The transition of emphasis in business competition from a technology-led age to a
market-oriented era has led to a rapid shift from the conventional "economy of
scale" towards the "economy of scope" in contemporary manufacturing. Hence, it is
necessary and essential to be able to respond to the dynamic market and customer
requirements systematically and consistently. The central theme of this research is
to rationalise and improve the conventional means of analysing and interpreting the
linguistic and often imprecise customer requirements in order to identify the
essential product features and determine their appropriate design targets dynamically
and quantitatively through a series of well proven methodologies and techniques.
The major objectives of this research are:
a) To put forward a hybrid approach for decoding and processing the Voice of
Customer (VoC) in order to interpret the specific customer requirements and
market demands into definitive product design features, and
b) To quantify the essential product design features with the appropriate technical
target values for facilitating the downstream planning and control activities in
delivering the products or services.
These objectives would be accomplished through activities as follows:
• Investigating and understanding the fundamental nature and variability of
customer attributes (requirements);
• Surveying and evaluating the contemporary approaches in handling customer
• Proposing an original and generic hybrid model for categorising, prioritising and
interpreting specific customer attributes into the relevant product attributes with
tangible target values;
• Developing a software system to facilitate the implementation of the proposed
• Demonstrating the functions of the hybrid model through a practical case study.
This research programme begins with a thorough overview of the roles, the changing
emphasis and the dynamic characteristics of the contemporary customer demand
with a view to gaining a better understanding on the fundamental nature and
variability of customer attributes. It is followed by a review of a number of well
proven tools and techniques including QFD, HoQ, Affinity Diagram and AHP etc.
on their applicability and effectiveness in organising, analysing and responding to
dynamic customer requirements. Finally, an intelligent hybrid model amalgamating
a variety of these techniques and a fuzzy inference sub-system is proposed to handle
the diverse, ever-changing and often imprecise VoC. The proposed hybrid model is
subsequently demonstrated in a practical case study.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.