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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Understanding and measuring customer sensory characteristics

by The Big Q blog

Quality management begins with product design—starting with the voice of the customer (VOC).
During the conceptualization phase, the organization’s focus should be to identify customers’ needs and establish objective and measurable specifications to ensure the product delivers what customers want.
The customers include a cast of characters:
• Ultimate users (or eaters)
• Homemaker or restaurateur who purchases the product
• Supermarket or restaurant chain that needs to make money by selling the product
• Regulatory agencies that ensure the food is safe
Each customer has different needs. Every need is critical to the product’s quality characteristics and must be understood, defined, measured, and deployed into the design, production, and distribution chain.
Missing anything that is critical to quality (CTQ) could mean not being able to sell the product because the user did not like it, or it harmed a person because of failure to manage hygiene in the factory.
Product design in the food production industry also relies heavily on research and development (R&D) of a particular technology and not always on the consumer or the cast of customers. Ideally, R&D should work hand in hand with production. One design method designers should all become skilled in is understanding the VOC and how to drive that voice through the design process.
For example, when dealing with recipes, the proportions of the mixture components can be more important than the amount of the individual components. Thus, as the manufacturing process becomes more complex, each component, transfer, or change in conditions is a potential source of failure.
And finally, product design that includes ease of manufacturing results in lower setup time and costs, faster start-up, and higher quality in the finished product. The elements commonly found in manufacturing systems that consistently produce food products of high quality include standardization of components and equipment, simplified recipes and instructions, minimization of handling, mistake-proof processes, and recipes designed to take advantage of physical properties, among other things.

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