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    Discussion in 'The main mechanical design forum' started by paulsteyn, Mar 12, 2014.

    1. paulsteyn

      paulsteyn New Member

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      At university we were taught to start a design by doing a functional analysis and eventually getting to the detail specifications as the output.

      In industry I have found that we essentially get a list of specifications (from the tender document or quote) and get told to design the vehicle.

      I have often found that during later stages of the design. I realize that if different specifications were used, a better product could have been designed. "If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would've said they wanted a faster horse" Henry Ford

      The customer tends to come with a solution instead of a problem.

      My question is: Is this standard for industry?

      Thanks
       
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    3. PierArg

      PierArg Well-Known Member

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      Hi Paul,
      very interesting thread!

      About what I've seen in my short experience I can say that customer usually comes with a raw and theoretical solution/idea.
      So the problem for the engineers/designers is how to turn this raw and theoretical solution/idea in a real object.

      Defining the technical features of the product (list of specifications) is simply the "magic recipe" :) that allows you to translate the customer's ideas in something real.

      I hope I was clear
       
    4. dgerbs

      dgerbs New Member

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      I've experienced both ends of the spectrum with customers. It seems to depend upon how experienced the customer is in product design, and how hard they are pushing technology. I've received sets of mutually exclusive requirements, as well as vague requirements. I don't believe there is a standard in industry as you had asked. There may be some consistency within an individual segment though.

      Regardless of the type of spec, I've always found it useful to determine what are the critical parameters the customer must have and what is not a must have. For instance, one project the customer specified a molded plastic housing. However they only wanted 10 units built and a sheet metal chassis suited their needs quite well at a significantly lower cost than molded plastic.

      I almost always find at the end of the project a better way to do the design. To some level, I think that happens in all engineering positions, whether it is designing drastically different products or modifying a current product line to meet customer specs. There is something in the design or in the design process to improve.
       
    5. adamru

      adamru Member

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      Yes, unfortunately it is very common that a customer comes with specifications which are both wrong, missing important data, and based on what he believes to be the solution. In a way it hardly can be different, but on the other hand it makes it necessary for the designer to question everything, to doubt the answers and at times to suggest different solutions altogether. Sometimes it is risky for the designer, and he therefore has to play it carefully using his psychological understanding.
       
    6. thebestjake

      thebestjake Member

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      Good topic.

      I remember doing those functional charts and weighting features to come up with some kind of 'quantitative best design' I thought they were stupid then and still do. With out having actually designed something I can't generate any meaningful rankings.

      That is a great quote by Henry Ford although it is the result of asking the wrong question. The customer didn't want a faster horse they wanted to get where they were going faster. The customer lacked the vocabulary (imagination) to express the desire. When talking with customers it is important to understand what the end goal is.
       
    7. adamru

      adamru Member

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      Customers hardly ever know what they want. The typical customer is not aware of what can be done, so he is basing his requests on extending what he knows, which is exactly this faster horse. There is no way he could specify fuel consumption if all he knows is the horse. It is the responsibility of the designer to redefine the project. Nobody else can do it!
       
    8. Archimedes

      Archimedes Active Member

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      Working with customers to define a spec is quite an art. We use different approaches depending on the customer. It is very common for customers to specify an existing product with a modification rather than specify a need or requirement, but at least this is a starting point.
       
    9. adamru

      adamru Member

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      Eureka!
      Yes Archimedes. Thugh customers hardly ever know what they really want we should still bless them when they come to us with their misconcptions. If they did not have it they would have never come, and once they did, and if we are good enough, we can (hopefully) gently lead them to a better solution.
       

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