At a basic level, product design composes three primary tasks: specification development, conceptual and configuration design, and product refinement. Customer needs analysis, product benchmarking, and business case analysis are fundamental to specification development, whereas conceptual design and product refinement entail functional analysis, the generation of solution principles and product geometry, concept selection, mathematical modeling, prototyping, and Taguchi analysis for variability. In this paper, we focus on an advanced method for functional analysis. This method demonstrates clear ties to customer needs, and is based on an empirical study of 58 household consumer products. As part of this study, a common vocabulary for product functions and flows is developed and applied to the consumer products. House of Quality results are then used to correlate customer importance to the product functions. Data from these correlations provide a basis for determining critical functions and flows across all products and within important product domains, such as material processors and beverage brewers. From this study, we discuss how the results can be applied to product testing and benchmarking, design by analogy, the identification of functional groups and dependencies, and design education.

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