Session 2125 Learning How to Identify Customer Requirements: A Key Component of Product Development Courses Karim H. Muci-Küchler 1 and Jonathan M. Weaver 2 1 Mechanical Engineering Department South Dakota School of Mines and Technology 2 Mechanical Engineering Department University of Detroit Mercy Abstract A crucial step in the process to develop a new product is the identification of the customer requirements. The outcomes from this step strongly influence both the rest of the development effort and the ultimate success or failure of the product. When students work in teams in product development (PD) projects, they often tend to start generating solution concepts right away without carefully identifying all the stakeholders that must be taken into consideration, determining all the customer needs, and establishing their relative importance. The reason for this may be twofold. First, many engineering students believe that in their professional career they will seldom be actively involved in the identification of the customer needs. Second, it is more appealing for engineering students to embark in the creative and open-ended process of concept generation than to spend time interacting with customers to establish their true expectations. The problem is that, in the “real world,” an engineer working in PD needs to be substantially involved in the process of identifying product requirements. In addition, without direct interaction with the customers, it is not possible to have a clear understanding of what they want. This, in turn, usually leads to the selection of a product concept that either fails to satisfy some key customer expectations or sub-optimally trades-off one attribute against another. To overcome the problems stated above, it is important to emphasize in PD courses a formal process to identify customer needs. Furthermore, students must apply what they learn so that they can really acquire the knowledge and skills required to successfully complete this task. To explore the benefits of this approach, a formal process to actively identify customer requirements was introduced into a sophomore PD course, a senior capstone design course, and a graduate level course in PD. Although the level of interest demonstrated by the teams varied, some of them managed to understand the customer requirements at a level that was above the instructor’s expectations. In this paper, the approach followed, the results obtained, and suggestions for future improvement are discussed in the context of projects carried out by the students. Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education Page 9.851.1
Introduction and Motivation A typical reaction of students and faculty members that are not familiar with the field of product design and development is that practicing engineers that work in product development
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