Every product that is manufactured by any organisation is suppose to have a distinguishing physical characteristic which will make it attractive to customers, these characteristic is known as a design. Product design therefore is all about manufacturing a product that will attract the customer and also provide value for them. Since the design of a product is the first impression a customer has about a particular product there is therefore the need for organisations to design products that meet and exceed the customer’s expectations.
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This therefore means that an organisation’s main focus should be to employ experienced operation managers that would design well articulated and desired products that will satisfy the needs of customers at all times. Based on this, therefore the main objective of this report is to examine product design by explaining how it is been influenced by the customer and to also show where it can be identified on the value chain of an organisation. This report is written with the aid of academic textbooks, journals and articles and it is divided into five main sections which are: the Introduction, the literature review, the influence of the customers on product design, identifying product design on the value chain and the conclusion.
Product design is a very important aspect of any organisation and as such this part of the report aims at review comments on product design from various authors.
Product design is a means of adding value to a product by ensuring that its layout is attractive to the customer. Product design is all about trying to link customer needs to product attributes, therefore providing the customer with value.
“Good design satisfies customers, and communicates the purpose of the product to its market. The objective of a good product design is to satisfy the customer by meeting their actual needs or expectation. This therefore enhances the competitiveness of the organisation; product design can therefore be seen as starting and ending with the customer. The job of the product designers is to achieve designs that exceed customer’s expectation. They also try to design product that perform well and is reliable during its lifetime, a product should be designed in such a way that it is easy to manufacture. Using design through a business ultimately boots the bottom line by helping to create better products that compete on value rather than price”.
- Slack et al (2007 pp120)
According to Schroeder (1993 pp 54) product design is crucial to the survival of most firms. While a few firm experience little product change, most firm must continually revise their products. Product design is seldom the responsibility of the operations function but operations is greatly affected by new product introduction and vice versa. Product design is a prerequisite for production. The result of the product design is transmitted to operations as product specifications; these specifications state the desired characteristics of the product and allow production to proceed.
Designing new products is a critical capability, particularly as life cycles for products become shorter. New product design must be introduced to replace outdated design.
According to Chase et al (2006 pp 111) The design of a product differs depending on the industry; for example for consumer products, understanding consumer preference, market testing and prospective product are very important activities. Companies that specialize in the design of products have highly developed processes to support the activities needed for an industry.
To ensure proper design of products that will attract the customers, a firm must decide what their core competency should be. A core competency is the one thing that the firm can do better than other competitors in the market, with the use of the core competency the firm can design valuable product for example, if a firm has core competency in the manufacturing of mobile phones, it can invest most of its resources into the designing of more attractive design of mobile phones.
Nigel et al (2007 pp 120) Further states that good design also helps business connect strongly with their customers by anticipating their real needs, this in turn gives them the ability to set themselves apart in increasingly tough markets. The use of design in generating new ideas and turning them into realities allows organisation to set the pace in their markets. Bennett et al (1988 pp46) The design of a fast food restaurant for example, will comprise elements such as scheduling operations, inventory system, quality control etc.
Hill (2000 pp65) states that all organisation have a range of products at a given time.
To meet up with competition in the product design market, it is necessary to have a complementary fact, relate to the organisations strategic decisions associated with issues such as completeness of range, process capability and distribution costs.
New product design is necessary for survival and growth. Hill (2000) further sated that there are three important factors to be considered during product design. These factors are
- The development and introduction of new product design is both risky and costly.
- Product tends to follow a life cycle.
- Some products designs are or have the potential to be more successful than others.
Based on these statements, it is necessary for management to critically analyse ideas before investing in product design.
It is the responsibility of the product designers to ensure that the product satisfies customers, this can be achieved through the use of modern technology to design product in line with the trend in technological development. The product should also be designed to be functional, attractive, have acceptable dimensions, not too noisy, can be maintained. It is also the responsibility of the finance department to demand a product that will generate adequate return on investment.
The decision made at the design stage of a new product can have a long term influence on the efficiency of the organisation.
Product design should be made in such a way that it is within the budget of the organisation but at the same time meets expectations of the customers and consumers. This is not usually an easy task because the determinants of quality are frequently difficult to identify.
Supporting the statement above according to Bennet et al 1988 pp 61″Time and cost of manufacture both need to be kept to a minimum and the design of any new product should reflect this” Bennet et al further states that these two aspects are usually closely interdependent- a cheap grade of material may require slow machining speeds and thus generate high labour costs, a simple design solution in preference to a complex one may allow the use of unskilled labour rather than skilled workers who are highly paid. Consequently a cheap design will not attract customers and as such there is the need for a more complex design but at a lower cost.
Importance of good product design
1. Good product design attracts more customers thereby giving an organisation a hedge above other competitors in the market.
2. It is also important because it brings together three important issues, the concept, the package and the process.
3. Good design makes a business grow by enhancing profitability and turnover because it transforms the needs of customers into the desired shape and value of the product demanded.
4. It makes life easy and comfortable for the customer by introducing products that are easy to use.
5. Good product design is important in replacing obsolete designs.
The stages of product design
According to Nigel slack et al 2007 pp 123 fully specified designs rarely spring, fully formed from a designer’s imagination. The design activity passes through several key stages before it gets a final design, this therefore forms an approximate sequence.
The stages of product design are: concept generation, concept screening, preliminary design, evaluation and improvement prototype and final design.
