Research Papers

The Characteristics of Innovative, Mechanical Products

[+] Author and Article Information
Matthew N. Saunders

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Product, Process and Materials Design Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712mattnsaunders@gmail.com

Carolyn C. Seepersad2

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Product, Process and Materials Design Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712ccseepersad@mail.utexas.edu

Katja Hölttä-Otto

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, MA 02747-2300katja.holtta-otto@umassd.edu

It should be emphasized that these characteristics were compiled by the authors, based on a careful review of the design methodology literature and award-winning innovative products. Accordingly, they do not necessarily match all of the judging criteria for the innovation awards cited in this paper.


Corresponding author.

J. Mech. Des 133(2), 021009 (Feb 08, 2011) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4003409 History: Received November 18, 2009; Revised December 21, 2010; Published February 08, 2011; Online February 08, 2011

Many new products fail upon introduction to the marketplace, but a few products are exceptionally successful, earning innovation awards and other benchmarks of success. To better understand the features of those innovative products, 197 award-winning products are analyzed to identify the characteristics that distinguish those products from the competition. For the analysis, a set of product-level characteristics is identified and organized into categories, which include functionality, architecture, external interactions, user interactions, and cost. Based on their innovation award citations, the products are analyzed with respect to the set of characteristics, and results are tabulated. Several award-winning products are also compared with competitive products on the shelves of major retail stores. On average, award-winning products display multiple characteristics of innovation. Overall, a vast majority (more than two-thirds) of the award-winning products exhibit enhanced user interactions, with a similar percentage displaying enhanced external interactions, compared with approximately one-third of products offering an additional function and approximately half displaying innovative architectures. The award-winning products also exhibit an average of approximately two more characteristics than their competitors on retail shelves, along with significantly higher rates of innovative architecture, external interactions, and user interactions. The analysis concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for engineering design methods.

Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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