
Appearances are, after all, important. Speaking of the design, we were particular about the colors for the body. We aimed for exquisite colors that weren't too eccentric so that anyone would want to have, regardless of gender or age.
- I like how the wheels and handles are the same color as the body.
Since each part is made of a different material, it was surprisingly difficult to find matching colors. We took more than half a year, repeatedly making prototypes and modifying them until we found the colors we were satisfied with.
Don't Worry If Your Suitcase Breaks - Skilled Craftsmen Are Here
- Our craftsman is finally here!
Yes, my apologies for the wait! The person we'll be talking to today is Tsutomu Taniguchi!
Taniguchi：Thank you for having me.
Yabushita：Thank you so much for coming.
- Thank you for giving us your time even though you are busy. Mr. Taniguchi, how long have you been working at Trio?
Taniguchi：I guess it has been about 20 years.
- Wow, you're an expert! Do other craftsmen here have such a long career?
Taniguchi：No, I am one of the people who has worked here the longest, most of the craftsmen are younger than me.
Yabushita：You're a reliable fellow!
- You work not only on Hands+ suitcases but all kinds of suitcase repairs. How many suitcases do you fix per day?
Taniguchi：Taniguchi: Right, I would have to say about 10 at most. I don't just do repairs all day but a variety of work, such as making repair estimates or responding to phone calls from end users, that kind of thing. If I could concentrate solely on repairs, I could probably do about 20 per day.
- How many broken suitcases are sent here each day?
Taniguchi：During busy times, we sometimes get nearly 20 a day. It varies depending on the season, so usually during peak travel seasons such as Golden Week or the end of the year, we get more.
Yabushita：So just before the travel season, right?
Taniguchi：We have a lot of customers who take a suitcase out of the closet for the first time in a while, discover it is broken, and ask us to repair it as fast as possible. This is because suitcases that are stowed for long periods of time without use may experience deterioration on the body or parts and end up breaking down.
- Wait, suitcases can break down even when they aren't being used?
Taniguchi：Yes, they actually last longer if you take them outside and use them at least once a year. Even if you don't travel anywhere, just taking it out and pulling it along in front of your house makes a difference.
- So taking it out every once in a while is important if you don't want to have any trouble just before a trip! By the way, which part do you repair the most often?
Taniguchi：That has to be the wheels. After that, I would say cracks or dents in the body. Using the suitcase wears the wheels down, and the body may experience damage when checked in at the airport.
- Besides the airport example, what are the other common reasons suitcases break down?
Taniguchi：The trolley bar and lock in particular break down due to incorrect use. If the stopper is in place and the owner tries to lift up the trolley bar, it may break, and the trolley bar sometimes bends when the suitcase is knocked over. When it comes to the lock, people sometimes lose the spare key while traveling and have no choice but to break it.
Yabushita: Also, people sometimes forget that the stoppers are in place and try to move the suitcase, scraping a part of the wheels away.
A part of the wheel that has been chipped off.
- Oh...it's really chipped off there. How would you fix this?
Taniguchi：Wheels are consumables, so we generally fix them by just replacing the parts. On the other hand, if the frame of the body becomes deformed due to impact, this part cannot be replaced, so it takes time to repair.
- Is there a specific person in charge of the body or some kind of division of labor based on the parts?
Taniguchi：No, we don't have any special divvying up of duties, so workers here must be able to handle all parts. That said, a newcomer won't be able to handle all the parts right away, so at first, those who have been here a while will mentor the newcomers and help them polish their skills. Of course, the way to repair something depends on the product, so we study every day.
Yabushita：Trio shares the requests and comments we receive from our customers with us, and once a month we get together with the people from the Trio Tokyo office and have a meeting to discuss what breakdowns or defects are most frequent and how to improve the product. Also, we receive feedback like how we said earlier that many breakdowns occur due to misuse, so we try to make sure to tell customers at our shops the correct way to use them.
- I see! So the comments from Trio are used in communication with customers and in making products.
Taniguchi：When there is a problem, the important thing is not to let it end simply with "the product was bad," but to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, and to apply it in the future.
Yabushita：Exactly. I hope Trio continues working hard in the future, not only fixing broken suitcases but giving advice from the perspective of repair professionals, to help make suitcases that will satisfy customers! Mr. Taniguichi and everyone at Trio, thank you so much for your time, and I hope we can work together in the future!
With a commitment to functionality and quality as well as aftercare services to put the customer's mind at ease, the Hands+ suitcase is a product that can be recommended with pride. Those unsure of which suitcase to buy, head to the store and give it a try.
* Items introduced in this article may not be available in some stores. Please contact stores for information regarding stock.
* The featured product may need to be specially ordered at the store.
* Please note that prices and specifications are subject to change and that availability is limited.
* Photos may include items for display purposes.