Thursday, September 24, 2015

Product Benchmarking - An Introduction

Product Benchmarking

Product Benchmarking is the process of comparison & documentation of similar products of different manufacturers / Models with respect to a reference on various factors that affect the user experience of the product.
Some of the factors considered relate directly to the cost of the product, some other relate to the aesthetics & Ergonomics of the product while some relate to the function & performance of the product. However, all of these factors integrate seamlessly to realize one successful product which stands apart from the crowd.
Akuva Infotech is extremely well aligned and geared up to this activity of product benchmarking in a systematic, cost effective & professional manner with years of experience. A direct implication of this is the activity of product optimization and value engineering of the product. Cost Accounting, obsolescence management, Engineering Change management all form part of the post benchmarking activities.

Factors that affect the cost and in turn processes used in Benchmarking are :

    1. Inventory Benchmarking This is the total number of individual parts the product comprises of. This is performed to identify the total number of parts, purchasing efforts, cost of records maintenance, cost of maintenance, cost of spares maintenance & cost of repair or replacement and thus directly affects the overall cost of the product pre sale & post sale.
    2. Level wise Bill of Materials This is maintained to document the total number of parts, sub assemblies and assemblies in a product. While this gives the total inventory of the product, it also much more insight about the product itself. It also gives an insight into the assembly process, manufactured items, bought out items and standard parts that go into the manufacture of the product.
    3. Geometry Benchmarking This is mostly performed for manufactured parts. The complete detailed geometry of the part is understood and benchmarked to understand the process of manufacture and to understand the tell tale process marks, the dimensions of the features, the design intent of the part itself & the purpose of the part functioning in tandem with other parts in the assembly.
    4. Material Analysis & Benchmarking An critical part of the product design process is the selection of the correct material for the function. But in a product already manufactured, we would have to identify the material, identify the grade of the material, any heat treatment process, surface finishing or coating on the part. This involves a very important part of the benchmarking process as the material is one of the most cost intensive part of the product.
    5. Process Benchmarking An important step in the process of benchmarking, in case of a part, the process of manufacture of the part is to be captured, and documented in a step by step approach. In case of an assembly, the process of assembly of the sub assembly involving parts only or parts & other sub assemblies and the final assembly is to be understood & documented. What is important here is also to factor for all the other tools, jigs & Fixtures, assembly fixtures etc., that are to be used to achieve the final product.

Factors that affect the visual appeal, aesthetics & Ergonomics and in turn steps used in Bench marking are :

1. Aesthetic / Visual Appeal This being an important factor, the correct blend of the overall product design is considered. The Shape, the color scheme, the subtleties all gel together to give out a great product. But how to know whether this is all the things concerned above? This is to undergo extensive market research, Expert analysis, Feedback analytics and design iterations.

2. Ergonomics and User Interaction A lot of planning needs to go into the design of a product to ensure that the user has a comfortable experience using this. The learning curve should be as less as possible, like a fish taking to water. Finally, the ease with which an user adapts to a new product speaks a lot about the success of the product as a whole.

Factors considered in Bench marking pertaining to function & performance include :

1. Product Life Cycle This relates to the total life cycle of the product from the time its conceptualized till it is obsolete. There are different studies that cater to the product life cycle and its management.

2. Performance & Efficiency Depending on the product, performance and efficiency tests are to be performed to improve the user acceptance of the product. It may be due to statutory or mandatory disclosure or even due to suitable promotion of the product, these need to be defined and have to be benchmarked against. Also included in these performance tests may be Noise, Vibration & Harshness tests, endurance tests, impact and other usability tests etc.

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