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Engineering, Design, or Research Function in a Mass Production Plant
Engineering, design or research departments are common in business. Whether the product being designed is a lady’s hat or a complex mechanical part, the final product must be determined and the various components identified.
Key factors in product design include:
1. Purpose or function
2. Sales demands
3. Design efficiency
5. Standardize and simplify
6. Production possibility of related products
7. Cost determination
8. Patent situation
9. Review of Consumer Complaints
– use or function. All products should be designed to clearly identify their purpose. A common wrench used to tighten a nut on a bolt is an example of proper functional design. A properly designed hammer is constructed so that when it is properly held at the end of the handle, an experienced carpenter can successfully drive nails with it. One often hears an amateur mechanic referred to as a “shoemaker” when using a hammer. This is because he holds the hammer close to his head, as a shoemaker must when knocking a shoe. This technique is not proper use of the tool; it prevents the user from getting the correct force and direction when nailing. A carpenter always lifts a hammer carefully before buying one, to test its balance and to get the right hammer for the specific strength of his arm. A hammer that is too heavy will tire him unnecessarily; a hammer that is too light will require too many blows.
The very cheap tools sold in many novelty stores do not quite meet the requirements of good design, so many buyers have difficulty using them. A well made screwdriver has a handle that doesn’t hurt the palm and is attached to the shank in such a way that it doesn’t turn relative to the shank but can drive the screw successfully.
– Call for sales. All products except heavy industrial ones justified the necessity of sales appeal. Even mechanical design has an understanding of this factor. Accessories in the apparel industry are examples of products where sales appeal is more important than use or function. In the design of electrical appliances, great strides have been made to improve the use or function. But looks haven’t been overlooked. There are toasters that automatically put bread in and out of the toaster. The degree of roasting can be preset. This is very different from the old toasters, which were completely manual, requiring you to manually turn the parts and watch them be removed when you’re done to avoid burning. It’s doubtful that these improvements alone would have spurred sales to their current highs, without a simultaneous streamlining of the toaster’s exterior. However, the improved appearance can sometimes make repairs or cleaning more difficult.
So attractive is the sale that even machinery used in industry, such as diesel engines in stationary power plants, has been simplified. Streamlined is said to be useful or functional where it aids in the operation of equipment or protects it from injury. If it’s purely cosmetic, or in some cases complicates the repair of the machine, it can only be justified on the grounds of sales appeal.
Never think that it is impossible to gain sales traction without compromising the usefulness of the product. New cutlery produced for home use today is sharper, less stain-resistant and more pleasing to the eye than previous cutlery. It’s a case of sales appeal benefitting as much as practicality.
– Design efficiency. The goal of any designer is to produce a product that does what it wants, at the lowest possible cost. An inexperienced engineer might design an airplane that is strong enough, but it might not fly. An inexperienced engineer might design an airplane that can fly but might disintegrate in midair or carry very little weight.
Proper design efficiency can produce an aircraft strong enough to carry the intended load without any unnecessary weight that would reduce the payload to be carried.
The design efficiencies of modern home oil furnaces are evident; they have become smaller, lighter and less noisy, while producing the same heat output with less fuel consumption. Modern gas ranges for home kitchens use less gas and are easier to clean than their predecessors from a few years ago. Railway trains are made of light alloy steel.
Those interested in antiques, especially vintage timepieces, can see fine examples in various museums. While many of these timepieces were decorative, they were so massive not because of their decorativeness, but because it was impossible for a watchmaker to fit a mechanism into a smaller in the space.
– Material. Closely related to questions of design efficiency, sales appeal, use or function are questions of the materials used. Much of the progress made in recent years is due to the abundance of new materials available. To name a few materials that are widely used in industry and commerce, the following can be listed: stainless steel, aluminum, aluminum alloys, magnesium, and various plastics. Designers must carefully consider the relative advantages of different materials. From a functional point of view, the plastic case is just as suitable and seems to have more sales appeal; so it is carried on. On the other hand, the use of plastic knives has not increased substantially. Except for a few novel uses, plastic was discontinued in favor of metal. Plastic doesn’t cut as well as metal and snaps more easily.
Stainless steel is a collective term for many alloys of steel and other metals, mainly chromium, nickel, molybdenum and vanadium. The combination of alloys selected and their proportions depend on the intended use of the metal. As the name suggests, this alloy is more resistant to corrosion than regular carbon steel. Some alloys are suitable for high temperature and high pressure work. Some are resistant to acid corrosion, while others are used for their beauty. In the last category, stainless steel has replaced chrome-plated brass, German silver and aluminum for uses such as cafeteria decoration, where a bright, easy-to-clean, wear-resistant metal is required, and aluminum, magnesium and their alloys are the mainstay of stainless steel materials. The aircraft industry, where light weight features are important. Aluminum is increasingly used in the construction industry for window sashes (replacing wood and steel), sheathing (replacing brick, stone, wood, galvanized iron) and ventilation ducts (replacing galvanized iron).
– Standardization and simplification. Standardization enables an economy of interchangeability. Any of the many parts produced can be used interchangeably and are equally valid. No special assembly or machining is required.
Simplification means reducing unnecessary variety, and while it is different from standardization, it is complementary. In menswear, simplification has been happening for years.
Any manufacturer can implement simplification within their own factories. An example of this is the use of nuts and bolts. If a manufacturer has been using 250 different sizes and styles of nuts and bolts, he can examine his problem very carefully and conclude that he can reduce the 250 styles and sizes to ten. In some cases, this may involve a bit of over-engineering; that is, in some cases the nuts or bolts may be larger than necessary. While this may mean wasting some money buying extra materials, the advantage of streamlining your inventory can be less investment in existing inventory—a very reasonable step.
– Related products that may be produced using the same equipment. Any manufacturer trying to utilize its facilities more fully and looking for products to manufacture when there is less demand on its regular production lines looks to see what related products can be made using the same plant and equipment. For a manufacturer of clocks, this is relatively simple. The same plastic case can be used to house thermometers, barometers, and other similar types of instruments.
– Cost determination. The cost of producing any product must be carefully calculated. The most fundamental reason is that many existing products are competitive, and the venture will not be financially successful if the new product cannot compete for sales with those already in the market. Even if the product is brand new and novel, and there are no similar products on the market today, it is still necessary to determine whether the costs are sufficient such that the proposed selling price will not hinder a substantial market for the product. Such studies not only help decide whether a company will manufacture a product, but can also lead to further consideration of design efficiency. This will lead to design improvements and possibly the substitution of one material for another in product manufacture.
– Patent status. If a product is clearly patentable, those involved in the design will be required to work with the legal or patent department to prepare the application in order to obtain the best possible protection not only for the product itself, but also for its products. The method of manufacture and the equipment used to make it.
– Review consumer complaints. No matter how good the initial design is, most people are better off after the designer. There is a lot of truth in this saying, the meaning is simple, anyone can learn from other people’s mistakes as well as their own. Any manufacturer interested in improving his product will encourage his salespeople to bring back user reviews about any way a particular product has left them unsatisfied.
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