Robust Design: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

Production is often the core of many companies. Without the process of creating products, companies would not have anything to offer their customers. In this lesson we will learn how a company can improve the production process.

A First Look at Robust Product Design

Meet Logan! Logan is the leader for a children's group. Each month they have a meeting where the children often engage in a craft. This month's theme is nature and Logan thought it would be fun if the kids made a craft using things from nature. However, before the kids can enjoy the craft, he has to do some basic prep work. You see, the kids will be gluing pieces from nature onto different shapes cut out of paper. But before the meeting, Logan must cut out all of the shapes so that they are ready to go at the meeting. While cutting out simple shapes like circles and squares sounds very basic and elementary, after cutting shape after shape, Logan noticed that each one seemed to vary slightly in size. While Logan is not producing shapes for a company or a customer, businesses too face variations in their products from time to time. In this lesson we will learn about robust product design, which is a concept that companies use to try and eliminate those variations.

Defining Foundation Terms

Robust means that something is sturdy or able to hold up. This is an important quality to have when it comes to products, because customers want a product they can trust and depend on. They want to purchase products that meet their standards. In order to meet customer expectations, companies often engage in robust product design which is the process of trying to reduce variations in finished products. In other words, it is the process of making sure that finished products maintain their consistency even when factors interfere with the production process. Those factors or variations in production are often called noise.

Types of Variation

We know that sometimes production results in variations. In this section we are going to look at the different types of variations.

Internal Variation

Production often involves machines. Over time, those machines break down or do not run properly. When machines interfere with production and cause variations, it is called an internal variation. So, if the pair of scissors Logan uses wears down over time, the last few shapes might not look as good as the first shapes.

External Variation

Sometimes variations happen due to the conditions in the area where production takes place. What this mean is that sometimes the environment can cause variations. For example, if the temperature is too hot or too cold, or the humidity levels are high enough that moisture collects, variation can happen. All of these factors lead to what is called an external variation. If Logan cuts out some of the shapes indoors in the air conditioning, the paper might hold up better than if he were to cut out the shapes in the hot sun where his hands perspire and jeopardize the quality of the paper.

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