Human Factors in Product Development and Design
The design and operation of product development processes are typical problems in engineering domains and quality management. In order to guarantee the efficient and effective realization of products various methods and tools have been developed and established in the past. Nevertheless these methods where usually designed to fit engineer-to-cost strategies for cost efficient products. Recent success stories of companies in different industrial sectors have proven, that engineer-to-value strategies can lead to an even higher profitability of products due to higher margins when combining value and cost orientation (ISO/IEC: 15288:2008; Schuh 2012).
KeywordsProduct Development Product Development Process Product Lifecycle Management Haptic Perception Product Development Project
One of the major key elements for a successful introduction of engineer-to-value product management is the introduction and consideration of human factors. Therefore the integration of the customer in product development processes and the detailed analysis of the customer perception are essential (Brecher et al. 2014). The aspects concerning the role of customers in the product development will be presented in the first and second chapter of this paper. The third chapter will change the focus on the company perspective and will discuss new approaches and possible solutions how to develop products in a more efficient and human oriented way.
15.2 The Human Perception of Quality
The extent to which customer requirements are met in product development and design is critical to a product’s market acceptance and success. The integration of customers into the early stages of product development and design becomes more and more important with respect to market leadership and differentiation, especially in flooded markets.
15.3 The Manifestation of Human Perception and Cognition
Enthusing the customer and thereby ensuring a product’s level of competitiveness requires the satisfaction of explicit and implicit customer requirements. The integration of customers into the early stages of product development and design allows for detecting the voice of the customer, whereupon explicit and implicit customer requirements constitute the “real” voice of the customer (Schmitt 2014). The fashion of explicit and implicit customer requirements is shaped by the individual customer’s bygone experience, future expectations, actual needs and perception. The customer’s perception of a product particularly relies on the human perceptual senses and their interconnection with the human cognitive system. Physiological and cognitive processes simultaneously designate the overall picture of perceived product quality.
Whereas the human visual perception is concerned with “scanning” a product’s visual properties, the human haptic perception provides information about a product’s geometric and material characteristics. The geometric characteristics refer to the size and shape of a product. The material characteristics comprise a product’s texture. The texture of a product can be described according to surface features such as roughness, stickiness, friction and stick-slip. In addition, thermal properties, compliance and weight contribute to the customer’s haptic perception and evaluation of a product (Ledermann and Klatzky 2009). The exploration of a product’s geometric and material characteristics is based on the physical contact between the customer and the product at hand. The nature of physical contact, be it pleasant or unpleasant, leads to increased cognitive arousal. Descriptive and discriminating studies guide the process of haptic exploration and facilitate the measurement of haptic perception and evaluation while mapping stages of increased cognitive arousal to distinct surface properties (Clark et al. 2008). The focus lies on examining and labeling the customer’s hedonic perception during the phase of physical contact.
The integration of the human factor into production processes ensures the realization of products which exactly serve the customers needs. The customer’s perceptual senses, cognition and communication behavior deliver valuable input for the process of product development and design.
15.4 Human Oriented Product Development Processes
While the first chapters were addressing the consideration of human factors in the early phases of product realization processes, the company oriented perspective has to consider the human factors of the product development team itself.
The new product development process (NPD) is one of the most important and complex business processes. In order to compete in globalized markets it is necessary to develop products within short time periods and a defined quality level (Barclay et al. 2010). For complex products, the team of a single product development project can exceed easily the scope of a small and medium enterprise by its own. Because of the high amount of functions and people involved (e.g. systems engineering, mechanical engineering, software development, electronic development, project management, product management, industrial engineering) the NPD is characterized by a high complexity, non-linearity and permanent iteration which drive the affordable level of communication and coordination to an extreme. This state is difficult to be controlled (Loch and Kavadis 2008). As illustrated in Fig. 15.6 the methods and activities of quality management are aiming towards a collaborative management of the maturity levels in the fields of project, product, process and contract management.
If for example the industrial engineering is informed with a certain delay about a change request of the mechanical component, a later change can cause massive extra costs and delays.
Furthermore, the different functions are working according to different development paradigms and models. That is, the project management might stick to the stage-gate-planning, while the systems engineering is applying the V-Model and the software engineering might even develop according to the rules and procedures of agile development methods such as SCRUM. Therefore the communication and synchronization of different functions and actors is even complicated, since the models cannot always be harmonized and synchronized easily. In order to support the activities in product development and realization processes, various expert tools and software systems are used besides informal and formal communication links and channels (e.g. meetings, logs, records, minutes, mails). Requirements management systems, change management software tools and product lifecycle management systems are powerful tools supporting the product development activities within their domain. Within the field of a single domain the applied software systems must be chosen specifically depending on special functions and domain specific requirements. That is the reason for the necessity of using different tools for quality inspection planning (MS-Project, MS-Excel), risk analysis and for production control planning (e.g. CAQ-Systems, SCIO, APIS).
Last, but not least, the employees tend to get lost within the complexity of product development systems and tools. The amount of different methods can hardly be understood and not even be overseen by a single product development team member. Nevertheless the state-of-the-art software systems and methods are by majority emphasizing the system and workflow view instead of putting the employee and his human factors in focus. The allocation of information based on defined rules, regulations is more important than considering the individual competencies and characteristics of the employees. Due to the described complexity of the organization of product development processes and teams, the planning tools might eventually cause a loss of relevant information and can hardly cross the boarders between different development domains and functions.
The design of new product development theories and systems, integrating the existing methods and tools will be one of the great challenges for major improvements in product development processes and for the optimization of the company perspective in engineer-to-value product management. Moreover, the described methods for the identification and transformation of the customer’s perceived quality can increase the value of products significantly.
The authors would like to thank the German Research Foundation DFG for the kind support within the Cluster of Excellence “Integrative Production Technology for High-Wage Countries.
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