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Civil-Comp Proceedings
ISSN 1759-3433
CCP: 84
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping, G. Montero and R. Montenegro
Paper 137

Detecting Multicultural Customer Differences for Product Concept Development

D.F. Chang, W. Yan, Y.F. Huang, W.J. Mi and F. Shu

Logistics Engineering School, Shanghai Maritime University, P.R. China

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
D.F. Chang, W. Yan, Y.F. Huang, W.J. Mi, F. Shu, "Detecting Multicultural Customer Differences for Product Concept Development", in B.H.V. Topping, G. Montero, R. Montenegro, (Editors), "Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Engineering Computational Technology", Civil-Comp Press, Stirlingshire, UK, Paper 137, 2006. doi:10.4203/ccp.84.137
Keywords: product conceptualization, customer segmentation, product platform, multicultural customer differences, design knowledge hierarchy, Kohonen association.

Product conceptualization commits a large portion, more than 75%, of the overall cost incurred in product development [1]. As such, it deserves much more attention than other activities in new product development (NPD). However, although a number of tools, such as commercial computer-aided design (CAD) systems, have been developed for supporting NPD projects, most of them are far from suitable for product conceptualization [2]. As a result, product development has changed from a product-centric practice to an integrated design process, i.e., various knowledge needs to be organized in a collaborative fashion. Thus, it is dependent on earlier product concepts, design standards, marketing orientations, and customer expectations and demands [3]. Such a philosophy focuses on the competitiveness of products offered by companies.

Generally, product conceptualization is an iterative process, in which factors such as customer's voices dominate the initial stage of product development. In the early stage of product conceptualization, customer requirement analysis has a direct impact on the number of design changes and unscheduled cost in product development [4]. In this respect, a comprehensive evaluation of multicultural factors among diverse customer needs, e.g. the customer segmentation, is crucial. However, few conventional marketing analysis approaches focus on the above-mentioned concerns of customer orientations in product concept development [5]. To tackle this problem, a novel marketing analysis strategy was established and integrated with customer segmentation for product conceptualization.

The proposed system comprises three phases in the process of selecting preferred design alternatives and detecting multicultural customer differences. Based on the three-stage modeling paradigm, a novel knowledge representation scheme known as design knowledge hierarchy (DKH), which possesses multidisciplinary and multi-faceted inherences, is proposed for product conceptualization. Thus, while represented by a hierarchical structure alone, product concept becomes quite qualitative and uncertain. As such, a specific measurement from design knowledge carriers, such as customer importance ratings, would be required to offer the numerical values to the properties of the hierarchy and to handle the product conceptualization more normatively and quantitatively [5]. However, it cannot be effectively handled by a simple process such as simple statistical functions.

In this respect, a method, the so-called Kohonen association (KA) [6], has been adapted in this work to detect multicultural customer differences. The KA algorithm, which is extended from that of the Kohonen learning [7], is implemented as part of the proposed system to further process the information obtained from the DKH for product concept development. On the basis of the DKH established, the KA is used for performing design decisions on selecting preferred design alternative and relevant design properties, and therein, detecting multicultural customer differences. Therefore, a two-level design decision-making mechanism, respectively absolute and relative decision, is proposed for product conceptualization.

A case study on wood golf club design was used to illustrate the performance of the proposed approach. It is envisaged that (1) the detection of multicultural customer differences can effectively be achieved together with the customer preference selection of design alternatives during product concept development; and (2) the analysis of multicultural customer factors can cohesively be integrated with product conceptualization because there is a logical cohesion between the two-level decision-making scheme, viz. absolute and relative decisions.

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