What is Product Design?
Design of a product means determining the shape, standard and pattern of the product. C. S. Deverell has defined product design as
Design, in its broadest sense includes the whole development of a product through all the preliminary stage until actual manufacturing begins.
This definition of design cannot be said to be satisfactory because it does not clarify the aspect of design completely.
The Indian Patents and Design Act explains the design as
the feature or shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to any article by any industrial process whether manual, mechanical or chemical, which in the finished article appeal to and are judged solely by the eye, but does not include any mode or principle of constructing or anything which is a mere mechanical device and does not include any trademark.
The term designing the product refers to the determination of shape, standard and pattern of the product. It includes
- Experimental and development work for the production of desired product,
- Calculation of estimates and drafting estimates of contracts for new inquiries, and
- Issuing necessary instructions to the production department for production.
Generally, a separate technical department is established in big industries that is assigned the responsibility of designing the product. The technical department must clearly specify what is to be produced by the production department not only because it has been entrusted with the task of designing the product, but also for gaining and retaining the goodwill of other manufacturers and consumers who will use the product.
It is advisable that the cooperation of other concerning departments should be sought in designing the product. Production and sales departments are two main departments concerned. Thus, designing of a product must be integrated with production and sales functions.
Characteristics of a Good Product Design
A good product design should posses the following characteristics:
A product can be sold if it meets the needs of the consumer and as such the product must be designed to meet such needs. For example, a customer expects a gas lighter to be convenient (i.e., to instantly light the gas stove). If the gas lighter cannot achieve that, then the purpose is lost as the basic function is not met.
It is the probability that there will not be any major failure of the product during its use. For example, if certain components of a product are put into use very often, the reliability of each component should be staggeringly high which may not be practical from production point of view. To overcome this problem, duplicate components can be operated in parallel i.e., if one component fails its duplicate may be put into operation.
The lubrication points and other areas for servicing of the product to be designed, ought to be easily accessible even though the physical form may have to be altered a bit. The alternative is to make a trouble free product with expensive design. The trade off between being trouble-free and maintainability is an important decision at the design stage and it mainly depends on the nature of the product. The after sales feedback from customers is quite valuable in improving upon the maintainability of a product.
A product should be designed in such a manner that it can be produced easily at a reasonable cost. Least number of operations are required to produce a product quickly and cheaply. This may be possible with change in technology. For example, instead of machining an intricate part such as gear, it can be molded, without affecting its function.
Producibility can also be enhanced by reducing work content of the job involved. For example, the instrument panel of a car used to be maize of wires. This has been redesigned with a printed circuit board where only multiple pin plug needs to be connected into it. This has resulted into reduced work content and greater product reliability.
Simplification and producibility go hand in hand. The simpler the design of the product, the easier it is to produce, the lesser it costs and more reliable it is.
6. Product standardization and variety reduction
Variety to a large extent depends on market forces. The larger the market, the greater is the degree of standardization possible which makes economies of scale possible. If there is a competitive market, products can have a selling edge if variety is offered. This will involve a design for the product in such a way which will lend itself to modularisation so as to gain advantage of large production.
A good quality product design ensures that the quality of a final product is obtained through its individual components. The tolerance specified at every stage ensures a end product with the desired quality.
8. Minimum cost
Design influences manufacturing cost. A good product design must ensure minimum manufacturing cost. Some of the areas in which savings can be effected at the design stage have been discussed already.
Whether or not a manufacturer is legally bound to put right whatever wrong the customer does is the question here. The point is, a customer is too valuable to be lost, especially if the manufacturer wishes to retain him and established his goodwill. Breakdown of a component may or may not owe their origin to poor maintenance or misuse of the component by a customer — it may be due to faulty material, faulty design and faulty processing. The manufacturer must keep in mind the importance of a customer and the costs to be incurred in fixing up a product for the customer.
10. Modular design
The products should consist of detachable components or sub-assemblies so that whenever a component fails, it can be replaced by a new one easily. The use of standard sub-assembly gives rise to numerous end products in different combinations. The concept is known as modularity.
The need of a modular design is enforced by the customer who wants a variety to choose from what he/she likes the best. Maintaining stocks of modules and assembling them promptly enable the manufacturer to offer variety in customer’ s hands. Thus, the advantages of modular diversity can be listed as:
- Diversity can be offered to the customers
- Inventories can be substantially reduced.
- Cannibalization i.e., using parts of one equipment salvaged for use in another application is made easy.
- Repairing a product becomes in expensive because only a few standard tools are needed.
- The company can contract or expand its capacity. An example of modular design is a gasoline pump that permits the customer to mix his own blend.