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Managing product design-

the emergence of a new
British Standard BS 7000
Viewed against the entire spectrum of These comments are aimed at furthermore, that the opportunity for
engineering practice, or from the the UK to see off its international
products from all sources, not just the
perspective of managing a large UK. Analyses of matched product competitors by such means is
engineering enterprise, the task of pairs show that competing products considerable. Conversely, if we do too
managing product design may not from all nations are, as one would little too late, our competitors will
seem to be particularly important. expect, competitive and that have just as good a chance to clobber
Maybe so. But why then was it opportunities for product us by the same meansand there are
thought desirable to produce a new improvement are in general several indications that that is
British Standard to give guidance in enormous, regardless of what is precisely what is now starting to
this fieldand one with such a happen.
stated on the country of origin mark.
notable number? Why was the launch The inevitable conclusion is that That all this is more than mere
conference which was organised by improving standards of product assertion is shown by the contents of
the IMechE and co-sponsored by the Table 1. These questions were put to
design is one of the more direct (if not
IEE oversubscribed? And why is BS the most direct) means of enhancing audiences of experienced industrial
7000 already considered by the BSI industrial competitiveness and, managers who attended the series of
to be one of its 'bestsellers'? Plainly, 'Design to Win' seminars run recently
something new is developingand it Table 1 by the Design Council. That these
may matter more than is commonly answers are in the right 'ballpark' has
supposed. Q On average, by what percentage
been confirmed by surveying the
could market demand for current views of engineering and design
But first, the background. products be enhanced by
Does product design matter? The consultants, by teaching and training
redesign? delegates from industry, and by
answer is, of course, 'yes'a view A 28-7%
from which few would dissent. What is publicising these data in professional
commonly misunderstood, however, is Q On average, by what percentage publications and trade journals. The
just how strongly standards of product could the manufacturing cost of only criticism I have ever received
design affect profitability and current products be reduced by came from a well-known engineering
economic success. Mankind has been redesign? consultant who protested that, in his
designing products for a very long A 240% view, by means of design
time and one might suppose that, by improvement the possible reduction in
Q On average, by what percentage capital tied up in factory inventory
now, the process was well understood . could the capital tied up in
and managed, and that most modern was on average 50%, not 37%!
factory stocks and work-in-
products were well designed- progress be reduced by Can design be managed? There are
approaching almost perfection. Sadly, redesigning current products? those who claim that it can't, the
this is far from being trueas honest A 37-2% argument being that design is a
engineers and all customers and users creative process and that it is
will readily confirm. impossible to predict or control
The facts are that many modem Table 2 creative activity. This argument is
products are visually unpleasant or Q What percentage of UK designers fineas far as it goes. What is often
difficult to use. Most don't work as are properly briefed? overlooked, however, is that the
well as they might (some software A 19-9% designer's work is not 100% undiluted
items included) and a few don't work creativity. Although many designers
at all. Almost all cost too much to Q What percentage of UK might wish to pretend otherwise,
manufacture. Some are unsafe, companies have adequate creating new products can often be a
occasionally failing to comply with procedures for conducting design pretty boring and repetitive process.
even mandatory standards and reviews? In fact, product design is similar to
regulations, and others are A 10-4% other occupations in that, by and
inadequately reliable. Many are Q What percentage of UK large, it complies with the 1 %-
difficult or impossible to recycle and companies have adequate inspiration/99%-perspiration rule. (If
almost all of those that require policies of updating designers' anyone doubts this, try comparing the
servicing are unnecessarily difficult to skills? unknowns associated with any
maintain or repair. In short, perfection A 6-4% common industrial taske.g.
is still some way off. commissioning a new factory or


developing a new marketwith the 2again arising from the Design outcomes seem to fit the facts all too
unknowns inherent in designing a new Council seminars referred to above- well.
product, and he will soon see what I support this view. Regrettably, So, to summarise, current practices
mean.) experience in industry confirms all too in managing product design are
The consequence of this argument often that company objectives are generally poor, the need for
is that all industrial tasks have to be unclear or misunderstood, designers improvement is great, and the
managed and that any disruption are poorly briefed, design progress is benefits of taking action are likely to
arising from creativity issues in design inadequately monitored and be considerable. Perhaps it is, after
is on the same scale as the disruption controlled, and achievement all, hardly surprising that BS 7000 is
that can be expected from similar incentives for designers are muddled now creating something of a stir.
causes when managing any other or misapplied.
industrial activity. Indeed, if such If such comments were merited by GEOFFREY CONSTABLE
factors were not present how would any other field of industrial activity,
any manager earn his (or her) salary? one would hardly expect outcomes to
How well is design managed today? be successful. The same holds true for Mr Constable was Chairman of the
The blunt answer is: 'In general, not managing design where, alas, BSI Technical Committee responsible for
very well'. The answers given in Table equivalent predictions concerning BS 7000.

