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Product design refers to the process of generating and creating products that have never existed before. It refers to various procedures, stages and activities involved in development and production of new goods by an organization. Product design usually starts with conceptualization of ideas about the type of product to be created and its characteristics. Most people often confuse and use the term interchangeably with industrial design. However, industrial design usually concerns the imaginative and inventive characteristics/attributes of a product, its utility as well as its ability to be produced in large quantities or massively.
Stages of Product Design
Product is a multi-stage process that involves various activities at each and every step. The most common stages are discussed below.
This is the initial stage and entails brief definition of attributes of the product. It often involves imaginary ideas and concepts.
Product Design Specification
At this stage, the desirable characteristics of the products are stated and specified, for example, product outlook, size, weight, aesthetics, branding, quantity and quality of different components to be used in manufacturing the product as well as general structure of the product. Moreover, the design specification stage is often guided by information obtained from research studies, data on consumer needs and expectations with respect to the new product as well as the engineering and production requirements.
This is where the conceptualized ideas are turned into a real physical product through manufacturing and operation processes. This stage starts with constructing concept design of the final product. Concept design often involves production of the new product in small quantities so as to avoid any wastage of resources in case the product proves unsuccessful or fails to meet the production targets and standards.
Process selection concerns determining which production techniques to be used, the most appropriate processes and production flow lines. Production flow design deals with integrating production capacity and technological deficiencies in the production process. It involves selection of appropriate techniques and rules that govern the production process. It depends on the capability of the selected process to meet to meet the production requirements and targets.
This is where the new product undergoes inspection, evaluation and examination to determine its feasibility for further production. Testing also helps detect any drawbacks, product weaknesses and other aspects of the product that may require further improvement and development. In manufacturing of consumer products, the testing stage will involve actual consumption of the new product to determine whether or not it will be suitable and safe for consumption by the costumers. After the product successfully passes the testing stage, its production is implemented.
Actual Mass Production
At this stage, the new product may undergo minimal redesigning or changes depending on its features and the extent to which it meets the pre-determined or stated specifications. This stage also involves mass production of the new product after the manufacturing engineers are satisfied with its development. Mass production often involves producing the product in large quantities usually for sales purposes. It is important to note that mass production will continue only after the sales department has ascertained, certified and convinced the management that the new product will be able sell properly in the market and hence the returns will surpass its costs of production.
Otto and Wood summarize these stages into three broader categories, namely; the initial stage which mainly involves generation of ideas based on organization’s available resources and customer needs, the intermediate stage which entails design specification and manufacturing processes, and finally the final stage which mainly consists of developing marketing strategies for new product and its actual marketing or placement in the consumer market.
This refers to the process of planning and coordinating the various components required in effective provision of services, for instance, the employees, financial resources that facilitate this provision of services, infrastructure such as supply chain networks among others. Service design aims at improving the interaction and relationship between an organization and the consumers. Just like product design, it relies on the needs and requirements of the potential consumers.
According to Ponsignon, Smart and Maull, service design uses professionalism, good communication skills, envisioning, intensive advertising and honest, reliable interactions as tools to development and improvement.
Methodology of Service Design
This is quite different from that of product design due to intangibility aspect of services. It thus involves identification of appropriate personnel to provide the services under well defined settings in a manner that suggest high quality offers. Service design, therefore, mostly concerns the first impression and perception that consumers will derive after their first encounters with the services. El-Heik and Roy suggest that it mostly utilizes and applies marketing strategies such as customer focus and branding.
Service design utilizes various elements which can be broadly grouped into structural and managerial. Structural service design concerns the service delivery systems, location of the facility and capacity planning whereas managerial designs deals with quality of services offered, demand and supply management, information management and customer encounters. It involves four stages which include idea generation, market analysis, facility design and fine launch of the service.
Service Delivery System Design
This refers to various activities carried out to facilitate effective and efficient delivery of the new service. It often deals with designing supply-chain network, workflow, proper location of service facility for easy access and timely delivery of services.
Future Trends and Emerging Issues in Product and Service Designs
In operational management, it has been noted that the product and service design processes have been faced with various curial problems and complications that hinder the effectiveness and efficiency of creation of new products. The major issues of concerns include financials constraints, lack of adequate resources such as raw materials, increased competition in the consumer market and laws and regulation such as free movement of capital across national borders. In addition, there has been an increasing number of new innovation and inventions. This poses a challenge to organizations that cannot cope or adopt the pace of such innovations.
Similarly, the consumer market is often characterized by dynamic and ever-changing needs, tastes and preferences of customers. This makes it difficult for firms to continually redesign new products that would meet such dynamic changes due to high costs involved. Last but least, there is no properly defined international laws that regulate intellectual property rights and copyrights, and hence an organization’s new idea may be duplicated by another firm without its permission.
The rapid advancement in technology also poses a challenge to most manufacturing firms since the acquisition of stat of the art equipment might be too costly for infant firms. This further hinders the pace of new product developments. Eco-design which concerns production of environmentally friendly goods and service is another vital area to consider during product and service design. An organization should also apply the SWOT Analysis techniques to assess the effectiveness of it product and service designs.
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