11.Components, Functions, and Outcomes
11.Components, Functions, and Outcomes
Products are made from Components. Components perform Functions to achieve the Outcomes the customer desires. Customers don’t care about the Components or the Functions. All that customers want are the desired results for all of the Outcomes for their Scenario. This is why we focus on Outcomes.
Illustration 44: Product decomposition
Bicycles have many Components: wheels, frame, pedals, tires, seat, chain, gears, and handle bars. Each of these perform a different Function to achieve the overall Outcome of transportation.
A fork you eat with is generally made from a single material but has two Components, the prongs and the handle. The prongs collect and hold the food. The handle allows you to hold and move the fork.
Components are not necessarily physical. A book is made from paper, ink and glue but it is also made from words and punctuation. The physical ink on the paper form the words and punctuation but the words and punctuation themselves are not physical. The ink and paper alone don’t convey meaning. The physical ink and paper arranged to form words and punctuation together perform the Function of communication.
The Function of a Component is determined by how it is used. When the product is originally designed, the Component has an intended Function. Modifications to the product or how it is used can change the Functions of a Component. Knives are often used to turn a screw even though they are not designed for that purpose.
Functions are focused on Actions. The combination of Functions form the process of satisfying a user’s desires. More than one Component might be needed to perform a single Function and each Component could perform multiple Functions.
Illustration 45: Product design up
When designing physical products, Components are most often represented with drawings that resemble the physical Objects. Component designs can range from rough drawings to highly detailed 3D computer aided designs (CAD). Since Functions are Actions and not physical Objects they are typically expressed as block diagrams that describe the process.
Recipes and driving directions are examples of Function diagrams.
Function Diagramming is very similar to Outcome Diagramming. You will use both for innovation work. Both Functions and Outcomes can be broken down into the same 7 Elements. The key difference is that Functions focus on Actions and Outcomes focus on States.
Predictive Innovation starts with Outcomes because that is the connection to customers and how we know the goal is achieved. Outcomes are what customers want. Functions are the technical process of achieving the Outcomes.
Consider the Outcome diagram of cookies and the Function Diagram of baking cookies. First thing you will notice is that the Function diagram is describing an Action, baking cookies.
Illustration 46: Outcome Diagram for Cookies
The Outcome Diagram describes the characteristics of a cookie. A cookie must be the correct size, correct texture, correct flavor and correct temperature. The characteristics that distinguish a cookie from other food items are a single serving size, it can be eaten with hands, and part of it is crisp and, in the USA, the correct flavor is sweet. If you gave those criteria to someone who never saw a cookie they could recognize one and if they understood basic cooking they could possibly even make some variety of cookie.
A cookie is a cookie because it matches those criteria. It doesn’t matter how those characteristics are achieved as long as the end product meets those requirements.
Illustration 47: Function Diagram for Baking Cookies
The Function Diagram is like a recipe. Function diagrams are focused on performing a task. Each of the Functions contributes to producing the end result we call a cookie.
The Outcome diagram shows all the States that must exist to qualify as satisfying the desires of a cookie. Outcome Diagrams are customers’ requirements. Function Diagrams are used to create the design. Designs show how the Components are assembled.
Engineers are trained to think in terms of Functions and Components and often will do the Functional analysis in their heads. That is good for a quick solution to a problem but it often misses valuable options.
It’s always best to step back and start fresh with the customer’s desires and the Outcomes that satisfy those desires. If you don’t get the Desires and Outcomes your innovation options will be limited.
A customer might complain, “your product is too slow.” If you jump to finding ways to make it faster you could miss why the customer wants it to be faster. Maybe the problem isn’t your product being too slow but something else being too fast. Maybe when a step happens slowly it causes an undesired result that could be controlled another way, or the task isn’t really needed at all. You can only get to those results by understanding the Outcomes that will satisfy the customer.
The general pattern of innovation is:
- Outcome Diagram
- Outcome Element Expansion
- Alternatives Multiplication
- Function Diagramming
- Components Design
The main use of Function diagrams is product and process improvement. By looking at the steps and Components of a product or process you can isolate where to focus your attention for improvement. This is great for root cause of failure analysis.
There is a general rule of systems. Any single Component can be removed and still achieve the Function it performs. Approaches to eliminate a Component:
- Have other Components perform the Function
- Make the Function unneeded
If we look at the Outcomes Diagram you might find the Function is not needed. All of these approaches can be powerful ways to make innovations of products. Removing Components generally reduces cost and improves reliability by being less complex.
Function diagrams can be very useful for finding complimentary products. This can allow you to expand into another market while using the success of another product to grow the success of your product.
Steps to finding complimentary products:
- Create a Function Diagram of your existing product
- Compile a list of other products that perform one or more of the same Functions as your product.
- Redesign or position your product to enhance, replace or use the Function of the other product so they become one system.
An example is a cell phone and car radio. Each receives a signal and plays sounds for the user to hear. Both the cell phone and car radio have Components that perform the same Function. Those Components could be shared to perform the Function for both. The radio can be the speakers of a speakerphone. Or the antenna of the radio can provide better reception for the phone. Or the color display on the phone could provide extra information about what is being played on the radio.
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