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Engineering, Design, or Research Function in a Mass Production Plant
An engineering, design or research department is common in business. Whether the product being designed is a lady’s hat or an intricate piece of machinery, the final product must be determined and the various components must be determined.
The most important factors in product design include the following:
1. Use or function
2. Sales appeal
3. Design efficiency
5. Standardization and simplification
6. Related products possible by production
7. Cost determination
8. Patent situation
9. Review of consumer complaints
– Use or Function. All products should be designed with their application clearly defined. Common spanners used to tighten nuts on bolts are examples of proper functional design. A properly designed hammer is so constructed that when properly held at the end of the handle, the experienced carpenter can successfully drive nails with it. You often hear an amateur mechanic referred to as a “shoemaker” when using a hammer. This is because he takes hold of the hammer near his head, as a cobbler must hammer inside a shoe. This technique is not the correct use of the tool; it prevents the user from getting the right force and direction when driving nails. A carpenter will always carefully lift a hammer before he buys it, to test its balance and to get one suited to the particular strength of the arm. Too heavy a hammer will tire him unnecessarily; too light a hammer will require too many blows.
Many of the very cheap tools for sale in newsstands do not fully meet the requirements of good design, and therefore many buyers find it difficult to use them. A well-made screwdriver has a handle that will not injure the palm of the hand and is attached to the shaft in such a way that it will not rotate relative to the shaft, but will successfully drive a screw.
– Sales appeal. The need for sales has been demonstrated for all but heavy industrial products. Even machine design takes some cognizance of this factor. Accessories in the clothing industry are examples of products where sales appeal is more important than use or function. In the field of electrical appliance design, great strides have been made in improving use or function. But the appearance has not been neglected. Toasters are available where the bread is taken in and emptied automatically from the toaster. The degree of roasting can be preset. This is a far cry from the old toaster which was completely manual and required turning the pieces by hand as well as watching them to be removed when done to avoid burning. It is doubtful whether the improvements alone would have stimulated sales to the current high level if the toaster’s appearance had not been streamlined at the same time. However, the improvement in appearance sometimes makes repair or cleaning more difficult.
Sales appeal has gone so far that even machines used in industry, such as diesel engines in stationary power plants, are also streamlined. Where streamlining helps operate equipment or protects it from damage, it can be said to be useful or functional. Where it is purely decorative or, as in some cases, complicates the servicing of the machinery, it can only be justified by sales appeal.
Don’t think that it is impossible to get sales appeal without reducing the usability of the product. New cutlery produced for household use today is sharper, more spotless and at the same time much more pleasant in appearance than the cutlery previously produced. Here is a case where sales appeal and utility are equally divided.
– Design efficiency. The goal of any designer is to produce an item at the lowest possible price that will achieve the desired result. An engineer with little experience can design an airplane that would be strong enough, but it might not fly. The inexperienced engineer might design an airplane that would fly but might disintegrate in mid-air or be able to carry little weight.
Proper design efficiency is achieved by the construction of an airplane that is strong enough to carry the intended load and at the same time has no unnecessary weight that would reduce the amount of payload to be carried.
Design efficiency is evident in modern oil burners intended for home use; they have become smaller and lighter in weight, are less noisy and at the same time produce the same amount of heating power for a smaller amount of oil consumed. Modern gas stoves intended for home kitchens use less gas and are easier to clean than a few years ago. Railway trains are made of lightweight alloy steel.
Those interested in antiques, especially antique clocks, can see splendid examples in various museums. While many of these clocks are decorative, the reason for their enormous size is not their decorative nature, but the fact that with the known methods of designing clockwork at the time, a clockmaker could not possibly fit the mechanism into a smaller space.
– Materials. The question of the materials to be used is closely related to the question of design efficiency, sales appeal and use or function. Much of the progress made in recent years is due to the vast amount of new materials available. To name just a few of the materials that are widely used in industry and commerce, the following can be mentioned: stainless steel, aluminum, alloys of aluminum, magnesium and the various plastic materials. The designer must carefully consider the relative merits of different materials. The plastic shell was equally suitable from a functional point of view and seemed to have greater sales appeal; therefore it was continued. The use of plastic for knives, on the other hand, has not increased significantly; and apart from a few novelties, plastic was phased out in favor of metal. Plastic is less satisfying to cut than metal and breaks more easily.
Stainless steel is a generic term for many alloys of steel and other metals, primarily chromium, nickel, molybdenum and vanadium. The combination of the selected alloys and their proportions are dictated by the service for which the metal is intended. As the name suggests, the alloy is much more resistant to corrosion than regular carbon steel. Some of the alloys are suitable for high temperature and high pressure work. Some resist acid corrosion, while others are used for their pleasing appearance. In this last category, stainless steel has replaced chrome-plated brass, German silver and aluminum for use as cafeteria linings, where a bright, easy-to-clean, wear-resistant metal is required, aluminium, magnesium and their alloys are the mainstays of the aircraft industry, where their characteristic light weight is important. Aluminum is increasingly used in the construction industry for window frames (replacing wood and steel), cladding (replacing brick, stone, wood, galvanized iron) and air ducts (replacing galvanized iron).
– Standardization and simplification. Standardization enables the economy of interchangeability. Any of a number of the parts produced can be used interchangeably and serve equally well. No special assembly or machining is required.
Simplification means the reduction of unnecessary variation, and although it is different from standardization, it goes hand in hand. In the menswear area, simplification has taken place over a number of years.
Any manufacturer can simplify within his own plant. An example of this is the use of nuts and bolts. If a manufacturer has used 250 different sizes and styles of nuts and bolts, he may make a very careful study of his problem and may come to the conclusion that he can reduce the 250 varieties of styles and sizes to ten. This may involve a bit of over-design in some cases; that is, the nut or bolt may be larger than necessary in some cases. While this may represent a bit of a waste of money by purchasing extra material, the benefits of simplified inventory provide reduced investment in inventory on hand – a well-reasoned move.
– Related products that can be produced with the same equipment. Any manufacturer trying to find a more complete utilization of his facilities and to find products to manufacture when the demand for his regular line wanes, looks around to see what related products can be made with the same plant and equipment. In the case of a watch manufacturer, this is relatively simple. The same plastic cases can be used to house thermometers, barometers and other similar types of instruments.
– Cost determination. It is important that the production costs of any product are calculated carefully. The most fundamental reason for this is that many existing products are competitive, and if the new product cannot sell competitively with those products already on the market, the venture will not be a financial success. Even if the product is brand new and novel and nothing like it is now available on the market, it is nevertheless important to determine whether the price is such that the proposed selling price will not deter a significant market for the product. Such a study will not only be instrumental in determining whether a company will make a product, but it can also lead to further consideration of design effectiveness. This will result in design improvements and may lead to one material being replaced by another in the manufacture of the product.
– Patent situation. If a product appears to be patentable, the people affected by the design will be asked to cooperate with the legal or patent department in the preparation of applications to ensure as good protection as possible, and these patents will not only cover the product itself , but also its manufacturing method and the equipment used to manufacture it.
– Review of consumer complaints. No matter how good the original design is, most people are better after designers. A statement with a lot of truth, it simply means that everyone can learn from the other person’s mistakes and from their own mistakes. Any manufacturer interested in improving its product encourages its sellers to bring back comments from users about what is in any way unsatisfied with that product.
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