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Martin Gagne, BEng Mgt '17 and Arnab Barua, BSc. '17

Mechatronics Engineering & Management | Mac grads aim to transform the world of product instructions with "Dux"

With a few swipes on your smartphone, you can place an online order for a sleek and modern new coffee machine. Or vacuum. Or printer.

A confirmation lands in your inbox. The delivery driver captures your signature on an electronic pad.

Open the box containing your new technological gadget and what do you find? Paper user manuals, warranty cards and assembly instructions.

It’s a disconnect that McMaster grads Arnab Barua and Martin Gagne are determined to remedy.

“Product instructions suck. They’re wasteful, they’re outdated and they’re very hard to keep,” says Barua.

“We created Dux to digitize all of that paper and provide consumers with a better way to consume, share and save instructions.”

Their vision?

Your delivery arrives and you tap your phone on the QR code on the outside of the box.

The instructions you need are now displayed on the screen, as well as uploaded to your account for easy access in eight months when the blue light on your coffee maker begins flashing for no obvious reason.

“We see Dux becoming the global library of product instructions,” says Barua, who graduated in 2017 after studying economics.

The former university roommates say their vision is driven by a desire to improve sustainability through economic value.

“Not only can we help with climate change, but we’re also providing a better consumer experience,” says Gagne, a 2017 mechatronics Engineering & Management grad.

For companies, the benefits of digitization are considerable.

Along with being cheaper to make, digital instructions can be updated when necessary. Data can show where customers are struggling with directions, and support links can be integrated into descriptions.

Improving instructions allows companies to reduce the cost of helpline calls and unnecessary returns while making people happier with their purchases.

At the same time, digitized instructions help organizations to reduce their carbon footprints.

“We studied two major consumer goods companies that heavily rely on instructions for the user. They annually consume 760 million pieces of paper for instructions,” says Gagne.

That translates to the need to cut down 38,000 trees and is a “huge sustainability concern,” he adds.

Gagne, who has spent the last four years working in engineering and product development roles, is Dux’s chief technical officer.

The company’s app is now available for download on the Apple and Google Play stores.

A few organizations are currently testing Dux to share instructions with employees and customers, but the app’s easy-to-use templates are also available to users looking to share family recipes, house-sitting instructions or other how-to guides.

“We’ve added a bit of fun and flair to instructions by making them social and open,” explains Barua, who spent the last four years working for IBM as a management consultant and is CEO of Dux.

While the world of the startup features hard work and constant learning, the pair say their passion for the problem and their range of skills are making it an amazing experience.

“We always have a really good way of working together because of our diverse backgrounds,” says Barua. “And we’re building a business that will influence good societal change while giving companies a tool to create, share and monetize their instructions.”


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