This is a free listing. Please send details of 5th October 1990 9th-11th October 1990
events for possible inclusion to the Colloquium on Robot Systems 5th International Conference on Just in
Managing Editor, Computing c* Control Architecture, London. Contact: Time Manufacturing, Brussels, Belgium.
Engineering Journal, IEE, Michael Faraday Computing & Control Division, IEE, Savoy Contact: Conference Manager (JIT-5), IFS
House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Herts. Place, London WC2R OBL, UK. Conferences, 35-39 High Street,
SC1 2AY.UK. Tel: 071-240 1871 Kempston, Bedford MK42 7BT, UK.
Tel: 0234 853605
18th-21 st September 1990 12th October 1990
8th October 1990
International Conference on Colloquium on Discrete Event
Automation, Robotics and Computer Colloquium on Strategic Research Issues
in Al in Engineering, London. Contact: Simulationa Decision Making Process
vision (ICARCV '90), Singapore. Contact: not just Computer Modelling, London.
Dr. D. P. Mital, School of Electrical & Computing & Control Division, IEE, Savoy
Place, London WC2R OBL, UK. Contact: Computing & Control Division,
Electronic Engineering, Nanyang IEE, Savoy Place, London WC2R OBL, UK.
Technological Institute, Nanyang Avenue, Tel: 071-240 1871
Tel: 071-240 1871
Singapore 2263.
Tel: 2651744 16th-18th October 1990
8th-10th October 1990
Frontiers '903rd Symposium on the Exhibition and Conference on Software
Frontiers of Massively Parallel Development, CNIT, Paris, France.
24th-27th September 1990 Contact: Bruno Berthet, Capric Blenheim,
TENCON '90Conference on Computer Computation, University of Maryland,
USA. Contact: IEEE Computer Society, 22-24 rue du President Wilson, 92532
and Communication Systems, Hong Levallois Perret Cedex, France.
Kong. Contact: Dr P. S. Chung, Conference Services, 1730 Massachusetts
Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036- Tel: 33 (1)47 56 50 00
Department of Electronics, Chinese
University-Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, 1903, USA.
Tel: (202) 371-1013 16th-19th October 1990
Hong Kong. 6th Computers in Manufacturing Show,
Tel: (859) 0-6952699/2698 NEC, Birmingham. Contact: Independent
Exhibitions Ltd., Weyboume House, 2/4
8th-12th October 1990
London Street, Chertsey, Surrey KT16
25th-27th September 1990 Conference on Parallel Computing in
8AA, UK.
Sixth International Expert Systems Engineering and Engineering Education,
Tel: 0932 564455
Conference & Exhibition, London. Unesco, Paris. Contact: Conference
Contact: The Conference Department, Services, The Microcomputer Unit Ltd.,
18th October 1990
Learned Information Ltd., Woodside, 45 Holbom viaduct, London EC1N 2PB,
UK. Colloquium on Goal-Driven Planning in
Hinksey Hill, Oxford OX1 5AU, UK. Complex Environments, London. Contact:
Tel: 0865 736354 Tel: 071-353 9841
Computing & Control Division, IEE, Savoy
Place, London WC2R OBL, UK.
Tel: 071-240 1871
26th-28th September 1990 9th October 1990
International Conference on System Chairman's Inaugural Address on The 19th October 1990
Development Environments and Robot Story, London. Contact: Computing Colloquium on Viruses and their Impact
Factories, London. Contact: SDE&F & Control Division, IEE, Savoy Place, on. Future Computing Systems, London.
Office, SEMA Croup, 143/149 Farringdon London WC2R OBL, UK. Contact: Computing & Control Division,
Road, London EC1R 3AD, UK. Tel: 071-240 1871 IEE, Savoy Place, London WC2R OBL, UK.
Tel: 071-831 6144 Tel: 071-240 1871

9th-10th October 1990 22nd October 1990

1 st October 1990 International Conference on Colloquium on Control and Optimisation
Colloquium on Symbols versus Neurons, Management TechnologyControl Tools Techniques for the Water IndustryII,
London. Contact: Computing & Control for the 90s, Nicosia, Cyprus. Contact: London. Contact: Computing & Control
Division, IEE, Savoy Place, London Conference Secretariat, IEE Cyprus Centre, Division, IEE, Savoy Place, London
WC2R OBL, UK. PO Box 2423, Nicosia, Cyprus. WC2R OBL, UK.
Tel: 071-240 1871 Tel: (02) 303050 Tel: 071-240 1871