L. K. Machinery Co Ltd
Management Function Analysis
The key success factor for the company is its "User-oriented" product development approach.
Customer focus has always been a key component in a total quality management companies and the use of User-oriented product development is a human factors/ergonomics engineering approach to product development. This approach is characterized by: (a) a problem analysis of user/use requirements with a starting point in the use situation, leading to the formulation of "user requirements;" (b) a transformation of these user requirements into measurable engineering requirements; and (c) an iterative design where prototypes are tested by users and modified by designers.
Innovation through product development is at the heart of marketing, but it is costly and not without risk. To involve key customers in innovation and new product development can help injecting a wide range of new ideas and to increase creativity. Idea generation is the starting point of the product development process. Ideas can come from one's own customers. Those customers who are lead users in the market are motivated to innovate. They can be attracted by the benefits of innovation.
The involvement of customers in new product development is considered as a successful strategy and tactic to improve new product success. Research in new product development has identified customer involvement as an important means to accelerate product development, to reduce development costs, and to enhance new product value. This is grounded in the wealth of customers' knowledge due to their product and market experiences. Therefore, customer involvement may provide access to innovative product ideas, new technologies, market information, and development capabilities that the manufacturer lacks in-house.
Implications for SMEs
The closeness of SMEs to their respective customers should pose less problems for SMEs to adopt "User-oriented" product development, especially most SMEs are targeting on niche markets where the customer groups are small and their needs are unique. In a more general approach, SMEs can adopt the Customer Relationship Management approach whereby SMEs would get to know their customers, solve their problems and transfer such information into business intelligence.