Michael N. O'Sullivan

Abstracts

2 Streamlining the Fuzzy Front-End and Improving the Usability of the Tools Involved

Authors: Michael N. O'Sullivan, Con Sheahan

Abstract:

Researchers have spent decades developing tools and techniques to aid teams in the new product development (NPD) process. Despite this, it is evident that there is a huge gap between their academic prevalence and their industry adoption. For the fuzzy front-end, in particular, there is a wide range of tools to choose from, including the Kano Model, the House of Quality, and many others. In fact, there are so many tools that it can often be difficult for teams to know which ones to use and how they interact with one another. Moreover, while the benefits of using these tools are obvious to industrialists, they are rarely used as they carry a learning curve that is too steep and they become too complex to manage over time. In essence, it is commonly believed that they are simply not worth the effort required to learn and use them. This research explores a streamlined process for the fuzzy front-end, assembling the most effective tools and making them accessible to everyone. The process was developed iteratively over the course of 3 years, following over 80 final year NPD teams from engineering, design, technology, and construction as they carried a product from concept through to production specification. Questionnaires, focus groups, and observations were used to understand the usability issues with the tools involved, and a human-centred design approach was adopted to produce a solution to these issues. The solution takes the form of physical toolkit, similar to a board game, which allows the team to play through an example of a new product development in order to understand the process and the tools, before using it for their own product development efforts. A complimentary website is used to enhance the physical toolkit, and it provides more examples of the tools being used, as well as deeper discussions on each of the topics, allowing teams to adapt the process to their skills, preferences and product type. Teams found the solution very useful and intuitive and experienced significantly less confusion and mistakes with the process than teams who did not use it. Those with a design background found it especially useful for the engineering principles like Quality Function Deployment, while those with an engineering or technology background found it especially useful for design and customer requirements acquisition principles, like Voice of the Customer. Products developed using the toolkit are added to the website as more examples of how it can be used, creating a loop which helps future teams understand how the toolkit can be adapted to their project, whether it be a small consumer product or a large B2B service. The toolkit unlocks the potential of these beneficial tools to those in industry, both for large, experienced teams and for inexperienced start-ups. It allows users to assess the market potential of their product concept faster and more effectively, arriving at the product design stage with technical requirements prioritized according to their customers’ needs and wants.

Keywords: New Product Development, Usability, quality function deployment, voice of customer, kano model, fuzzy front-end

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1 Using Serious Games to Integrate the Potential of Mass Customization into the Fuzzy Front-End of New Product Development

Authors: Michael N. O'Sullivan, Con Sheahan

Abstract:

Mass customization is the idea of offering custom products or services to satisfy the needs of each individual customer while maintaining the efficiency of mass production. Technologies like 3D printing and artificial intelligence have many start-ups hoping to capitalize on this dream of creating personalized products at an affordable price, and well established companies scrambling to innovate and maintain their market share. However, the majority of them are failing as they struggle to understand one key question – where does customization make sense? Customization and personalization only make sense where the value of the perceived benefit outweighs the cost to implement it. In other words, will people pay for it? Looking at the Kano Model makes it clear that it depends on the product. In products where customization is an inherent need, like prosthetics, mass customization technologies can be highly beneficial. However, for products that already sell as a standard, like headphones, offering customization is likely only an added bonus, and so the product development team must figure out if the customers’ perception of the added value of this feature will outweigh its premium price tag. This can be done through the use of a ‘serious game,’ whereby potential customers are given a limited budget to collaboratively buy and bid on potential features of the product before it is developed. If the group choose to buy customization over other features, then the product development team should implement it into their design. If not, the team should prioritize the features on which the customers have spent their budget. The level of customization purchased can also be translated to an appropriate production method, for example, the most expensive type of customization would likely be free-form design and could be achieved through digital fabrication, while a lower level could be achieved through short batch production. Twenty-five teams of final year students from design, engineering, construction and technology tested this methodology when bringing a product from concept through to production specification, and found that it allowed them to confidently decide what level of customization, if any, would be worth offering for their product, and what would be the best method of producing it. They also found that the discussion and negotiations between players during the game led to invaluable insights, and often decided to play a second game where they offered customers the option to buy the various customization ideas that had been discussed during the first game.

Keywords: New Product Development, mass customization, serious game, kano model

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