P08405: Novel Materials Technology

Identify Customer Needs

Table of Contents

Step 1. Gather Raw Data From Customers

Interactions with Customers

Prepare a report on your customer interactions. Following the text by Ulrich and Eppinger, this report may include

  1. Transcripts of Interview(s) with customers
  2. Audio Recordings
  3. Notes
  4. Video Recordings
  5. Still Photography

Provide a transcript, or at least a paraphrased version of the interviews that you conduct. Allow the students interested in this project to understand the types of questions you asked the sponsor, and to hear how the sponsor responded. Be sure to note the date, time, location, and participants in the interview. The format below may be helpful.

Customer Interviews

Dr. Varela Interview Transcript

Dr. Ghoneim Interview Transcript

P08405 Affinity Diagram.

P08405 Affinity Diagram.

DPM Affinity Diagram

Step 2. Interpret Raw Data in Terms of Customer Needs

Affinity Diagramming Points

Construction and Function


Safety Concerns

$ (money)



DPM Needs List

Step 3. Organize the Needs into a Hierarchy

  1. Chamber supports a constant vacuum (9)
  2. Vacuum pump is sized to chamber (9)
  3. Chamber is able to maintain sub-zero temperatures (9)
  4. Chamber materials can withstand large temperature variation (9)
  5. Pump/chamber/tubing is corrosion resistant (9)
  6. Emergency shut off (9)
  7. Temperature within chamber is monitored (9)
  8. Chamber pressure is monitored (9)
  9. Chamber will be mobile (3)
  10. Size of chamber (3)
  11. Specimens can be separated within chamber (1)
  12. Temperature in chamber is able to be controlled (3)
  13. Chamber seals must be air tight (9)
  14. Supports vacuum pump (9)
  15. Cooling system is sustainable (3)
  16. System will have a timer (3)
  17. System will have an indicator for operational status (1)
  18. Budget is not exceeded (9)
  19. Pump can adapt to support a second chamber (3)
  20. Power to system will be 120V (3)

DPM needs hierarchy

P08405 Objective Tree.

P08405 Objective Tree.

DPM Objective Tree

Step 4. Establish the Relative Importance of the Needs

Relative importance of needs listed in the hierarchy is indicated by the number in parenthesis following the need. This information is listed above in step 3 on this page. A value of one indicates a low priority need, 3 indicates a mediate need, and 9 indicates a high priority need.

DPM relative needs importance table

Step 5. Reflect on the Results and the Process

The hierarchy and objective tree represent the higher level needs for this project. The relative importance of the needs is shown for the key needs of this environmental chamber. Collective needs and refining them is an ongoing process--needs are not always static and may even change weekly depending on a project's scope or sponsor. Organizing, understanding, and reviewing the needs of your customer is the first part to any successful project.

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