Once the product goals have been determined and
preliminary design concepts are beginning to be considered, it is important to
identify the key characteristics of the product. From the producibility point of
view, the key characteristics are those product attributes that will have the
greatest impact on product performance and manufacturing time, cost, and
schedule. The identification of key characteristics is the process whereby the
key cost, schedule, and performance drivers are identified and their importance
defined. The process is based on the requirements of the customer as well as all
the lower level requirements that define the concept. Such characteristics can
include specific materials, manufacturing and assembly processes, and product
features. It is the responsibility of the IPT to identify key
The identification of the key characteristics is
assisted by employing the QFD technique noted in 3.1. It may also involve the use of
Design Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (DFMEA) tools (see Appendix F.1.7) to help
identify potential design flaws that can be related to manufacturing. The key
characteristics assessment also can assist in the identification of possible
complexities in the product - that is, the features that can be simplified to
achieve a more affordable product (see 3.5
). It can also assist in early
identification of possible show-stoppers, characteristics that will result in
the inability to deliver the product in accordance with the goals.
The objective is the identification of those key
characteristics that are essential to meeting the product goals so that
resources can be focused on those key items. The benefits of such a process
and its application are presented in Appendix D
, Case Studies 27 through 29.
Identifying key characteristics, which begins with the
customer's product requirements and flows down to lower level requirements, can
significantly improve quality and reduce cost and product realization time.
Tools and Techniques: QFD (Appendix F.1.16) and DFMEA (Appendix F.1.7 ) tools can be employed to assist in the identification of key characteristics.
Training: The IPT
should be trained in the identification and use of key characteristics for the
assessment of product concepts. Training in QFD and DFMEA is helpful.
As for the determination of product goals (3.1 ), the
principal instrument for the determination of key characteristics is the IPT.
The classical product development process begins with the statement of product
goals from which product specifications are derived. Typically, little effort is
expended on prioritizing the goals or the resulting specification. Indeed,
resources are expended on all elements of the product without regard to priority
rather than focusing resources on the critical few features that are key to
The approach recommended here employs the QFD
technique (Appendix F.1.16)
introduced in 3.1
. Since the IPT members represent all
elements of the enterprise as well as the customer and suppliers, it is capable
of applying QFD to prioritize the product goals, array them against possible
design approaches, and identify those characteristics of the product that are
key to achieving customer satisfaction. The IPT can then ensure that resources
are focused on the key characteristics.
The basic steps are:
- Array customer-driven product goals against product design attributes that can achieve the goals.
- Prioritize customer goals.
- Identify key design attributes (the key characteristics) that are required to achieve the critical goals.
- Decompose the key characteristics to the lowest level possible in order to highlight all required actions.
- Document and communicate the key characteristics to
the entire design team.