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Design Standards

An extremely important aspect of a new product or service design is ensuring it meets the design standards for the local market in which it will be sold. As a simple example, in Singapore and Britain, the steering wheel of automobiles is located on the opposite side from those driven in the United States, Canada, or Germany. This is an obvious example of a product that must meet local design standards for local customers. It is critical that a design team have representatives from the appropriate countries and regions in which a new product or service will be sold. But, equally important, the VOC must be gathered at a local level to ensure they will be purchased.

Global and local design standards should be easy to understand by their user community and should facilitate global collaboration on design projects. Ideally, they should be transferable from one region to another without costly and time-consuming requalification. Product and process workflows should facilitate modularization to enable interchangeability of sub-systems and components. This strategy allows local customization to satisfy customer requirements in niche market segments (i.e., mass customization of the new service offering).

Process design should also facilitate movement between regional locations regardless of configuration. Common user interfaces should be developed to allow interaction with different systems across a single organization or between global organizations. Ideally, product and process design will enable scaling to higher performance levels as technology evolves over time. Software is designed this way in that updates are periodically downloaded to users. To the extent designs meet or even exceed global and local standards, overall competitiveness is increased. In other words, an organization’s competitiveness is directly related to its global and local design competency.

Mass Customization

Mass customization of a product or service depends on its design and associated process. Mass customization enables organizations to provide customers with unique styling, features, and functions that meet the needs and value expectations of its diverse customers. It is dependent on an ability to deploy common infrastructures that can support product and process differentiation. An example is efficient production change- overs from one automobile type to another based on dynamic changes of external customer demand. Having a common design platform enables an organization to produce the same base design (e.g., an automotive chassis) and apply customization at the point of production (e.g., a vehicle model). This strategy also contributes to higher quality levels and lower cost while external customers enjoy differentiated products or services.

Creating common designs and processes takes many years of carefully planned capital investment. The first step to build mass customization capability is to analyze product profitability and volume to eliminate unprofitable and low-volume products. Reducing product proliferation is an excellent way to concentrate resources on profitable products and services. A second step is to reduce design complexity by analyzing the BOM or number of process steps and eliminating non-standard materials, components, or operations on a continuing basis. Materials, components, and processes that are hazardous or require specialized training and maintenance are also good candidates for elimination. Remaining components should be modularized when feasible, and their features and functions should be combined into a single sub-system or operation to reduce complexity.

It is also important to understand component dependencies to develop realistic tolerances to reduce cost and lead time while increasing quality. This reduces rework and production inefficiencies. The design of components, sub-systems, and higher-level assemblies or even processes should be based on machine and tooling capability to reduce the number of complexity of job setups for manufacturing or service processes. In combination, these strategies help enable mixed-model production scheduling, which is a basis for mass customization. Mixed-model scheduling systems reduce the lead time to produce products by producing them more frequently. The Additional strategies to facilitate mass customization are to postpone final product customization to latest possible time and to deploy a production scheduling system aligned to real-time customer demand.

Mass customization can also be achieved if an organization can outsource production at lower cost, with reduced lead times and higher quality. Outsourcing is advantageous when a design or process requires expertise outside the normal competence of an organization. This enables an organization to concentrate on core competencies and frees up internal resources. Outsourcing is advantageous if a new technology, including its equipment and work procedures, are hazardous or the necessary equipment is not available within an organization. Finally, joint ventures (a type of outsourcing) may be useful to minimize risk, to access new technologies and markets, and to achieve scale more quickly. Table 4.15 summarizes ten key mass customization steps.

TABLE 4.15

Ten Steps to Mass Customize Products


1. Analyze product profitability and volume and eliminate unprofitable and low-volume products.

2. Analyze the bill of material and eliminate non-standard materials, components, and processes.

3. Eliminate materials, components, and processes that are hazardous or require specialized training and maintenance.

4. Modularize and combine sub-system functions to eliminate components.

5. Understand the dynamic relationships between product materials, components, and sub-systems to develop tolerances to achieve high capability levels.

6. Design components, sub-systems, and products based on machine and tooling capability and to reduce or eliminate job setups.

7. Outsource all processes that are nonproprietary and can be done elsewhere at a lower cost, with a lower cycle time, and with higher quality.

8. Integrate concurrent engineering project management methods and design-for- manufacturing (DFM) methods throughout the product development process.

9. Postpone final product customization to the latest possible assembly time and based on actual customer demand.

10. Deploy a scheduling system based on real-time customer demand.

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