A comparative study of factors affecting product quality and customer needs compliance in the new product development process
To succeed and survive in competitive markets, products need to be of the desired quality. Quality is how well the product, in its entirety, satisfies the needs of the intended customers. With products in industrial markets, there are many different types of customers to satisfy. Research has been published that is of general use to help define the New Product Development (NPD) process and the management of its activities and this was useful as a basis for this research study. However, little previous work is available that details the specific aspect of designing for customer needs compliance. An exploratory investigation, using analysis of selected cases and experience surveys, was undertaken to help direct conceptual work. A conceptual model was developed to help describe the NPD process and customer needs compliance. The hypotheses that guided the main study sought to understand the perceptions which the design team has of the product in terms of different customer needs. They also aimed to determine how information management during NPD may affect the final design and, consequently, the quality of the product. With the objective of drawing conclusions across the four companies involved in the main study, collection methods and data analysis provided quantitative results on what is essentially qualitative types of information. The findings conclude that each of the companies do perceive a difference in the needs of the customers between different product types. However, they also imply that specific types of customers have similar needs, no matter what types of products are involved. With a small set of respondents in each company, no evidence was found to suggest that the different perceptions the people involved in the design and development of the product had could be attributed to the functional, managerial or customer involvement groupings under investigation. However, there was some evidence that customer needs compliance may be affected by the way the company handled its information management during the NPD process.