Important considerations in product design


There are two apparently conflicting considerations that affect the product designing. We can standardize the products and improve the ease of their manufacture. On the other hand, we can offer a variety of products to meet different kinds of customers and their differing needs. There is a trade-off involved here.

When you buy a new electric bulb, you know it will screw into the socket all right, because the bulbs are standardized. There are only a few kinds of bases made. Standard is the word that denotes that there are only specific sizes made and sold. Some people call the process of cutting down on the number of sizes ‘simplification’. Standardization, they say is the process of writing down the size, shape, performance and other attributes of the items you decide to concentrate on. The two concepts are closely related.

Standardization (including simplification) means that non-standard items will not be made except when the customer orders them specially, places a high order, and pays extra for non-standard items.

Sometimes standards have been enacted into law for safety or for health reasons. Mostly though standardization is voluntary, industry wide standardization requires industry-wide cooperation.

Standardization reduces the kinds, types and sizes of raw materials that have to be bought. This lets you buy and so get lower prices per unit. Standardization also cuts down on your manufacturing costs because you get longer runs on the fewer kinds of products that you still make. You can cut set-up costs and use more specialized machines. You also need fewer patterns and tools. We would always be reordering larger quantities of fewer things and so holding down manufacturing costs.

In the markets, there is a demand for low volumes, and high variety. In such a situation, rigid standardization is not the solution. The right approach could be to design a range of products that share parts, people and production processes.

Modular Design

In order to get perceived variety or variety, designers resort to modular construction. Products are made mostly out of easily detachable sub-assemblies or sections. When an item fails they take out the whole component of which it is a part, and put in a new component. Later they can repair the removed unit or throw it away. Modular design is used extensively in computers. Besides different combination of modules give a new variety of product. For instance, four dial shapes, four different colors, two dial movements and two dial sizes for each shape gives us 4x4x2x2x i.e. 64 varieties of wrist watches, still making some standard modules in large volumes.

Form and Functional Design

Product design deals with form and function. Form design deals with the product’s shape and appearance. Functional design deals with how it works or performs. The need for functional design is obvious — the product has to work or it is useless. But how necessary is form design? When customers have no basis of functions, the eye appeal wins. Even machinery makers pay attention to form design, though functional utility is still uppermost. In most situations, it is a trade off between form and function.

Design and Production costs

In designing products, we should keep in mind the production costs. Sometimes initial designs cost more to pro-duce than the market can bear. It needs redesigning so that it costs less to produce. May be we will have to compromise quality in order to get costs down. It means exploring the sales possibilities of the low prices and lower quality product.

Design for Volume Production

Mass-produced items need to be designed so that they can be made at low cost. Products, sub-assemblies and parts are first designed so that they will perform. Then the possibilities of cost reduction and elimination are examined without affecting the functional utility.

Parts are so designed that they can be put on the machines for processing quickly. The sequence of operation is integrated, if we possibly can. Quality and speed is built into- tools. Sub-assemblies are used for assembled products wherever possible.