Product design is a cross-functional organization work that has become increasingly important in today’s globalized environment. It is where new products and new improvements on old products are created. It is critical to an organization’s success as it sets the characteristics of its products and services…
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Although the basic design concept of producing a product in answer to a consumer need has remained relevant and valid, so much has changed in the objectives, processes, methodologies and techniques to arrive at the end product.
Kassi reports that in the beginning of the old era some 250 years ago, the focus was more on product quantity than quality as the demand for products was not yet developed and the production processes were crude. Certainly, there was emphasis on cost reduction but this was without regard to the quality of the end product, an attitude that was carried through till the beginning of the scientific era and on to the period when industries began mass producing.
The scientific managers carried forward their time-motion studies, process analysis and queuing theories which consequently became seeds for the moving assembly line, linear programming and statistical sampling that were being used in mass production.
This mass production system became vogue up to the latter part of the 20th century, by which time the market has fully bloomed and demand has ripened for new products. This heightened demand signaled the beginning of quality in production, but the moving production line was not up to par with the costs it involved. Hence, new methods were sought and thus began the use of computing, automation and lean production systems that ushered in such concepts as just-in-time, CAD design, electronic data interchange and TQM, among other late concepts. (Kassi, 2008). Inside that process of evolution, equally evolving was product design as it is now known. It is the aim of this paper to take a close look at product design and examine its role in the modern configuration of business, particularly as it is being promoted to take on a responsibility in achieving competitive advantage for a business firm. Product Design As a general concept, product design would simplistically refer to the process by which new products are designed and produced. But Achenie et al (2003) look at product design as a series of steps leading to the completion of a product that is ready for use. The steps involved are define the needs, generate ideas to meet the needs, select the best idea and manufacture the product (Achenie et al, 2003). On the other hand, Synthesis Engineering Services may be a biased information source for this research but it would be worthwhile to look at their conceptual presentation of the steps in product design. Their presentation shows a very clear picture of the whole process from identifying the bright idea to defining the requirements to information gathering and planning to design to prototyping to production (Synthesis, 1996). This sequence is, in fact, aligned with what Luecke (2003) offers as a process involving the generation of ideas, evaluation of these ideas, development of the selected ideas and conversion of the ultimately chosen ideas to useful products. It is easy to see that product design is the key process, if not a strategy, in the overall effort of an organization to achieve outstanding end results. Cresswell et al (2004) agrees that it is in product design where new products or product improvements emanate and take form. Looking at it another way, product design is the driving force of a company’s initiative at creativity and innovation. Luecke (2003) believes that, if innovation is what will put the
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