The first stage of product design develops the concept behind the design; most times ideas from this stage are gotten from customers through the use of questionnaire or interview, or by listening to customers on a daily basis based on their complaints about a product, ideas at this stage sometimes also gotten from staff who interact with the customers. The next stage is the concept screening stage whereby the concept is screened to ensure addition of relevant product portfolio that meets the defined concept, this stage also ensure proper screening of ideas by assessing the worth or value of each design option. The next stage in product design is the preliminary design; this is usually the first attempt of designing the product to ensure that it includes the entire component product. It also involves specifying the components of the product this means specifically outling the components that will make up the design of the product. The next stage of product design is the evaluation and improvement stage, the purpose of this stage is to examine the preliminary design to find out if it requires any further improvement.
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Nigel et al 2007 pp133 outlined three techniques which can be useful in design evaluation and improvement, they are; quality function deployment (QFD), value engineering (VE), and taguchi methods. The final stage of a product design is the prototype and final design, at this stage the improved design is turned into a prototype for testing, an organisation cannot go into full design without a prototype testing, if satisfied with the performance of the product after testing, the final design is then rolled out and displayed for customers and consumers.
It should be noted that at the beginning of product design stage there is a very high level of uncertainty as regarding what the final design would look like, this is because there could be a number of ways in which a concept could be translated into a final design. During the stages all these possible end designs are successfully eliminated until at the end of the process there is a high level of certainty about what the final design would be like, there are also various costs that are affected during the design stages. The more the changes in the design stages, the higher the cost of design, it is important that as organisations try to design attractive products for its customers there is also the need to watch the cost level because a higher level of product design cost will definitely affect the organisations turnover, so if an organisation intend to design a more sophisticated product, it should first of all calculate the returns it would get from such a product.
The five stages of product design can be narrowed down into three stages as explained below, these stages are; The concepts: This is defined as a clear outline or specification which includes the use and value of the product which can be used to asses the stages of the design, it means understanding the nature, use and value of the products.
The package: this provides the benefits defined in the concept, and is made up of the core and supporting products. The cores are the items that are fundamental to the purchase and cannot be removed without destroying the nature of the package. The other parts serve to enhance the core, and these are the supporting products.
According to Nigel et al 2007 pp 122 the core good is the car while the leather seats and guarantee are the supporting goods. By changing the core, or adding and subtracting supporting goods, organisation can provide packages and create a quite different concept.
Finch 2008 pp 120, the design of a product and the process that produce them cannot be completely independent, the design of a product determine the type of process used to create it. This perspective has guided process design for decades. Recently products have been designed with the view that product design can make a process simpler and less costly.
The process: This is the method by which the product will be created and delivered. The process is the various activities that take place from the beginning to the end of the assembly line, when the product is delivered to the customer or the showroom. The packages of components which make up a product are the ingredients of the design.
Nigel et al 2007 pp 122 further states that producing design for products is a process which conforms to the INPUT-TRANSFORMATION- OUTPUT MODEL. Therefore it has to be designed and managed like other process.
It is important to note that although organisations strife to produce attractive design of product this desire is mostly affected or influenced by the availability of materials and hi-technology.
THE INFLUENCE OF A CUSTOMER ON PRODUCT DESIGN AND A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE
A well designed product makes a great difference to a customers perception of the product, and certain factors influence the decision of a customer about the design of a particular product, these factors are the value attributes, they are the value perceived by a customer, these are what the customer considers before, making a decision to buy a product, these factors are; convenience, cost, technology quality, style/fashion.
The design of a product to a large extent influences the decision of a customer to buy the product, for example, the newly designed touch screen phones introduced by almost all mobile phone manufacturers has really increased their turnover and this is because it is easy and convenient to use, so it can be said that one of the factors that influences the customer concerning product design is how convenient and easy the design is to the customer.
Another factor that can influence a customer is cost, the cost of a well designed product is sometimes too expensive for a customer, and thereby the customer may either decide to buy it or choose an alternative with a lesser design so as to safe cost, on the other hand, from the business perspective a well designed product will increase turnover but the cost of manufacturing will be high. Sometimes it is possible for an organisation to create a cost advantage either by reducing the cost of the individual value chain activities or redesign the product. Redesigning means, changing some aspect of the design so that it can be manufactured at a lower cost
Technology is another factor that influence’s a customer perception of a product design; the need for modern technology can influence a customer’s perception of a product and therefore influence the decision to buy or not to buy a particular product just because its design does not meet the customers expectation, for example the introduction of windows 7 by the Microsoft corporation will encourage customers to buy laptop computers which have this application rather than buying one without windows 7,this because windows 7 is a more sophisticated and modern technology and customers will prefer it to an outdated version of the same computer, this means that the introduction of modern technology or application into a product design will enable the organisation sell more and increase its turnover.
Quality with is all also known as fitness for purpose is also a factor that can influence the customer about product design. An improved quality of a product design can further attract customers; this involves the use of high quality materials in the product design process. The outcome of this is that the product will be well designed and durable and therefore the customer will be willing to pay more and have a product that has a longer life span which can withstand adverse weather conditions rather than buying a low quality product that will not serve its purpose, for example a company that manufactures shoe like Clarks, may decide to use a high quality of leather skin in their product design process, this will lead to the production of quality shoes which has good weather resistant, this will attract customers.
Style and fashion is also a value attribute to customer’s perception of product design, because the latest changes in style and fashion around the globe will seriously influence a customer. To ensure that organisation’s product are attractive to customers, there must be a constant change in the design of products, this means that organisation should endeavour to produce goods that follow the trends of current style and fashion, this attribute is normally feasible in the cloth industry and the target market should be the youths who are fashion crazy, a typical example would be George a subsidiary of ASDA, in the Wal-Mart family, George will increase its turnover if it can produce clothes that meet with the latest and current standard of style and fashion.
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